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Gestão & Produção

Print version ISSN 0104-530XOn-line version ISSN 1806-9649

Gest. Prod. vol.26 no.4 São Carlos  2019  Epub Oct 17, 2019 

Original Article

The forms of intermediation in the space of Brazilian micro and small-sized enterprises: SEBRAE, from foundation to performance in the 21st century

As formas de intermediação no ambiente das micro e pequenas empresas brasileiro: o SEBRAE, da fundação à atuação no século XXI

Vanise Rafaela Zivieri Ralio1

Julio Cesar Donadone1

1Núcleo de Estudos em Sociologia Econômica e das Finanças – NESEFI, Programa de Pós-graduação em Engenharia de Produção, Departamento de Engenharia de Produção, Universidade Federal de São Carlos – UFSCar, Rod. Washington Luís, Km 235, CEP 13565-905, São Carlos, SP, Brasil, e-mail:;


This paper examines the role of the Brazilian service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises – SEBRAE in Brazil in recent decades organizational environment and aims to contribute to the identification and description of your activity, as a way to understand the organizational transformations of the micro and small companies. Achieving this goal, a field survey was carried out in which were raised institutional documents, records and interviews with professionals connected to the institution. Qualitative analysis were made in the material through five sections: products, agents, customers, structure/strategy and scenario. From the chronological analysis of the data, they were organized in three distinct periods. Each of these temporal spaces significant for the institution’s understanding. In this way, it seeks to portray the processes of transformation and redirection through which SEBRAE has passed in each period, from the foundation to the 21st century, and its forms of intermediation of micro and small Brazilian companies.

Keywords:  Intermediary; Consulting; Micro and small company; CEBRAE; SEBRAE


Esse artigo analisa o papel do Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio à Micro e Pequena Empresa – SEBRAE no tecido organizacional brasileiro nas últimas décadas e visa contribuir na identificação e descrição de sua atuação, como um caminho para entender o mundo e as transformações organizacionais das micro e pequenas empresas. Utilizou-se a pesquisa de campo por meio do estudo de caso, foram levantados documentos e registros e realizadas entrevistas com profissionais ligados à instituição. Foi feita análise qualitativa através de cinco seções: produtos, agentes, clientes, estrutura/estratégia e cenário. Considerando como base a análise cronológica dos dados, as seções foram organizadas em três períodos distintos, reconhecidos como espaços temporais significativos para a instituição. O artigo retrata os processos de transformação e redirecionamento pelos quais o SEBRAE passou a cada período, desde sua fundação até o século XXI e suas formas de intermediação das micro e pequenas empresas brasileiras.

Palavras-chave:  Intermediação; Consultoria; Micro e pequenas empresa; CEBRAE; SEBRAE

1 Introduction

The Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises – SEBRAE completed 40 years in 2012, and throughout your history has developed several programs and projects focused on the development of micro and small enterprises (MSE), being the consulting business one of the most characteristic. According to the institution, your goal is to continuously improve the competitiveness of the MSE and lead the new management technologies for the “entrepreneurs”.

In addition to the headquarters in Brasilia, the National SEBRAE (SEBRAE-NA), the institution has offices in 27 Federation units, with almost 700 customer service. SEBRAE-NA is responsible for the strategic direction of the system by setting guidelines and priorities of action, and in each Brazilian State SEBRAE develops designs according to the regional reality and national guidelines.

In this sense, the present paper arises from the interest of understanding the performance of SEBRAE in consultancy in Brazil and aims to contribute in the identification and description of your acting as supplier of consultancy services to micro and small enterprises, in order to better understand the organizational world and transformations through which passed the micro and small companies in Brazil. More specifically, seeks to portray the processes of transformation and redirection by which the institution spent each decade, from when it was created, by correlating the actions and programs of consulting developed and implemented by the institutions, in periods distinct, permeated by organizational transformations and all the socio-political context.g

For this survey, first it was conducted a literature review where it was possible to identify and highlight the researches developed by Lopes (2001), Veloso (2007), Melo (2008), Oliveira (2011) and Dias (2012) that focused on subject studied and served as reference for the construction of the survey. In the second stage, field research was realized in which they were raised documents, related publications and internal records at national headquarters of Sebrae in Brasilia, especially in your Museum, as well as in other regional centers that could provide elements for understanding the processes of transformation and redirection through which passed the SEBRAE in each period, the Foundation to act in the 21st century, and its forms of intermediation of micro and small companies (Mancuso, 2002; SEBRAE, 2012a, among others).

Qualitative analysis was made in material through five sections: products, agents, customers, structure/strategy and scenario, which in conjunction with the chronological analysis of the data, were the basis for the construction in three distinct periods of conceptions and ways of practice that SEBRAE went in the last decades.

In the third stage were the interviews with professionals who have or have had connection with the same, employees, consultants and former Presidents, which could complement and provide new documents for the construction of the analysis proposed in this research. In total of 20 interviews: 3 former directors (Paulo de Tarso Lustosa da Costa; Valternômen Coelho dos Santos; Adelmir Araujo Santana); 12 employees and former employees, who worked in consulting the Sebrae and Sebrae-SP, who had expertise in institution in different periods and 5 customers turned to the institution for different types of attendances and were chosen by represents the reference shape the performance of Sebrae in your specific institutional trajectory over the last few decades. Were performed by e-mail, telephone or in person, at the headquarters of the institution in Brasília.

