March 1, 2024

Working with SMEs

Eight industry experts share their insights on what it's like to manage the business travel accounts of SMEs

Global clients are high churn, low margin and fickle, whereas SMEs are low churn, high margin and loyal. That’s why we’re manically focussed in this sector.
Kieran Hartwell, Managing Director Corporate, Travel Counsellors

For us at GlobalStar Travel Management an SME Corporate Client is a kindred spirit. Like us they are often entrepreneurial, agile and flexible and need suppliers to be the same. We tend to grow together. As they expand so we adjust the service, ensuring it is always fit for purpose. And like us, an SME corporate client understands and values the importance of service and both product and market knowledge as differentiators.
James Stevenson, CEO GlobalStar Travel Management

All suppliers are obsessed with the SME segment. You don’t need a lot of resources or hefty discounts.
Scott Davies, CEO, ITM

An SME customer provides a steady and stable way in which to grow. No customer dominates in terms of size, with the spend spread out across many. We avoid a lot of risk should the unusual event occur that we lose one customer. We specialise in understanding businesses within this spend bracket, who often have much more focus on relationship and a boutique style service. Often our customers won’t have a dedicated internal travel manager in place, so we take huge pride in providing all necessary reporting and analytics in order for them to receive great programme management, driving best value.
Laura Busby, Commercial Director, Good Travel Management

SME corporates often have less red tape and can make decisions more swiftly than larger blue-chip organisations, such as the process of deciding on and appointing a TMC. SMEs also have the potential for growth so their travel needs can increase over time, and establishing a relationship with them early on can lead to a long-term loyal partnership as their business travel expands. There is also some risk mitigation, for example SME payment processes may be quicker and flexible (to align with IATA BSP as an example.) And overall, partnering with SMEs allows TMCs to showcase their value and establish lasting relationships which can contribute to the growth and success of both businesses. 
Abby Penston, CEO, Focus Travel Partnership

At Corporate Traveller, we’ve found SMEs to be exciting to work with. As SME specialists, our clients are passionate and entrepreneurial, making for a fast-paced adaptive working relationship. Most of the time, we speak directly to the key travel arranger from the beginning, which really contributes to building a strong relationship, ensuring a streamlined onboarding process. We have found customers embrace the consultative approach and can make decisions quicker than would be possible if we worked with larger organisations.
Donna Joines, Head of Corporate Traveller UK

SMEs represent an attractive proposition for many reasons, not least for their ability to innovate, bring new ideas and products to market, and developing better ways of doing things. We can learn from them.
Julie Cope, COO, Take Two  

From the TMC perspective, as well as from that of the corporate customer, a good cultural fit is important. For an independent TMC, SME clients provide the opportunity to build close personal relationships and engagement in a way that a larger multi-national might find difficult. This really enables the TMC to demonstrate their value and levels of service and leads to longer business partnerships. And, for some, commercially, having a broad portfolio of SME customers might present less risk than a handful of large clients.
Guy Snelgar, Global Business Travel Director, Advantage Travel Partnership