THE legendary Harry Potter series takes us beyond a world of imagination and unlimited possibilities, along the way educating us on some valuable lessons on what life has to offer.
My favourite and most treasured analogy for what small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must achieve is an inspiring message from the movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - "Progress for progress' sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, permanence and change, between tradition and innovation is important.
"Let us move forward then into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."
In my combined 17 years with small and medium industries development corp (Smi-dec) and now SME Corp Malaysia, the biggest challenge in communicating the value of embracing progressive policies and programmes that will further the growth agenda of SMEs has been their reluctance to change.
I would relate it to the fear of letting go of their old die-hard habits or long-held business practices which to them are winning recipes for success that has enabled them to evolve from family and individual companies into strong local, regional and international players.
However, let's remind ourselves that technology is pushing us to change as we step into a new era of total business transformation.
To be able to keep up with the way the Gen Y move and strut themselves in today's high-technology new world, entrepreneurs should take the bold step to unlearn and learn again as they take their businesses to achieve a new level of success.
In fact, as a government agency, we broke ourselves away from the typical conduct of what one would expect from government offices by undertaking a rebranding exercise in October 2009, from Smidec to SME Corp Malaysia.
The genesis of SME Corp was nothing less than a 'battle of the mind' - breaking free from the mindset that 'small' cannot achieve something 'big'. Today, we firmly believe that 'small is the new BIG!'
Indeed, we have come really far from our humble beginnings in 1996 with only 61 posts approved to start Smidec.
Today, as a central coordinating agency, with a staff strength of more than 300 and 11 state offices, SME Corp's role and responsibility include formulating overall policies, strategies and programmes for SME development that cuts across 17 ministries and more than 60 agencies.
SME Corp is also the central point of reference for research and data dissemination on SMEs in Malaysia.
Last year, a total of 139 SME development programmes were implemented by the various ministries and agencies with an allocation of RM8.4 billion and active participation of 433,009 SMEs.
Under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), SME Corp together with agencies under Miti had implemented 25 programmes worth RM825.31 million that benefited 15,050 SMEs.
Our well-established One Referral Centre (ORC) acts as a single point of contact for all information and advisory services for SMEs. This year alone, ORC sees more than 1,000 walk-in entrepreneurs every month.
For years, we have also been putting our best minds together to conceptualise more effective SME outreach initiatives, platforms and programmes.
The strategy of working together with our strategic partners such as Bank Negara Malaysia, Companies Commission of Malay-sia, Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia, Institut Kemajuan dan Penyelidikan Pertanian Ma-laysia, Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia, Association of Banks and Association of Islamic Banks of Malaysia, as well as engaging all the industry associations and chambers of commerce were indeed heartening.
The SME Masterplan 2012-2020 sets the stage for a more structured and organised SME development in the country as we undertake deliberate horizontal collaboration with other ministries and agencies to ensure that our SMEs - the building blocks of our nation's economic growth, are transformed to better serve the nation.
At SME Corp, we continuously recognise the need to orientate SMEs on where and how to take the first step towards the new era of transformation.
Every day, I wake up eagerly looking forward to an opportunity to extend a helping hand to more and more deserving small business start-ups, introduce new ideas of growth, open up new windows of opportunities, and nudge them from where they are into a very challenging global market.
As l tread on into the 9th year of my journey at the helm of SME Corp, l remind myself that our battles are won or lost in our own minds - a battle between what we 'think', what we 'speak' and how we choose to 'act'.
All in all, remember that in life, change is inevitable, progress is optional! Personally, when l stand before God at the end of my life, l would hope that it is at a time when He is most pleased with me and that l would not have a single bit of talent left and could say before Him that 'l used everything You gave me!'.
Happy 4th Birthday SME Corp Malaysia!
Datuk Hafsah Hashim is the chief executive officer of Small and Medium Enterprises Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp Malaysia)Datuk Hafsah Hashim
is the chief executive officer of Small and Medium Enterprises Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp Malaysia)