The analysis was made qualitatively considering as a basis the chronological analysis of the data, which are organized into three distinct periods, identified in the material collected and recognized during the field research as timelines significant for the institution (adapted from work by Oliveira, 2011): the first cycle includes its Foundation from 1972, which includes his early years until your privatization, that is, when it became paraestatal from the law 8.029, 12/04/1990 and the Decree 99.570, from October 1990; The second moment of the institution began in 1990, with the entire transformation of the institution and resumption of actions with the new structuring of the entity when it becomes private organization; Finally, the third and last cycle is from the year 2000, in which parses the entity after the so-called “reinvention” of the institution, including the recent years and the strategic direction of the organization, their current practices in consulting and the organizational design that is writing in the present day.

2 The SEBRAE: initial data

Considering the presence of SEBRAE in the scenario of the micro and small companies, and your constant exposure in the media business, also in the propagation of entrepreneurship in Brazil, aimed an outline of your structure, in order to learn a little about the object under study. Accordingly, the following paragraphs were mapped (SEBRAE, 2013c):

  • − Has nearly 700 customer service, being 312 by themselves and 382 of partners, working throughout the national territory;

  • − More than 4900 direct employees, in addition to almost 10000 consultants and/or accredited instructors;

  • − Operates in key areas for growth of MSE: articulation of public policies; access to new markets, technology and innovation; and facilitation and expansion of access to financial services;

  • − Has as products: courses, consultancies, training, lectures, seminars, events and publications focusing exclusively for micro and small enterprises;

  • − Annual revenue in 2015: R$5 billion (SEBRAE, 2015).

The budget of SEBRAE in 2013 was R$ 3,5 billion. Such value draws attention because it is the magnitude of the value of the budget of the University of São Paulo (USP) in 2012, which was approximately 4 billion (USP, 2017).

It is important to highlight that the SEBRAE is part of the “S” System formed by set of nine institutions of interest to employers’ confederations of industry, Commerce, agriculture, and transport cooperatives. Contributions focus on the payrolls of the companies belonging to the corresponding category being passed on to the entities in order to finance its activities. The nine entities are listed below:

  • − Social Service of Commerce (SESC);

  • − National Cooperative Learning Service (SESCOOP);

  • − National Service of Industrial learning (SENAI);

  • − Social Service for industry (SESI);

  • − National Rural Learning Service (SENAR);

  • − National Service of Commercial Learning (SENAC);

  • − Social Transport Service (SEST);

  • − National cooperative learning service Transportation (SENAT); and the

  • − Brazilian service of Support for Micro and small enterprises (SEBRAE).

All of them starting with the letter S, hence the name S System.

When compared SEBRAE to the billing of largest consulting firms such as Accenture, this reached in France the amount of approximately R$3,8 billion, the budget of SEBRAE in the year 2013 is right around to the billing company of France consultancy that had better results in the world that year. The revenues of some other companies, IBM, for example, reached R$768 million on France, which translates to less than 22% of the budget of SEBRAE. It highlights among these and other data the budgetary capacity of SEBRAE to develop its actions in the Brazilian business scenario, among them, consulting projects for small business.

According to Donadone (2009), Donadone et al. (2012), it’s possible to use, like conducting wire of the analysis, the SEBRAE’s role within the Brazilian consulting space, being somewhat dependent on each other, observing your historical origin. Sought, then, identify information and definitions regarding the object and your structure in the social, political and economic context of its constitution and objectives of performance. In this way, portraying the transformation processes and redirection through which passed the SEBRAE in each period, from the foundation to the performace in the 21st century, and its forms of intermediation and legitimation in the State and in the scenario of small and micro Brazilian companies.

3 Context of the foundation of the SEBRAE

The Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Enterprises (SEBRAE) is an institution of technical support for the development of small business activity, aimed at the promotion and dissemination of programs and projects aimed at the promotion and strengthening of MSE. It promotes itself as the biggest promoter of entrepreneurship, that is, aspects related to the opening of new businesses, the work and the self-employment.

As identified in field research, there are several publications and academic papers that propose the partial or integral presentation of the history of the institution, and which seem to be adjusted to the same perspective. According to her, the narratives that present the trajectory of SEBRAE coincide with the official story narrated by the institution itself.

SEBRAE exists as an institution since 1972, but your story begins a little before. Yet during the Government of Juscelino Kubitschek had already been recognized the unequal conditions between domestic and foreign companies, especially small businesses. The Document 33, prepared by Development Council of the Presidency of the Republic brought a study on the problems of brazilian small and medium-sized enterprise (SEBRAE, 2012a). Despite of this writing, few actions were taken in support to small businesses at the time, between transitions of Governments of Juscelino, Jânio Quadros and João Goulart, only a few attempts to create a governmental credit line.

Later, in the Decade of 1960, began a movement more solid: the emergence of two programs of support to small businesses would give explicit outlines to the process of creating the CEBRAE. The first was the National Bank of Economic Development (BNDE), actually National Bank of Economic and Social Development (BNDES), and the other, the Northeast Development Superintendence (SUDENE).

The BNDE, created in 1952, has invested much in infrastructure in your first phase, but the state-owned creation gradually released the Bank to invest more in private enterprise and industry. During the 1960s, the agricultural sector and small and medium-sized enterprises have come to rely on credit lines of BNDE. In 1965, during the Government of Castelo Branco, BNDE created the program of Financing to Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (FIPEME) and the Scientific and Technical Development Fund (FUNTEC), current Financier of Studies and Projects (FINEP).

According to SEBRAE Memorial (SEBRAE, 2014c), the FIPEME was a small business financing program created by BNDE, from which made the diagnosis that the main difficulties faced by smaller companies are not restricted to credit necessity, but its ability to manage, which generated the first discussions for the creation of the CEBRAE.

