Critical Success Factors Which Drives the Performance of SMEs and start-ups

Survival of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups depends on their ability to effectively manage the factors that affect their business performance.


1. Figure example of start-ups KPI [1]

Survival of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups depends on their ability to effectively manage the factors that affect their business performance. We collected the most used factors. SMEs and start-ups need the ability to manage their business processes according to the proper way. Due to the different market environment in different country the factors can be different in each country. The following table consists of the collection of the factors and the studied areas.


Study Area

Considering factors

(Al-Tit et al., 2019)

Saudi Arabia

Individual factors (Technology & knowledge), business characteristics (Market and Customer), management factors(Organizational), business support (Infrastructure), capital availability (Financial) and business environment (Legal and IP protection)

(Muriithi, 2017)

African countries

Legal framework (Legal and IP protection), business infrastructure(Organizational), continual power supply (Infrastructure) and accessible financial supply (Financial)

(Rao et al., 2019)


profitability, tangibility, size, age, growth, liquidity, non-debt tax shield, cash flow ratio, and return on equity on the leverage (Financial factors)

(Anderson, 2017)


business environment (Legal and IP protection), capital(Financial), infrastructure, knowledge

(Nyoni & Bonga, 2018)


Enterprise factors (Infrastructure, Technology & knowledge), environmental factors (Legal and IP protection, Financial), and entrepreneurial factors (Organizational).

(Moeuf et al., 2019)


Employee training, study on existing situation, data collection and proper usage, knowledge sharing (Partnerships), IT infrastructure (Technology & knowledge), communication, alignment of hierarchical level (Organizational)

(Douglas et al., 2017)


Maintaining good relationships with customers, having a good product or service, having good marketing skills and creating a brand customers can associate with as the critical success factors (Market and Customer). Barriers to success were identified as high taxes, too much government regulation and corruption in municipal government (Legal and IP protection).

(Alfoqahaa, 2018)


Reputation of the brand, excellence of customer services, reliable delivery and product innovation (Market and Customer).

(Mabhungu & Van Der Poll, 2017)


Owner/manager commitment, employee commitment ((Legal and IP protection).business planning, innovation (Market and Customer), management of costs, customers, suppliers, information, revenue, competitors (Technology & knowledge),  sources of finance (Financial), enterprise’s pool of resources (Infrastructure) and conformance to regulations (Legal and IP protection).

(Gupta & Mirchandani, 2018)


Personal factor (Organizational), environmental factors and government support (Legal and IP protection).

(Barhatov & Belova, 2017)


State influences, federal and regional support programs, federal tax service (Legal and IP protection).

(Kim et al., 2021)

S. Korea

Entrepreneurial Management Ability, Entrepreneurial Technical Ability (Organizational), Technology Innovation Competency, Technology Marketing Competency, Technical Performance (Technology & knowledge), Financial Performance (Financial).

(Yi et al., 2021)

S. Korea

Entrepreneur Orientation, Corporate Life Cycle (Organizational), New Product Novelty, New Product Meaningfulness, Competitive Advancement, New Product Performance (Market and Customer).

(Islam & Alharthi, 2020)

Saudi Arabia

Importance of top management’s ethical commitment, Companies’ ethical climate, Sustainable procurement practices (Organizational)

(Nor-Aishah et al., 2020)


Entrepreneurial leadership, Entrepreneurial bricolage (Organizational)

(Li et al., 2018)


Credit Risk (Financial)


With the use of the proper factors the performance of the business can be measured. It is essential for SMEs and start-ups to improve their effectiveness and get advantages to the competitors.

Online References:




Al-Tit, A., Omri, A., & Euchi, J. (2019). Critical Success Factors of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Saudi Arabia: Insights from Sustainability Perspective. Administrative Sciences 2019, Vol. 9, Page 32, 9(2), 32.

Alfoqahaa, S. (2018). Critical success factors of small and medium-sized enterprises in Palestine. Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 20(2), 170–188.

Anderson, W. (2017). Factors affecting small \& medium enterprises (SMEs) start-up and growth in Tanzania. Pan-African Journal of Business Management, 1(1), 1–26.

Barhatov, V., & Belova, I. (2017). External Success Factors of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises of Russia: Economic Aspect. Eurasian Studies in Business and Economics, 5, 453–468.

Douglas, J., Douglas, A., Muturi, D., & Ochieng, J. (2017). An exploratory study of critical success factors for SMEs in Kenya. Toulon-Verona Conference" Excellence in Services".

Gupta, N., & Mirchandani, A. (2018). Investigating entrepreneurial success factors of women-owned SMEs in UAE. Management Decision, 56(1), 219–232.

Islam, M. M., & Alharthi, M. (2020). Relationships among Ethical Commitment, Ethical Climate, Sustainable Procurement Practices, and SME Performance: An PLS-SEM Analysis. Sustainability 2020, Vol. 12, Page 10168, 12(23), 10168.

Kim, S.-S., Gennari, F., Cassano, R., Rosa, F. La, & Rosen, M. A. (2021). Sustainable Growth Variables by Industry Sectors and Their Influence on Changes in Business Models of SMEs in the Era of Digital Transformation.

Li, K., Niskanen, J., & Niskanen, M. (2018). Capital structure and firm performance in European SMEs: Does credit risk make a difference? Managerial Finance, 45(5), 582–601.

Mabhungu, I., & Van Der Poll, B. (2017). A Review of Critical Success Factors Which Drives the Performance of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. International Journal of Business and Management, 12(6).

Moeuf, A., Lamouri, S., Pellerin, R., Tamayo-Giraldo, S., Tobon-Valencia, E., & Eburdy, R. (2019). Identification of critical success factors, risks and opportunities of Industry 4.0 in SMEs. Https://Doi.Org/10.1080/00207543.2019.1636323, 58(5), 1384–1400.

Muriithi, S. M. (2017). African Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Contributions, Challenges and Solutions.

Nor-Aishah, H., Ahmad, N. H., & Thurasamy, R. (2020). Entrepreneurial Leadership and Sustainable Performance of Manufacturing SMEs in Malaysia: The Contingent Role of Entrepreneurial Bricolage. Sustainability 2020, Vol. 12, Page 3100, 12(8), 3100.

Nyoni, T., & Bonga, W. G. (2018). Anatomy of the small \& medium enterprises (SMEs) critical success factors (CSFs) in Zimbabwe: Introducing the 3E model. Dynamic Research Journals’ Journal of Business \& Management (DRJ-JBM), 1(2), 1–18.

Rao, P., Kumar, S., & Madhavan, V. (2019). A study on factors driving the capital structure decisions of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India. IIMB Management Review, 31(1), 37–50.

Yi, H.-T., Amenuvor, F. E., & Boateng, H. (2021). The Impact of Entrepreneurial Orientation on New Product Creativity, Competitive Advantage and New Product Performance in SMEs: The Moderating Role of Corporate Life Cycle. Sustainability 2021, Vol. 13, Page 3586, 13(6), 3586.