Why do some SMEs suffer from Peter Pan syndrome?


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By Andrea Ortega

In 1983, Dan Kiley revolutionized psychology with his book The Peter Pan Syndrome, a condition characterized by a fear of growing up and assuming responsibilities. But today, individuals aren’t the only ones who suffer from this syndrome: businesses do as well.

The Peter Pan syndrome

Some companies don’t want to grow and prefer to stay small

Managing a store is not the same as managing a whole chain of stores, and the informality that is possible in a small or medium-sized business can’t be maintained if you want a business to grow sustainably. When some companies discover this new level of complexity, they are reluctant to take the next step. They stop growing. This is what Manuel Molano, the deputy general director of the Instituto de Competitividad Mexicana, has called the Peter Pan system.

But why wouldn’t a business want to grow? One often finds that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are afraid to take on the responsibilities that come with potential increases in tax burden and more complex regulations. For an SME, growing means entering a world of new rules and additional costs, which at first glance may outweigh the advantages of growth and formality.

If SMEs suffer from Peter Pan syndrome, how does this manifest itself? The first symptom is informality, when growing companies are managed without an established structure, a clear balance sheet, or the documents needed to understand their structure or assess their health, explains Beatriz Briceño, an investment officer with the Debt Investments Division of the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).

Banks and international organizations today offer a diverse portfolio of opportunities. Yet one of their main requirements is consistency in a company’s documentation. It is vital that companies, no matter how small, have the capacity to precisely demonstrate how they are established, how much they produce, and how they manage their assets and liabilities.

Although it’s true that one of the greatest challenges facing financial institutions, governments, and international organizations is improving SME access to credit, it is also important that the SMEs approach their requests for financial products for growth with transparency and the appropriate degree of formality.

This is the leap that many companies have to take when they apply for a loan under FINPYME Credit, a tool for granting small loans to SMEs, even to SMEs that might not be eligible for loans from private banks.

For SMEs that are willing to formalize their operations but need guidance, the IIC offers advisory services that help them through the process. In this way, SMEs receive the support they need to overcome their Peter Pan syndrome and continue growing.


About the author

Andrea Ortega is a journalist, a graduate of the Universidad de Chile and a writer. She worked for Chilean newspaper El Mercurio for five years and received the Capa/Alltech Quality and Innovation in Journalism award in 2012. She has specialized in business and economy and published a book on Chile’s retail sector entitled Chile: El Negocio del siglo XXI (Chile: The business of the 21st century). Prior to joining the Corporation, she worked as the national press coordinator for the Agricultural and Livestock Service of Chile’s Ministry of Agriculture. She is currently studying for a Master of Professional Studies degree in public relations and corporate communications at Georgetown University.

Last modified: Septiembre 9, 2016

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