The FIPEME and FUNTEC formed the Special Operations Department of BNDE, which was assembled a management support system for small businesses. In research conducted by these institutions, it was identified that the mismanagement of the business was directly related to the high rates of defaults in financing contracts concluded with the Bank.

In the same period, in 1967, the SUDENE instituted in States in the Northeast region the centre of Industrial Assistance (NAI) to provide management consulting to small businesses. These were the embryos would be realized in the future work by SEBRAE. On July 17, 1972 after the II Council of the Producing Classes (CONCLAP), where they discussed the process of development of Brazil, and by the initiative of the Ministry of Planning and BNDE, was created the Center Brazilian Managerial Assistance to Small Business (CEBRAE). It was born formally the institution within the framework of the Ministry of Planning (at the time of the Planning Secretariat, SEPLAN), from small establishments support initiatives carried out in the Northeast and by BNDE.

3.1 Emergence of the institution: the foundation at the end of the decade of 1980

During its early years, the CEBRAE went through a process of consolidation and expansion. Internally, passed through a process of professional valuation, through training, as well as an improvement of the corporate awareness of the Mission of the CEBRAE for the development of small businesses. Externally, the institution grew to offer services and tried to get closer to your audience. It began to cover all the States of the Federation, from the accreditation of institutions of support to small businesses, as the NAI or existing CEAGs (SEBRAE, 2012a).

The institution needed to justify your existence: on the one hand demonstrate efficiency in solving problems that refer to small business, on the other hand, reinforce the idea of unpreparedness of the entrepreneur and the economic hostile environment to small businesses, showing in the surveys the high mortality rates of these companies (Melo, 2008, p. 49).

According to documents from the SEBRAE (2012a, p. 45), the CEBRAE initial task was defined as: providing assistance to borrowers companies of BNDE, a strict job in these companies, which in a second moment turned into unfold for analysis of projects and its viability, as well as business training.

An important line of business for the institution was the corporate training, innovative action for that period. At the time, the contents were field of market professionals, who were hired by accredited entities in the States (Federations Units), today SEBRAE/UF, following methodologies and developed content for them. It was offered, basically, courses in the areas of finance, marketing, production and personnel (SEBRAE, 2014c), carried out at night and on weekends.

The great challenge in the beginning, according to the institution, was to have more professionals attentive to the importance of small and medium-sized enterprise. In 1974, the CEBRAE had 230 employees, of which only seven in the central core, and was present in 19 States. The institution acted with specific programs for small and medium-sized enterprises and in the year of 1979 had already formed 1200 consultants specializing in small and medium-sized enterprises.

According to Mr. Valternomem Coelho dos Santos, who served in the Bank of development of Minas Gerais, was Director of the João Pinheiro Foundation and of the CEAG-MG and also Executive Director of Sebrae of 1974 to 1976 (interview in may 2013), during his management, in 1974, was prioritized capacitation and formation of the technical team of the CEBRAE. He led the leaders of CEAGs and major CEBRAE managers to Turin, Italy, in a specialized training center that offering courses in management and specific policies for the small business. According to Mancuso (2002, p. 53), various methodologies have been consulted, researched and experienced in international mission. From them, the generation of programs and methodologies for the small company in Brazil, at CEBRAE. Also introduced quick diagnosis (DRI).

As reported Etel Tomaz (interview conducted in 08/02/2014), training of technical staff in industrial and commercial consultancy, consultancy in partnership with the Sudene, USP and Unicamp, inspired by model of the University of Delft, in the Netherlands, consisted of strategic resource to enable programming that SEBRAE operationalized next to the small business segment. The consultancy was still something very new at that time, had few references in Brazil, few companies here and these ones had attended only large national and multinational companies.

At that time, in Brazil, some of the multinational companies already consulting had opened their offices in major capital cities, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with a predominant model of action for Organization and strategy consulting, having as pre-eminent consultants Booz Allen, A.T. Kearney, McKinsey and BCG. Not identify between the practices of SEBRAE any similarity with the consulting model of these companies, in contrast, an early career in which he built a model of consulting, based on training and skills, in addition to the practices based on the empirical method.

Thus, in addition to the training content to the consultancy, the technicians also received guidance on the process of consulting. It is worth noting again that the consulting process in general was still forming in Brazil.

In 1976 the CEBRAE passes to be called Brazilian Center for Support of Small and Medium-sized Enterprise, keeping the acronym CEBRAE. The institution absorbs the National Executive Training Program (PNTE) of the Secretariat for Planning, inheriting the Brazilian Central of cases, mechanism created to register and dissemination of specific cases of success and didactic interest (Oliveira, 2011, p. 165).

During this period, the members of the National Deliberative Council of CEBRAE were National Development Bank (BNDE), Studies and Projects Financier (Finep), Economic and Social Planning Institute (IPEA) and Brazilian Association of banks Development (ABDE). The President of the IPEA was responsible for the Presidency of the Deliberative Council, and Chair of the CEBRAE was carried out by the representative of BNDE in Deliberative Council, with the Supervisory Board embracing representatives of all the entities that comprised (Lopes, 2001, p. 83).

The Second National Development Plan (PND), conducted from 1975 to 1979, has consolidated the system CEBRAE, because your proposed act in all States, including not only the industrial and commercial sectors, but also exporting and agriculture, first time support small and medium-sized enterprises is housed in a Government Plan (Melo, 2008, p. 44).

The expansion project of CEBRAE for all units of the Federation, set up by Second PND, was only implemented permanently in 1977, when the institution radically changed your operating structure. That year, accredited entities were required to change your institutional status in order to participate in a more homogeneous system, has started a process of transformation of all regional agencies accredited in Managerial Assistance Centers (CEAG). The CEAGs were created with the purpose of consolidating the CEBRAE System, in this way, the partners of each State would adopt this title, following the determinations of CEBRAE (Lopes, 2001, p. 75).

