Small and Medium Business

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Small and medium-sized enterprises ( SMEs for short ), in Belgium and Austria small and medium-sized enterprises ( KMB ), is the collective name for companies that do not exceed defined limits in terms of number of employees , sales revenue or total assets . The classification is usually independent of the chosen legal form or ownership structure. Companies that cross these boundaries are called large companies .

Internationally, the English term small and medium-sized enterprises ( SME or SMEs ) is in use, more rarely also small and medium-sized businesses ( SMB or SMBs ).


European Union

According to EU Recommendation 2003/361 / EC of the European Union , the size class of micro-enterprises as well as small and medium-sized enterprises is made up of companies that employ fewer than 250 people and either achieve an annual turnover of no more than 50 million euros or a balance sheet total of no more than Show 43 million euros.

Type number of employees Sales revenue in million euros Balance sheet total in € million
Micro business <10 as well as either ≤ 2 or ≤ 2
Small businesses <50 as well as either ≤ 10 or ≤ 10
Medium Business <250 as well as either ≤ 50 or ≤ 43

For a further distinction between SMEs and large companies, there is an additional recommendation by the EU Commission , according to which, in addition to the previous quantitative features, qualitative features such as ownership and decision-making relationships are now also included. Autonomy is defined by the EU Commission as: the company is neither a partner of another company nor associated with another company (less than 25% of the shares as a shareholder or investor).

Institute for SME Research (IfM) Bonn

The IfM Bonn uses the following size characteristics to define small and medium-sized enterprises:

Type Employees Sales revenue
in million euros
Micro business ≤ 9 and ≤ 2
Small businesses ≤ 49 and ≤ 10
Medium Business ≤ 499 and ≤ 50
SMEs together ≤ 499 and ≤ 50

German Commercial Code

The German Commercial Code (HGB) distinguishes between small corporations , medium-sized corporations and large corporations according to Section 267 HGB . In addition, the small capital company is defined in § 267a of the German Commercial Code, which differs again from the small capital company. Accordingly, a corporation is considered a "small corporation", provided it does not exceed at least two of the three following characteristics on the reporting dates of two consecutive financial years :

  1. 6,000,000 euros balance sheet total after deduction of a deficit shown on the assets side ;
  2. 12,000,000 euros in sales in the twelve months prior to the reporting date and
  3. 50 employees on an annual average.

"Medium-sized corporations" are those that exceed at least two of the three characteristics mentioned above on the reporting dates of two consecutive financial years and do not exceed at least two of the three characteristics below:

  1. 20,000,000 euros balance sheet total after deduction of a deficit shown on the assets side;
  2. 40,000,000 euros in sales in the twelve months before the balance sheet date and
  3. 250 employees on an annual average

"Small capital companies" are those that exceed at least two of the three characteristics mentioned above on the balance sheet dates of two consecutive financial years and do not exceed at least two of the three characteristics below:

  1. 350,000 euros balance sheet total after deduction of a deficit shown on the assets side;
  2. 700,000 euros in sales in the twelve months before the reporting date and
  3. 10 employees on an annual average in accordance with Section 267a (1) HGB

The employees employed for their vocational training are not taken into account.

A corporation is considered a "large corporation" if it exceeds at least two of the last three characteristics or if it uses an organized market for securities it issues or if an application has been made for admission to trading on an organized market.

Type Employees Sales revenue
(€ million)
Balance sheet total
(€ million)
Micro-capital company <10 or <0.7 or <0.35
Small corporation <50 or <12.0 or <6.0
Medium-sized corporation ≤ 250 or ≤ 40.0 or ≤ 20.0
Big corporation > 250 or > 40.0 or > 20.00

Two of the three possible criteria must be met.

Employee size classes of Statistics Austria

The Statistics Austria is different for NACE 2003/2008 following employment size classes within the KMBS:

200 u. more

It should be noted here that employment relationships and not employees are recorded. The SMBs as well as the large companies are divided into single and multiple workplaces :

  • One-company company with one place of work (UBA)
  • One-company company with several workplaces (UB)
  • Multiple company (U)

Whereby the first form for KMB is by far the predominant one.

Business importance

Despite the numerical predominance of small and medium-sized enterprises in the economy as a whole, their importance in business administration was mostly behind that of large companies and corporations , especially in relation to management , marketing , market research and personnel issues . "What goes on in large organizations seemed to be more interesting and more accessible to analytical processes than the less formalized world of small and medium-sized enterprises." Since the 1980s, however, business problems of SMEs have been attracting increasing academic interest, especially in the German-speaking countries 1948 by Alfred Gutersohn founded researchers talks Rencontres de St. gall , the Swiss Institute of small business and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Gallen (formerly Swiss Institute of industrial Economics at the Graduate school of St. Gallen ) and the German Institute for small and medium enterprises, Berlin . The commercial marketing tools have been adapted to the situation of SMEs in retail, especially on the part of commercial management .

