In the age of computers and the World Wide Web, information can be processed and utilized much faster – in government offices as well. Nowadays, contact with authorities is already being simplified thanks to internet solutions.
The best example of such an E-Government solution is the portal for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which can be found at www.kmu.admin.ch. The goal of this portal is to provide SMEs with answers to their questions and the possibility to act immediately. This is expected to decrease the administrative burden of SMEs and increase their productivity. In this regard, the portal offers a number of time-saving solutions and a wealth of online information. It also brings support to the founders of new companies.
Part of the portal consists of an online service counter, which has been continually expanded since it was opened in 2002. Christian Weber, head of E-Government for SMEs, is convinced: “Properly run E-Government helps public authorities make a big step forward in the right direction and even represents a location advantage for the Swiss economy. For, if SMEs are more productive, they are also more competitive.”
Support to founders of new companies
The SME portal devotes an entire section to people considering self-employment. Aptitude tests with questions like “Are you the entrepreneur type?“ can help determine important factors in the decision. Samples and checklists on key topics such as the business plan, the choice of legal entity as well as market and competition analysis are available free of charge here.
If the decision to set up a new company has been confirmed, the young entrepreneur can immediately register the business at the online service counter.
Online service counter
The virtual counter guides the business founder step by step through the registration process, including company register, VAT, social security and accident insurance. A study by the Zurich college Winterthur has established time savings of 141 minutes or 50 per cent by comparison with a standard registration.
Under the service counter section, the SME portal offers further online solutions such as ordering certified copies of company registration and criminal records. E-trademark lets a business founder register a trademark. This is handled electronically – quickly and easily.
Through GS1 Switzerland, company founders can obtain digital certificates allowing them to make VAT payments electronically.
In the SME topics section, entrepreneurs find answers to a variety of issues regarding the business cycle: from foundation to management to business succession planning as well as the sale and purchase of a company. Topics like finances, employees, marketing & sales, taxes, insurance and information technology are closely examined and link to other knowledge platforms. In order to take you quickly and efficiently to the information you are looking for, the SME portal is running its own address database.
Address book – SMEsupport
SMEsupport is a structured address database that allows entrepreneurs and business founders to search for external help – quickly and specifically. Contact addresses include business promoters, guarantor cooperatives, technology and foundation centres as well as institutions that offer innovation prizes. No matter which phase of the company cycle, there are useful contact addresses to be found here.
In the News section, valuable information for SMEs is updated on a weekly basis. Entrepreneurs can also subscribe to the SME Newsletter and receive monthly up-to-date business information from the government in Bern. The information service is rounded out with interviews and dossiers on topics of interest to SMEs.
With this, small and medium-sized enterprises in Switzerland are provided a quick and efficient tool that not only helps strengthen their competitiveness but also makes the entire Switzerland location more attractive.
The author was born in 1954, studied economics at the University of Neuchâtel and obtained a doctorate in 1984. After studying at the university of Kiel, he worked at the Swiss board of inland revenue from 1985 to 1987, then for the federal agency for labour and industry until 1998. From 1998 to 2000, he led the SECO’s Task Force SME. Since April 2001, he has lead the department for SME policy.