Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have a lot on their plates. They have to grow market share as fast as they can and scale smoothly, while staying on top of their game in terms of being innovative and competitive. Delivering what customers want, how they want, and when they want it are all factors crucial to SMB growth.

Technology certainly helps SMBs enhance all aspects of their business: from productivity to talent retention and keeping costs under control – but a pertinent, yet not commonly discussed trait that determines the success of a SMB is the role and importance of good leadership.

1. Good leaders are not only responsible for setting a great vision and digital transformation strategy, but should also help operationalize the strategy to achieve the best outcomes. Doing so enables the ongoing engagement of the team in the trenches, who are the ones executing the strategy. When SMB resources are so limited, it is important to get it right as quickly as possible:

Leaders pave the way for smooth journeys to digital transformation. They ignite the passion
for new technologies right across the organization, then sustain the digital-first vision
with their own example. Walk the talk – or lose your ride.

2. Being transparent and accountable are also desirable leadership traits for digitally-oriented SMBs. Great leaders are honest about the status of project implementations. Credit is given where it is due for positive outcomes; and responsibility taken should things go awry. This transparency also means that challenges can be identified quickly and addressed early.

3. Great SMB leaders should also be empathetic and compassionate in order to instill an innovative culture successfully. For instance, understanding that people are often reluctant to leave their comfort zones can help SMB leaders find the best way forward with technology implementations.

4. On a related note, collaborative leaders find the best solutions. Great leaders are open to listening to alternative opinions and willing to find win-win solutions. This is particularly important in Asia Pacific, where employees and customers can come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. A digital implementation that makes sense for one target audience might be unacceptable to another.

5. SMB leaders who are early adopters of technology outpace their peers in both revenue and customer satisfaction. Leaders who capitalize on technology reap multifaceted benefits. Considering the fact that resources are always limited, leaders that use technology creatively are more efficient and get more bang for their buck.

Leadership played a big role in the digital maturity of the most forward-thinking SMBs in Asia Pacific, from pan-Asian digital services company Grab to Indonesian consumer goods manufacturer Wings Surya and Singapore snack manufacturer Camel Nuts.

While each of these SMBs faced different challenges, leadership was the one thing that helped them achieve success. Make leadership part of your equation for SMB digital transformation. It’ll simplify what looks impossible, so you can have a bigger impact.


Find out more about the digital journey with the Cisco APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index


If you’d like to recognize great leaders you’ve worked with, please feel free to give them a shout-out in a comment below.


The SMB Inspire Series features insights on addressing today’s SMB challenges in Asia Pacific. Stay tuned to Cisco APJC News for regular updates!