It sought, at that time, interfere on the autonomy that these entities kept in their regions, a part linked to industrial federations, and other one linked to government agencies, to especially center them in a more comprehensive system (Dias, 2012, p. 204).

In the late 1970, the Government established the national program for the reduction of bureaucracy and, at the same time, outlined the idea of CEBRAE getting a new institutional format, which in practice meant to assign him a new role of articulator and representative the political segment of the small enterprises (Lopes, 2001, p. 75).

With the goal of minimizing the excessive government regulation on private activities, it was proposed, in 1979, the strengthening of the national private enterprise, with emphasis on the survival of the small company, headquarters of the system and that more easily succumbs to the excessive bureaucratization (Beltrão, 1981 apud Lopes, 2001, p. 76). It defended the special treatment for the small company, which included: exemption from payment of income tax and elimination of some paperwork, allowing for differentiations between the segments of small and large entrepreneurs.

It was established the Microenterprise Support Program (PROMICRO), according to Dias (2012, p. 203), aimed to give the micro-entrepreneurs assistance in the areas of technology, credit and market. It contained a credit line of financing especially for micro-enterprises, in that the supply of credit was associated with the training, they were offered the Management Training Basics (TGB) and Specific Management Training (TGE). The program was funded by the federal Government and had a strategic importance to the institution.

It was from the PROMICRO which used for the first time the term micro-enterprises, title created within the CEBRAE and incorporated into your own business in the early 1990 (SEBRAE, 2012a).

In 1982, in addition to the National Program came PROMICRO of Rural Enterprise support (PRONAGRO) and the program of support for the development of animal husbandry (PROPEC), led to the entrepreneurs in the areas of service management of market, credit and technology (SEBRAE, 2012a, p. 53).

During Sarney and Collor administrations (1985-1990), CEBRAE faced a series of crises that the weakened it as an institution. In this period, linking your past Ministry of Planning for the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MDIC). With big budget instability, many technicians left the institution. In 1990, were laid off 110 professionals, that meant 40% of its staff.

Despite the preparation of technicians for the assistance of the small businesses and the entire set of actions that SEBRAE developed for supporting the segment, the early 1980 was a difficult period for the Brazilian economy and progressive indebtedness of the government.

In the analysis of Melo (2008, p. 54) in 1984 was the separation from the CEBRAE of the Ministry of Planning. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIC) advocated the creation of a Foundation, but did not generate a result. In November 1984, the end of the Government of João Figueiredo, CEBRAE was transferred from the Ministry of Planning of the Presidency of the Republic to the MIC, on behalf of the public sector reform. The technical and operational development of the CEBRAE in the course so far, would suffer a considerable concussion on the containment of public expenditure policy practiced by the Government, in compliance with the requirements of the FMI.

In 1984 the Brazilian Congress of Small Business was performed, at the National Congress, which was claimed as a catalytic event for approval of the Statute on Microenterprise. It was showed the law project that accounted for differential treatment, simplified and favored to micro-enterprises, administrative, tax, labor, social security and credit (Oliveira, 2011, p. 168).

With the Government of José Sarney, MIC Minister chose Fernando Gómez Carmona to chairmanship of CEBRAE, and your seat is transferred to Brasilia (Melo, 2008, p. 55). Although the first entity status determines the headquarters in the federal capital, your functional headquarters was in the Commercial Association of Rio de Janeiro, which made the institution's relationship with the Federal Government, and the seam of the joints necessary policies to defense your goals (Lopes, 2001, p. 80).

According to Fernando Carmona, the institution was not a budget unit, did not have any ties with the budget and, until then, “[…] lived the humor and good will of the Planning Minister”. SEBRAE received extra budgetary resources as a donation from the Government to a civil society (Mancuso, 2002, p. 79).

In 1985, the representation of the members of the Board of Directors of the CEBRAE was very close to the current composition of SEBRAE. The deliberative Council of the CEBRAE in the period: MIC, SEPLAN, BNDES, IPEA, ABDE, Federal Economical Federal CASHIER (CEF), the Bank of Brazil (BB), National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Governmental Council of Industry and Commerce (CONSIC), the Council for the Development of Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, the resources they already have your origin determined from annual and multiannual budgets of the Union and budget credits, mainly arising from (Lopes, 2001, p. 83).

In the 1980s, it happens the expansion of the universe of CEBRAE as immediate result of the creation of the status of the micro-enterprise. All states began to adopt the Statute, providing privileged conditions to micro-enterprises, as facilities in the registry of new enterprises and fiscal and tax exemption. From the second half of that decade the system in crisis. With the fall of progressive transfers of federal resources and outright threat of extinction, have become frequent the oppression to technicians and leaders of the CEBRAE, and also a wide universe of people connected to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SEBRAE, 2012a, p. 56).

In February 1986 the Cruzado plan was implemented in June of the following year the Bresser Plan, and after six months, inflation resumed. The CEBRAE started a conflict with the Federal Government, whereas the harmful measures in the small business segment, decrying the proposal of the Government to combat inflation (Lopes, 2001, p. 70).

According to Tomaz (15/01/2015 interview), the consultancy that was held at the time was called “Case-by-case basis”, with a focus on medium-sized and small enterprises, which had a structure very different from consulting provided today. Was made up initially of a diagnosis of 40 hours, and then was carried out the work of implementation of proposals identified in the diagnosis. The consultants, who were part of the very fabric of the CEBRAE System, including CEAGs, were formed and trained by the institution itself or with partnerships of universities such as USP and UNICAMP. Between 1973 and 1976 were 1,952 consultants formed and empowered within the CEBRAE System.

