Virtually all German businesses are small to medium-sized companies and therefore fall into the “Mittelstand” category. They range from small, innovative software-smiths to globally operating mechanical engineering firms right through to venerable old artisan businesses, and beyond. In purely statistical terms, any business with fewer than 500 employees is an SME. But the term “Mittelstand” is often used to include much larger companies too if they are run in the same spirit as a small or medium-sized enterprise. In that case, it means that the owner or owners take the business decisions largely on their own – and assume the risks and liability. In these companies, the boss usually has close ties with the business and the employees and bears a particular responsibility for ensuring job security.
All in all, more than 99 percent of German companies are SMEs. In absolute figures, that means more than 3.6 million companies, providing more than 60 percent of all jobs in Germany. These companies form a many-faceted, dynamic group operating in all kinds of sectors and offering all kinds of products and services. If, as a foreign qualified professional in Germany, you are looking to SMEs to find a potential employer, or have perhaps already made contact with some, you might encounter two absolutely typical characteristics:
Firstly: a very special mindset in lots of ways. Most SMEs are working to secure the company’s long-term existence and place great value on lasting relationships with customers, suppliers and other businesses. As an employee too, you are more than just “one of the crowd”. Moreover, many SMEs take an active role in their regions by sponsoring education, culture and sport.