Across the world medium-sized businesses have been fueling the economic recovery. In Germany, the core groups of around 1,400 Mittelstand firms have become the main 'stokers' of its economic firepower. In the UK, mid-sized firms grew 5% over the past five years, outperforming both small companies and large corporations. Currently, there are 34,100 medium-sized businesses in the UK, employing just over 16% of the workforce but delivering 22% of GDP.
Should this come as a surprise? Well, working for a global technology company that serves businesses of all sizes, I too have seen the resilience and opportunity this market segment holds. Focused on improving their performance in every way - from products, procedures and costs, to management and structure - mid-market companies have many distinct characteristics associated with growth by innovation. They are inherently more nimble than their larger competitors in their approach to innovation and management. They can adapt to both internal and external changes extremely quickly to ensure they thrive in the toughest environments. Yet they also have the resources and infrastructure in place to withstand market conditions that their smaller rivals may find extremely challenging.
But it's also an extremely tough market segment in which to operate. Mid-sized businesses receive little government support and competition is intense. In fact, the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), recently referred to medium-sized businesses as the 'forgotten army'. So what's their secret?
Well, spare a thought for the employees that make up that army. They need to be some of the most productive employees around to deliver that 22% of GDP. One of the reasons they are able to be so productive is because they are super-efficient - thanks in part to the tools at their disposal. You see, despite not having the financial clout that enterprises hold, the mid-market is highly sophisticated when it comes to technology. They want what big businesses want in terms of sophistication and they don't think they should have to sacrifice that just because they have 50 employees and not 500.
As a result, consumer-driven technologies in particular, are driving a quiet revolution in medium-sized businesses. And cost-effective, productivity-boosting tools like user-driven video-sharing are on the front line. Something called WebRTC, which you may or may not have heard of, is a good example. And if you haven't already come across it, you're likely to soon. WebRTC is a tool that's part of all internet browsers today and lets websites add support for voice and video communications without the use of plugins. So for example, to Skype, both parties wouldn't have to have Skype installed on their laptop or mobile device. And it makes calls and instant messaging, video conferencing and sharing, and even file transfers possible even if the people involved use different applications. As you can imagine this makes collaboration both in the business and for personal use, much, much simpler and more productive. It will also cut communication costs considerably.
Successful companies in the mid-market sector will be the ones that continue to empower employees to use tools that enable collaboration anywhere, anytime - without the need for specific software or complex IT systems. In doing this, dynamic mid-market organisations are creating the super-efficient employees that our economic recovery needs. At the same time this embrace of new, consumer-esque technologies makes these businesses more attractive to millennials - the young, connected, tech-savvy types I keep talking about. And as we all know, the mid-market business relies on attracting the best talent and retaining quality employees to succeed.
As the mid-market continues to go from strength to strength, the spotlight shines brighter on the many attractive and compelling attributes this segments holds. There's no doubt in my mind that technology will continue to play a leading role in upholding and enhancing this already-glowing reputation.