With the consulting, appear numerous other attendances, such as corporate training (courses, seminars, meetings and lectures), market access (business, trade shows, export, and shows and marks/patents), access to technology, with technological assistance and rationalization of energy, access to credit and financing and corporativism with associations of economic interest, besides the counter of the entrepreneur.

According to Lopes (2001, p. 80), it is observed that the CEBRAE not restricted your performance to technical assistance, but also articulated as an entity which demanded policies for the segment of small and micro businesses. In 1986, with the call of the National Constituent Assembly, the CEBRAE your political action intensified, setting up as a lobbyist. The post-treatment plan Crusader Plan conjucture, where thousands of small business were bankrupt or on the verge of bankruptcy, resulting in the inclusion of article 179 in the project of the Constitution, of differential treatment to small business.

Despite of the actions undertaken by the entity, between 1987 and 1990, the CEBRAE suffers from the Disassembly Operation, consisting in an attempt to extinction of various bodies linked to the State apparatus, in order to contain the public deficit. In 1989, the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises was extinguished and if arguing the end of CEBRAE (Melo, 2008, p. 57).

3.2 Transition and leverage: the SEBRAE in 1990 years

Despite several changes in relation to CEBRAE's links with the State bureaucracy, not prevented the continuing reduction in resources arising from proposals for extinction until an alternative form of financing. Systematic attempts of dismantling of the entity are located especially from 1988, with the paring down of your staff in 50% between 1988 and 1990 (Lopes, 2001, p. 82). Fernando Collor de Melo, so it assumes the Republic instituted the Collor Plan. The measures adopted by the new economic plan included the confiscation of money in circulation and the termination and dissolution of various agencies of the Federal Public Administration. Without links between the parties that made up the legislature determined the extinction of the CEBRAE, among other organs, including ministries, through the provisional measure 151 (Brasil, 1990). The Federal Government created, however, and also by provisional measure, the SEBRAE, the Brazilian Micro and small Service company, which became part of the S System (Lopes, 2001, p. 82).

In the analysis of Melo (2008, p. 60) a number of factors that were present for the SEBRAE hadn't been extinguished, including political relations that were of CEBRAE object of dispute, but also the movement from within the CEBRAE.

Such a conjunction of several factors can be pointed to as a way to understand the motivations of this measure of the Federal Government, to turn the CEBRAE in social service, among which one can cite the Government perspective, changes to decrease the size of the State, transferring to the private sector the funding and the management of certain functions (Oliveira, 2011, p. 172). The privatization of CEBRAE, transformed in Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises (SEBRAE), is in this context of cutting government spending to contain the fiscal crisis.

The President Collor promoted the reduction of customs barriers with the intention to cause strong impact on economic and business activity. Brazilian companies, until then protected in your own market, had little time to make the adjustments required by the economic opening process (SEBRAE, 2012a, p. 61) and SEBRAE went on to devise programs that accompanied this new opening rate the Brazilian market. SEBRAE has no bond with the Government structure, however, the law that created it determines that your performance is now as government policies (Melo, 2008, p. 58).

After the enactment of the Law 8,029, it takes over as last President of the deliberative Council of the CEBRAE – with C - the then representative of the National Secretariat of the Economy, Nelson Tadepalli, which proposes to the Executive Board to formulate a proposal for autonomy to the institution, based on models of SESI and SENAI (Melo, 2008, p. 58).

Pio Guerra, who presided the deliberative Council of SEBRAE of 1997 until 2001, states that the lengthy negotiations were arising from labor and social security liabilities, among others, accumulated by CEAGs so far, that would be a burden to Principals System Managers.

In the initial years, the SEBRAE previous configuration was maintained, with the CEAGs being transformed into State agencies of SEBRAE. These should follow the model of the national headquarters, i.e., the composition of the Deliberative State Councils should reproduce the formation of National Advisory Board.

Between April and December 1990, the by-laws were prepared for the SEBRAE Nacional (SEBRAE/NA) and their ramifications for the State units (SEBRAE/UF), as well as the internal regulations to the deliberative Council and SEBRAE, in addition formulation of the master plan.

It is observed that, since the Constitution of the entity, now under the responsibility of the private sector, the federal Government intervenes in both goals as in the very composition of the Board, which is repeated in the course of the performance of the institution (Lopes, 2001, p. 89).

From 1993, the SEBRAE makes diagnostic research of the problems of micro and small businesses, and next year is published the document “SEBRAE 2000”, with plans of action by the year 2000. In this document, whose focus was to establish guidelines for the development of the institution in the years following, were outlined ways to expand their performance modes, and included as objective “[…] promote the creation of legal basis and legally compatible with the needs the characteristics of the micro and small enterprises” (Mancuso, 2002, p. 110). According to Lopes (2001, p. 92), SEBRAE establishes itself as the lead in the coordination of activities directly or indirectly correlated to micro and small enterprises by setting a permanent operational strategy.

The circumstances of the period, with the opening of the market to imports, reached the requirement of companies in revision of its concepts and production management, highlighting the importance of the consumer. The movement for Quality Era strengthened, whose flag was wielded by SEBRAE.

One of the most important projects of the time was Total Quality SEBRAE Program to micro and small enterprises (PSQT). The PSQT implementation distinguish a new phase in consultancy model and the methodologies used from then on, developed by multidisciplinary teams, enable the spread of large programs around the country. Such “kits-programs” are structured in didactical modules and use techniques and updated communication means. Outsourced consultants, trained and accredited as a function of the required qualification, are responsible for development of programs across the country.

Treated commercially as “products”, the corporate training programs are developed on the basis of his potential demand, evaluated on the basis of surveys for micro and small enterprises. After your preparation, products like courses, videos, printed among others, are tested and validated for the training of multipliers and subsequent release in the States. The SEBRAE is Total Quality Program pioneered in the sum of all these aspects.

The result reached by the program brought great leverage for SEBRAE, reaching more than 15000 small businesses across the country, according to the institution. This result led to the launch of the Total Quality Rural Program and Keep an eye on Quality Program (D’OLHO), in 1998.

In addition to the products of the consultancies, the SEBRAE is projected by means of other actions and projects. In the year of 1992, when would the municipal elections, the institution launched a small book with the title “1992 Elections”, in which micro and small are presented as one of the pillars of the democratic State, highlighting his economic and social force (Lopes, 2001, p. 92). Later, in 1994, when it would happen presidential elections, the SEBRAE promoted by TV SEBRAE, created this year, an election debate with the theme “The presidential and microenterprise”, for which some candidates submit their proposals for your segment of interest: micro and small enterprises (Melo, 2008, p. 67). The theme related to the defense of the micro and small enterprise and national capital ends up being incorporated into the party programs aimed at the elections (Lopes, 2001, p. 93).

In 1993, the SEBRAE assumed in Brazil the Empretec Project, developed by the United Nations, UN. The Empretec is a training for entrepreneurs based on a survey of the 1960 Decade. According to such research, the factors of success or failure of a Manager are directly related to entrepreneurial attitudes, not just knowledge.

From José Augusto Brito management, they look for decentralize the system, with the proposal to make the SEBRAE a catalyst, disseminator of experience (Mancuso, 2002, p. 108). The purpose was to disseminate all successful projects, such as PSQT and Empretec, at the same time that the institution was looking for visibility in the field of micro and small enterprises in and outside Brazil.

As for the movement of consultancies in the world, there are indications by data collected that the institution was being introduced to managerial concepts, possibly modism in management, as Total Quality, that became it accepted and recognized in the world of business, mainly the micro and small businesses, as discussed by Donadone (2010). In this period, already widely accepted representative portion of MPE in Brazilian economy, therefore, received a government service substantially different from the years of 1960 and 1970.

At the end of the first half of the Decade of 1990, the economic scenario in Brazil already was quite different. The monetary stabilization, initiated in the Government of President Itamar Franco was consolidated in the next Government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, when then were more stable conditions for the fostering of business in the country.

In 1995, the then President of the institution, Guilherme Afif Domingues, launched the campaign “Status of Small Business – it has to be now,” with great support from the Government. Assuming that each small business covers five people, a total of 4 million of small businesses would reach around 60 million people involved, directly or indirectly, to whom the SEBRAE is called as “nation”, and glimpsed as an engine of social development in Brazil (Lopes, 2001, p. 92).

In 1996 it was established the Federal Simple, which, according to SEBRAE (2012a, p. 66) reducing bureaucracy for tax payments and represented a further development in the process of differentiation of micro and small businesses, removing, for example, the burden of salaries and taxation.

Despite retaking the monetary stability, Brazil faced a growing unemployment since the 1980. At the beginning of the year 1994, the number of unemployed in the metropolitan areas of the country reached almost 1 million, and in national terms, reached a total of 8 million without formal occupation. Consequently, the informal sector of the economy increased with the growth of self-employment and wages without officially registered. The subject of unemployment in the years 90, appears then as one of the biggest concerns of Brazilians in public opinion polls.

Between the years 1996 to 2000, were intensified the actions of internalization of SEBRAE, increased allocation of resources to States and expansion of the Endorsement Fund, in addition to the incorporation of the exportation by the Brazil Export Promotion Agency -APEX (This created in 1997).

An important milestone for the segment of the MSE took place on 05 October 1999, when the then President Fernando Henrique Cardoso sanctions the status of Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE), simplifying procedures and specificities in the field of obligations labor and social security. On this same day, was released the Entrepreneurship Brazil Program, which would be run by SEBRAE.

According to SEBRAE (2012a, p. 64), SEBRAE and Brazil began a path that, at the end of the years 1990, would lead them “[…] to join in what came to be called the entrepreneurship for millions”. Since then, experienced a period of expansion of your service to all States of the country, with regard to professional training in the creation and development of micro and small businesses.

Note that in the years 1990, large consulting companies operating in Brazil had an active participation and plenty of demand, according to the privatization processes and some mergers and acquisitions that marked the period.

The performance of SEBRAE, however, did not present threat to large multinational consulting, not even to the few companies that made up the scenario of this industry in Brazil. Some of these nationals, generally small businesses and consultants that formalized itself, became suppliers/partners of SEBRAE, passing through the accreditation process and using of the institution as a showcase, what was commented on dates of transfer of methodology.

This phase for the SEBRAE marks the beginning of your stabilization, once the concept of micro-enterprise was already institutionalized, the challenge was to create and adapt their products to this market. It was the growth phase of the institution, acquiring a business nature, developing various products and adapted to the reality of the MSE and the peculiarities of the Brazilian economy (Oliveira, 2011, p. 175).

The entity operates heavily in this period with the SEBRAE Total Quality Program – PSQT, INFORMATIZE, ISO 9000, 5S Program for Small Businesses (known as Program Of Eye), IDEAL Project and SEBRAE Counter (attendance of 2 hours of consulting). In addition, Starting a Little Big Business (IPGN), Central Easy and widespread entrepreneurial culture, such as the Empretec Seminar. It Also operated with Management Programs in Information Technology, Market and Credit; SEBRAETEC program, Technology-Based Business Incubators, Environmental Management, Business Training; Government Procurement, Research and Sectoral Fairs and the Entrepreneur Fair. It shows the expansion of the range of products that can extend its service in conjunction with the consulting, accompanying all its projects.

