Secret to SME innovation? Getting managers to butt out!

November 24, 2015 - The secret ingredient to an innovative workplace is not about having trendy or quirky chill-out zones, but rather by being open to ideas and using old-school tools like a whiteboard. These are some of the findings of a survey by business software provider Exact of some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs.

A nationwide poll of The Supper Club – a membership organisation of founders and CEOs of high-growth businesses – found the three most important tools for nurturing innovation at work is having fast and reliable broadband (65%), whiteboards for creative brainstorms (46%) and widespread high-speed mobile internet access to enable employees to share ideas from anywhere (40%). Only 7% who took part in the ‘Exact Innovation Pulse Check’ said having beanbags, Ping-Pong tables and any other funky break-out area additions had any impact.

The right culture was also deemed as fundamental to getting creative juices flowing at work – with 60% saying the best way to influence that is by ensuring leadership teams stop meddling so much and encourage greater autonomy among its staff. This is followed by making sure there are continuous training and development initiatives available for employees to keep up to date with the latest trends (53%), and having a flat hierarchical structure to encourage more open and free flowing lines of communication (40%).

The biggest killer of innovation among entrepreneurs who took part is a lack of encouragement from leadership teams – with 59% saying those at the top need to adopt more of a ‘no idea is a bad idea’ attitude to avoid that. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that was closely followed by ‘a lack of time to focus on innovation’; with many saying they are too busy on other tasks (57%), and employees reluctant to change (40%).

Technology also plays its part; over half think having the right technology improves efficiency (51%), half (50%) say it promotes better collaboration and – also 50% - say it makes it easier and more cost effective to trial and test ideas out first.

Asked what three things The Government could do to help innovation thrive among the UK’s 5million SMEs, 59% said it should offer better tax breaks for innovative companies, 43% said it should reduce regulation and red tape and 38% said there should be more funding for innovation projects by SMEs.

Erik van der Meijden, CEO of Exact said: “This survey was commissioned following a recent global index that showed the UK was one of the most innovative countries in the world, second only to Switzerland. We wanted to find out how UK entrepreneurs could go one better.

“What we found is that it isn’t necessarily the Google-style offices and latest technology that makes people tick after all. While these things do help, we shouldn’t neglect the importance of old fashioned brainstorming on whiteboards and supporting staff by getting off their backs.”

Jane Gomez, Managing Director at The Supper Club, added: “Innovation is central to building a successful SME business. What our members tell us is that the secret to doing so is really quite simple: don’t underestimate the importance of trusting your staff and allowing them the space to create their own success.”

For further information, please contact:

Leah Wong or Richard Simpson 0118 900 0860 or email exact@sixdegreespr

About Exact

Vigorous business software. That’s what Exact builds. For more than 250,000 businesses around the world. For entrepreneurial doers who dare and, if they fall, always get up again. Exact breathes that same spirit. Thirty years ago a garage start-up by six students, now a global company, employing 1,550 people in 15 countries with revenues of €188 million in 2014.

With Exact, businesses can quickly respond to shifting market conditions and grasp opportunities with both hands when they arise. Our business software enables customers to focus on their next goal, and look ahead to the next challenge. For further information about Exact, visit

About The Supper Club 

The Supper Club is the UK’s leading membership club exclusively for fast growth entrepreneurs and CEOs. Membership offers access to an extraordinary group of likeminded peers, providing a relaxed and confidential community to inspire, support and challenge each other.

The Supper Club is anything but a run-of-the-mill networking group. Our members join to learn from their peers and to be part of an environment dedicated to growing their business in a constructive and collaborative way. Club members have access to intimate curated dinners, social events and forums as well as personal concierge services, valuable introductions and media opportunities.

The Supper Club is part of Prelude, whose mission is to help make Britain the most enterprising nation in the world.


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