EY reveals the identity and strategy of hyper-performance SMEs in Belgium

Hyper-performance SMEs: what makes them special?

Hyper-performance business entrepreneurs create growth from opportunities and maintain it sustainably, even in times of crisis. They connect an open mind to structured decision-making procedures and they are driven by efficient management. These are the most significant conclusions from a survey of Belgian SMEs carried out by our Prime Foundation Partner, EY, analysing the period 2004 –2013.

“SMEs represent 98% of the active companies in our country, they supply almost a third of national wealth and they employ one out of every two employees. This makes them an important target group for us,” states Marc Cosaert about this survey from EY; he is an associate at EY and one of the permanent partners in our Impulse Centre 'Growth Management for Medium-sized Enterprises' (iGMO). “We see genuine high flyers in this important group: SMEs that have at least tripled their added value over the course of 10 years and that have created an average of 48 full-time jobs. They are also better financed, healthier and more profitable than other SMEs. Yet, they only represent 1 in 15 SMEs”.


“Over the years, at EY we have become convinced that all businesses can produce superior performances, on the condition they have a distinctive approach,” states Marc. “With this study, we want to find out who the hyper-performance SMEs are but also what their recipe for success is.”

Who are they?

Table 1 outlines the identity of a hyper-performance SME with a few facts and figures.

What is their strategy?

The key question of course is how those SMEs approach differentiating themselves? Are there common elements in their strategies? From the interviews EY held with these high-performers, it appears the following steps are crucial:

Step 1: wanting to excel
  • Often working in pairs or in a team (open mind)
  • Knowing the company figures and the environment (and applying the necessary tools)
  • Being able to map out a clear vision for the future
  • Knowing how to create good networks
Step 2: generating growth
  • Considerable attention to the quality and competency of staff  (and are prepared to pay the talent well)
  • Embracing internationalisation
  • Differentiation or creating a unique value proposition
Step 3: superior performances or maintaining profitable growth
  • Ability to cope with the effect of growth on the business
  • Using efficient information tools
  • Following a clear future policy

Providing balance in the decision forming process (even the smallest companies have an executive board actively monitoring the management, strategy, budget, investments, etc.).


“From our discussions with business operators and experts it is clear that hyper-performance is initially a state of mind,” explains Marc. “They work together, are complimentary, visionary and are open to other opinions. Another key factor is organisational professionalization and they do not skimp on resources to achieve that.”

Everyone can hyper-perform!

And what if we look at these findings under an academic light? Hans Crijns, Professor of Management Practice and the driving force behind iGMO says, “We can take one clear lesson from this survey: people – whether they are business operators, staff members, external experts or managers – are at the foundation of hyper-performance businesses. Hyper-performance is therefore certainly within reach of many companies, in many branches.”

Read the full survey on “Hyper-performance SMEs in Belgium: who are they? What is their strategy?(Dutch only)