3.3 SEBRAE from the year 2000: reinvention and stabilization

From your self-criticism, entitled “reinventing SEBRAE” held in 1999, the institution carries out your strategy to articulate your expertise with the policies of the federal Government and State Governments. It was noticed that the institution needed a new “design” (SEBRAE, 1999). Second Melo (2008, p. 69-70), “[…] the result of the process of Reinvention is SEBRAE ceases to be an executing agency of programs to be a creator and Manager of organ programs that are run by other institutions”. In this way, the institution can decentralize the operationalization of its projects, while maintaining centralized co-ordination. It is worth noting that this decentralized structure is relative because, although they have this autonomy, the units in the States must follow the strategies and determinations of SEBRAE-NA, with regard to the implementation of the Budget and Plan of national level projects (Lopes, 2001, p. 93).

From the year 2000, it was extended the creation of the offices to the entrepreneur (PAEs) in SEBRAE-SP and there are fewer regional offices (ERs), in addition to partnerships with trade associations, companies and municipalities, with the approval of the new Strategic Direction.

The set of ongoing projects and programs in the institution features targeting institutional mission, aligned with guidelines of its Strategic Map 2015-2022 (SEBRAE, 2012b).

About its administration, it was implanted in a Result-Oriented Management System (GEOR), through which all projects are mapped and may be viewed by clients, partners and the public. In the system are also logged the results, schedule, stocks etc. and, according to the institution, is part of your policy of transparency towards society.

Before a globalized market, with approval of the Fiscal responsibility law and the general law of the MSE were targeted efforts for the process of reinvention, as the deployment of the Sustainable Integrated Local Development Program (DLIS), highlighting public policies actions undertaken by the entity. Besides Brazil Entrepreneur Program, it were implemented Learning to Undertake, Entrepreneurial Woman and a “revolution of attendance”, according to the institution. The SEBRAE Portal allowed distance education and call-center, enabling remote assistance to a growing number of customers. It has also been deployed a Progra, called Challenge SEBRAE, in addition to edicts of Microcredit, Young Entrepreneur Program, Public Policy, Entrepreneur and Mayor Award actions of Bureaucracy and Government Procurement. The goal of the institution was over attendance of thousands to millions, and it counted with the distance education resources on the internet, radio and television.

In the year 2006, a milestone in the history of the small business and the image of SEBRAE as its biggest supporter, the approval of the general law was widely publicized. It was released both before, calling for the participation of all, and seeking a movement at the national level, how much later, when the SEBRAE promoted lectures, meetings and workshops to disseminate and clarify the content of the same. Also distributed booklets, brochures, newspapers and various materials for dissemination and enlightenment.

The General Law of Micro and Small Enterprise was sanctioned in December 2006, by the then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. According to SEBRAE (2012a, p. 74) “[…] was a crowning instrument of this strategy to create a favorable environment for the flourishing and development of small business in Brazil”.

The General Law, or Super-simple, went on to operate effectively in July 2007, and

[…] at that moment the intensified dialogue with the economic area of SEBRAE of the federal Government. It was great deadlocks, as the resistance of States and municipalities that provided for collection losses. The defense of SEBRAE if translated in your speech: where all pay, everyone pays less (SEBRAE, 2012a, p. 83).

From there, the numbers of companies registered in General Law were increasing: In 2006 there were 1,3 million companies, the following year were 2,9 million. In 2010 the number reached almost 4 million and, according to data from the internal revenue service, in 2012, about 6,6 million of companies were registered in the National Simple (SEBRAE, 2012a, p. 84).

In 2011 the President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned the project that expanded the list of companies framed between micro and small with ability to enter in a Super-simple. Those with gross annual revenues of up to £ $360,000 are considered micro-businesses.

After the approval of the general law in the year 2008, is sanctioned the complementary Law nº 128/2008, establishing the legal figure of the Individual Entrepreneur, bringing million entrepreneurs to the formality and providing them benefits, such as retirement hospital and medical care.

In 2011, there was 1,8 million of registered individual micro, and the following year, in July, exceeded 2,5 million. In 2013, reached 3,6 million, with 905,000 in the State of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro 438,000, according to data from the internal revenue service.

Amid the progress of projects related to General Law and MEI, in 2010 the SEBRAE-SP goes through an action by prosecutors, that prevents it from continuing the process of accreditation of consultants as had been doing, and as do all other units of the States. SEBRAE-SP returned to hire by the accreditation process (outsourced) in specific courses in the year 2014, as the Empretec Program, but does not clarify anything about the action of the Prosecutor on this type of recruitment.

In relation to the number of attendances of SEBRAE from the year 2000, it was possible to identify, through the Management Report of the SEBRAE System (SEBRAE, 2008. p. 7), the number of 1,4 million of companies met that year, between formal and informal, and 5,2 million of individuals through various forms of attendance. Among them, according to the report, include 305,000 consulting, 34,400 courses and 3,500 missions and business rounds. At the same time, made it possible to achieve 39,5 million individuals through radio programs, access to the Portal SEBRAE, fairs and events.

The performance of SEBRAE, according to this report, is presented in segments grouped in the sectors of industry, trade and services, and agribusiness, but is evidenced by the number of companies served by consulting in each of the segments. Unlike some cases are quoted exclusive of projects linked to programs.

The training programs in business management went on to reach millions across the country through Distance Learning (EAD) and radio and TV programs. Regional development, based on micro and small businesses, gained great momentum in Brazil by DLIS Methodology; And yet, thousands of small businesses across the country have received consulting in innovation through the Local Agents of Innovation Program (ALI).