Innovation behavior

All research results show that industrial companies with 50 to 500 employees invest only a much smaller proportion of sales (just over 2%) than larger industrial companies (almost 7%) in research and development . They have a lower share of patent applications and registrations and create fewer product and process innovations than large companies. With the exception of the service sector, all statistics and reports consistently show a positive correlation between innovation activity and company size. The causes are u. a. lack of risk capital and low equity base , little pronounced strategy orientation and insufficient innovation competence of SMEs. Nevertheless, they also have advantages in terms of innovation. This includes a lower degree of formalization of communication and a high level of qualification, structural flexibility and flat hierarchies . These advantages come into play wherever specialized, market-oriented knowledge is important. Innovation activities by SMEs often take place in the ongoing, operational processes and are operated by technicians , engineers , masters and other qualified employees from different functional areas, primarily in the sense of further development.

Economic importance

The economic importance of small and medium-sized enterprises varies considerably internationally. In particular, the share of companies with up to 9 employees in all companies in South Korea was around 50% in 2008, in Germany just over 80% and in Greece well over 95%. The type of company with 10 to 19 employees made up around 25% of all companies in South Korea, and under 10% in almost all EU countries (except Slovakia and Germany).

United States

For the USA , David Birch showed for the first time in 1979 that the number of new jobs created by small and medium-sized companies far exceeded those created in large companies.


SMEs are the socially and economically dominant company size in the European Union (EU). They make up around 99% of all companies here and offer around 65 million people a job . At European level, they are represented by associations such as the UEAPME ( Union Européenne de l'Artisanat et des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises ) and the CEA-PME .

Because of their importance in terms of employment policy and their often limited access to fresh capital and research and development capacities , SMEs are given particular support by the state and the EU. The supply of capital is one of the key barriers to the development of SMEs. The regulations of Basel II put the SMEs under additional pressure, especially in the direction of increasing their equity .


The small and medium-sized enterprises include in the Federal Republic of Germany

  • around 99.6% of all companies subject to VAT , in which almost 59.2% of all employees subject to social insurance are employed,
  • around 35.5% of all sales are generated as well
  • around 82.2% of all trainees are trained.

Extensive data can be found on the website of the Institute for SME Research (IfM), Bonn .

A study from the year 2000 shows, for example, that almost 81% of all sales in the German music and toy industry and 70% of sales in the printing , wood , steel and light metal construction industries are generated in SMEs.


The Austrian economy is traditionally structured on a small scale. Of the total of 327,993 companies (as of 2014):

  • 286,168 (87.2%) 1–9 employees
  • 023,004 (7.0%) 10–19 employees
  • 012,237 (3.7%) 20-49 employees
  • 005,455 (1.7%) 50–249 employees

Thus 99.6% of all businesses in Austria are small or medium-sized businesses. Two thirds of the approximately 2.84 million employees worked there. They generated 65% of sales (total 2007: € 709 billion) and 61% of gross value added (total € 185 billion) - with a company / employee relationship similar to that in Germany, that is, double the share of economic power.

90% of the companies (as of 2004) consisted of only one workplace, 50% of all employees worked in this - in comparison: only 1% of the companies had more than 4 workplaces, total employees: 27.1%. 90% of the workplaces had fewer than 20 employees, 70% fewer than 5 employees, compared to 0.4% - 1,610 in absolute terms - of the workplaces with more than 200 employees. This shows that even in large companies the workplaces themselves are structured like KMB. In the workplaces under 20, however, the proportion of employees was only 35.9%, while in the 0.4% workplaces> 200 more than a quarter of all employees were employed. This shows that Austria's entrepreneurial and investment potential is expressed in small and medium-sized enterprises: The growth in SMBs from 1999 to 2004 was between 20% and 30%, depending on the federal state, with increases in employees and economic strength of the same magnitude during which the large companies across Austria decreased by around 30%. However , large firms have a significant share in the labor market . The data for the period since 2004 should be comparable.


In Poland , 99.9% of all companies are small or medium-sized. Their share in the gross value added is 70%, but their share in the export volume is only 40%.


In the 2013 business census in Switzerland , the total of 563,178 market-economy companies in all three economic sectors were distributed among the individual size classes as follows:

  • <10 employees: 92.3%
  • 10–49 employees: 6.3%
  • 50–249 employees: 1.2%
  • > 250 employees: 0.3%

Employment Law


All labor law regulations relevant for SMEs are based on the number of employees. The method for determining the number of employees (e.g. inclusion and weighting of part-time employees ) is inconsistent or dependent on the law under consideration.

