Small Business Management

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) comprise the majority of all businesses in the economies of most countries. For example, among the 21 countries that comprise the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group of nations, small firms make up over 97% of all businesses.

These firms also provide 67% of all private sector jobs and generate around 58% of gross value added. The majority of such firms (approx. 70%) are very small (micro-enterprises) with less than ten employees, usually just a single owner-manager. This is a pattern found across most countries throughout the world.

In Australia there are just over 2.1 million businesses. Of these 99.8% are SMEs with around 61% being "nano" or non-employing micro-enterprises. SMEs also contribute 56% of all value added to the national GDP, and employ 68% of the Australian workforce.

However, despite their significant contribution to the economy and employment, the majority of SMEs are not focused on growth and do not engage as actively in innovation as larger firms.

The reality of business management within the small firm is substantially different from that found in the majority of large organisations. Owners-managers, as the name suggests, are both owners – and therefore responsible for all risks associated with their business ventures – and managers. 

Such individuals must deal with all the functional tasks of business management (such as accounting, planning, marketing, human resources, production, information technology), frequently without much assistance and with limited training. The world of the average small business owner-manager is quite different from that of the professional manager within the large organization, or even the successful entrepreneur (e.g. Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Bill Gates). 

Course content

This course (MGMT5601 Small Business Management) concentrates on the management of small business and the aspects of coping with survival and growth of SMEs. Topics covered, include:

  • The role of small business in the economy;
  • Entrepreneurs versus owner-managers;
  • Surviving the early years;
  • The process of planning and strategy in small firms;
  • Creating customers;
  • Financing the small firm (part 1) - debt vs equity;
  • Financing the small firm (part 2) - cash flows, credit and working capital;
  • Assisting the small firm to grow;
  • Small firms and human resources;
  • Franchising and legal issues;
  • The owner-manager and the troubled company; 
  • Buying, selling and valuing the business;
  • Using and managing technology.

Aims and benefits from the course

The principal aim of this course is to familiarize students with the theory and practice of small business management. It also aims to challenge assumptions that may be held about the way small business management can or should adopt large business practice models.

  • For students interested in establishing and managing their own small firms, this course should help to focus their thinking on the realities of life as a small business owner-manager – both its challenges and rewards.
  • For students who are keen to ‘make a difference’, this course should enable them to understand how they might consult to small firms and assist owner-managers establish and grow their ventures.

Students with a range of other interests will also benefit from the course.

  • Managers in large corporations and financial institutions often deal with small businesses as clients or suppliers.
  • Professionals such as accountants, lawyers and consultants often provide advice and other services to small businesses.
  • Government officials devise and implement policies, regulations and support programs that will affect the small business sector.

A good understanding of the topic can assist such individuals in their work.

"Lecturer is first class. Course is very well organised. Excellent mix of theory and case study work. Outstanding Text." (Small Business Management MBA student, 2015)

Learning outcomes

Students who complete this course should be able to:

  1. Conceptualise the approach required in advising small businesses, franchising, family businesses;
  2. Explain the role of small business in the economy;
  3. Explain the challenges management faces in running a small business; and
  4. Identify the critical stages of growth of small businesses.

Program information and content

The following links take you to information and content relating to the Small Business Management program: