This text is part of the special booklet 90th Acfas Congress
Between pandemic, labor shortage and upheaval caused by climate change, entrepreneurs and SME managers must learn to navigate troubled waters. At the next Acfas congress, the symposium Entrepreneurship and SME management in a tense world, proposed by the Institute for Research on SMEs (INRPME), will reflect on the development and implementation of practices and business models, but also on their limits, to face current challenges.
We must first “recognize the situation”, believes François Labelle, member of the INRPME, speaker and co-responsible for the symposium. “SMEs no longer live in a vacuum,” explains this professor at the School of Management at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR).
SMEs are now one link in a chain from suppliers to customers, including the institutions and organizations that support them, he says. They must “come together with the economic, environmental, social and, very often, [à celle] of groups or actors who do not necessarily understand each other”.
These pressures are encouraging managers and entrepreneurs to rethink their practices, particularly in terms of governance, strategic orientation and performance.
Combine the pressures
Certain tensions that are felt in the management of an SME are not new. But climate change, which weighs heavily in the current context, is forcing them to get out of “a traditional logic of action that aims to maximize economic wealth,” argues Mr. Labelle. They must tend towards “a reconciliation of objectives” more aligned with the protection of the environment.
Many financial or logistical aids for SMEs are now conditional on the improvement of environmental practices. This “forces [les gestionnaires] to open up to logics of action for which they were not necessarily ready”, he says.
“There are SMEs that have succeeded in combining these [exigences], and even to make it a strategic advantage”, observes the professor, in particular by creating a “space of governance”. In this space, all actors share the same values and practices focused on reducing damage to the environment.
The limits of reconciliation
In other cases, it is necessary to “reconcile the logic of action” economic and environmental, says François Labelle. He emphasizes, however, that “everything is not reconcilable”.
The popular idea that the environment and economic growth can create some kind of “perfect marriage” may not always be true, he said. “There are limits to growth, which is necessarily going to be accompanied by an increase in environmental impact. »
An imperfect marriage, therefore, but whose union can be facilitated by the support of institutions, suggests François Labelle. At the same time, he admits that “there are not yet many calls for degrowth coming from institutions”.
On the side of entrepreneurs, projects sensitive to the environment have the wind in their sails. One of the first sources of motivation at the base of an entrepreneurial project is to “change the world”, to have a positive effect on society and the environment, highlights the professor of UQTR and director of INRPME , Etienne St-Jean.
Carrying out a business project with an environmental dimension makes it possible to “stand out”, according to him. But it also creates “a kind of virtuous circle”. “When a company innovates by offering something more environmentally friendly, competitors, in order not to lose ground, will end up wanting to offer the same kind of product or service, which means that this pushes companies to innovate even more. »
But for managers of SMEs as for entrepreneurs, it is time “to admit that we are facing challenges that are beyond us”, and to rethink performance by decoupling it from growth at all costs.
The symposium has also been designed in such a way as to be able to draw inspiration from the model of other actors, such as managers in the artistic field, who “do not always have to justify themselves in economic terms”.
This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the Duty, relating to marketing. The drafting of Duty did not take part.