Economic policy promotion of small businesses

All over the world, small and medium-sized companies are supported by economic development measures , for example the granting of loans from state development banks, in order to compensate for their disadvantages in competition and to promote their advantages for the economy. German labor promotion law provides for individual labor market advice for SMEs.

At the University of Leipzig there is a master’s degree for the training of business developers for small and medium-sized companies, especially in developing countries (Small Enterprise Promotion and Training Program sept ). The Chair of Marketing at the Technical University of Dresden operates the federally funded web portal iXpatriate for SMEs to prepare their employees ( expatriates ) abroad .

See also



  • ZfKE. Journal for SMEs and Entrepreneurship (formerly IGA. Journal for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises ), ed. from the Swiss Institute for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises at the University of St. Gallen and the Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Hochschule Liechtenstein (published quarterly, in 2010 in the 58th year), Duncker & Humblot, Berlin / St. Gallen / Vaduz, ISSN  1860-4633 (print), ISSN  1865-5114 (online).

Individual evidence

  1. EU definition of small and medium-sized enterprises (PDF)
  2. Martin Kaschny, Matthias Nolden, Siegfried Schreuder: Innovation management in medium-sized companies: strategies, implementation, practical examples . Gabler, Wiesbaden 2015, ISBN 978-3-658-02544-1 .
  3. The new SME definition - user manual and sample declaration. (PDF; 1.3 MB) European Communities, 2006, p. 16 , archived from the original ; Retrieved November 11, 2012 .
  4. IfM Bonn: SME definition of the IfM Bonn. In: Retrieved July 6, 2016 .
  5. ^ Statistics Austria (Ed.): Workplace census main results Austria . Vienna 2001, Statistical Concepts, Methodology, p. 8th ff . ( [PDF; accessed on May 15, 2018]).
  6. Josef Mugler: Business Administration of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Vol. 1 . 3. Edition. Vienna / New York 1998, ISBN 978-3-211-83198-4 , pp. 6 .
  7. Hans-Otto Schenk: Retail marketing for small and medium-sized companies based on the four-market approach , in: Yearbook of KMU research 2000, ed. by Jörn-Axel Meyer, Munich 2000, pp. 373-389, ISBN 3-8006-2596-2
  8. ^ Hans-Otto Schenk: The four-market approach as a heuristic for a differentiated marketing of SMEs , in: Entrepreneurs and company perspectives for small and medium-sized enterprises. Festschrift for Hans Jobst Pleitner, ed. by Emil Brauchlin and J. Hanns Pichler, Berlin 2000, pp. 461–476, ISBN 3-428-10327-0
  9. Frank Maaß, Bettina Führmann: Innovation activity in medium-sized companies: measurement and evaluation. IfM materials No. 212, Institute for SME Research Bonn 2012, p. 12 ff.
  10. According to OECD information, see Storey / Greene 2010, p. 35.
  11. ^ David David, The Job Generation Process , US Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service, 1979
  12. Statistics from the Institute for SME Research (IfM) Bonn: Overview of SMEs (February 11, 2016)
  13. Iris K. Weber: The planning and control system of the medium-sized enterprise. Design options depending on the company's development phase . Peter Lang - European Science Publishing House, Frankfurt / M. 2000, ISBN 3-631-35814-8 .
  14. Statistics Austria (ed.): Performance and structural statistics 2014 - main results according to employee size classes . Vienna 2014 ( [accessed on May 15, 2018]).
  15. ^ Statistics Austria (Ed.): Workplace census main results Austria . Vienna 2004, summary, p. 9 ff .
  16. Hans H. Bass and Eugeniusz Gostomski (eds.): Small and medium-sized companies in Poland and Germany: Financing, internationalization, structural change , Sopot and Bremen, 2006
  17. Swiss SMEs - An Analysis of the Latest Figures - 2016 edition (p. 25). (PDF) BDO and KMU-HSG, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland, 2016, archived from the original ; accessed on August 7, 2017 .
  18. ^ Otto Brenner Foundation, Michael Blank (Ed.): Labor law for small and medium-sized enterprises . Bund-Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 2005, ISBN 3-7663-3570-7 , pp. 43 f .
  19. Small Enterprise Promotion and Training Program , University of Leipzig.
  20. ^ Stefan Hoffmann, Stefan Müller: Promotion of intercultural competence in SMEs through the exchange of experiences. In: WiSt - Wirtschaftswwissenschaftliches Studium 36 (2007), Heft 6, pp. 326–334, doi : 10.15358 / 0340-1650-2007-6-326 .