SEBRAE has launched the Microcredit Program aimed at the benefit of thousands of small businesses, even informal, of initiative low-income or unemployed, a mode of low-cost financing and granted without bureaucracy, as the institution. It was also released in the last decade, hundreds of technology-based incubators.

3.4 Comparison of evolution of SEBRAE

Upon description of the main facts, programs, and actions concerning the SEBRAE in each period, about consulting, it is possible to expose through the numbers of attendances in sections relating to decades of 1970/80, 1990 and 2000 (the amount of attendance presented is punctual for the years 1987, 1997 and 2013, respectively), as shown in Graph 1.

Source: Drawn by the author, based in CEBRAE (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978), CEBRAE/CEAG (1987, 1988) and SEBRAE (1997, 2008, 2013a, b, 2014a, b).

Graph 1 Companies attended by the SEBRAE Consulting in three moments.  

The number presented deserves a reference of the percentage of companies met in relation to the total in the period. The number of 9,000 companies, for example, met in the year 1978 and which also repeats in the year of 1987, refers to an index of 28% in the number of small and medium-sized enterprises of the period (IBGE, 1980 apud Ivan & Guaghardi, 1984).

In 2012, of the nearly 13 million of companies in Brazil, 11 million were represented by micro and small enterprises, along with individual microentrepreneurs. This number, in front of the number of consultancy service in the period, demonstrates that the SEBRAE began to serve 6.85% of the total of 11 million.

The evolution, according to the figures presented in the Institution's Management Reports (CEBRAE, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978; CEBRAE/CEAG, 1987, 1988; SEBRAE, 1997, 2008, 2013a, b, 2014a, b), demonstrate the growth of the activities of the entity in the consulting services, if considered the numbers of companies met, regardless of the total, although the major shift in priority projects and forms of service. The reduction of content, especially can be considered that is due to the change in audience and products offered to them. The need for consulting an individual entrepreneur may be considered to be much smaller than a small business. Hence, also considering that almost 50% of MEI represents the SEBRAE, it is understandable that the percentage over the total number of companies has been reduced.

Another comparison, as it presents the Annual Work on Micro and Small Businesses (SEBRAE, 2011), based in the year 2011, a universe of 6,385,814 formally registered companies in the country the micro and small enterprises accounted for a total of 6,322,681 establishments. The Yearbook does not cite the number of individual micro, however according to SEBRAE (2012a) in 2011 it was 1,8 million MEI in Brazil. If they are judged to be the MSE, with the number presented by the Yearbook (SEBRAE, 2011), the percentage of attendance reaches 11,91%.

Another number can be found by adding the number of companies served by consulting and technical guidance, that in the Report (SEBRAE, 2013b) are presented separately. The number of companies served in technical guidance reached the number of 1,781,652 in 2013, added to the 753,507 met in consulting, as already mentioned, 2,535,159 would be the total number of companies met, 40.09% of the MSE 6,322,681 accounted for in that same year, in Brazil.

The consulting services offered, up to 70% of subsidized projects (SEBRAEtec), were largely sold and targeted to small and medium sized companies (SME). They were, in the initial years, carried out by own staff-which in 1988 were in number of 2,541; are today performed by partners and accredited institutions by SEBRAE System, that are almost 10,000 throughout the country.

The service currently forms are explored the various technologies and resources available to remote assistance, which can be found online through the portal, customer service by phone, where the consultants are scheduled, and the consultant is available as scheduled. There is also a targeting of the institution to the collective attendance, a large effort to meet through mass market products like the training of 16 or 20 hours, for example cash flow or promotional actions in the Trade.

Regarding the three different moments experienced by SEBRAE, from all data and interviews, as shown, enabled the construction of a comparative, synthesizing the initial purpose of this research project, as presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Comparison of the three moments of SEBRAE. 

Consolidation and formation
Reinvention and stabilization
Products Advice; Rapid Diagnosis (DRI)
Corporate Training;
PROMICRO; PRONAC; PROGERAR; PRONAEX; PATME; Central purchasing; Business scholarship; CPM/BIRD.
PSQT – OF EYE; Informatize; ISO 9000; Ideal; SEBRAE Counter; IPGN; Easy Central; Entrepreneurial culture; EMPRETEC. PATME; Sebraetec; Incubators; Environmental Management; FAMPE-FUNDING; PRODER Brazil Entrepreneur; DLIS; Entrepreneurial Woman; Learn to Undertake; Public Policies; Mayor Entrepreneur Award; Other awards; Reducing bureaucracy; Government procurement; University Challenge Entrepreneur; Microcredit edicts; Young entrepreneur; SEBRAE More, Size, THERE
Agents Formed 1200 consultants to industry, Commerce, services, agribusiness and export Many left and were laid off 110 professionals (40%), CEBRAE (national) only. Opened accreditation process Outsourced consultants, provides training for staff, implementation of the corporate University; Some States hire internally.
Customers Industry and Commerce; Export and agriculture; Small and medium-sized enterprises Micro and small enterprises Micro and small business; Both formal and informal; MEI; University education;
Strategy Structure Formation of the Board. In 1988 had 175 employees in CEBRAE and more 2,366 distributed in CEAGs. A total of 2,541 employees Of CEBRAE for SEBRAE. Training of instructors TOT; Management; Technology; Information; Market; Credit SEBRAE Reinvention; Corporate University; Cooperative accreditation and consulting firms; SEBRAE sustainability Center; GEOR; Revolution of care; Portal; EAD, radio and TV, Call center

The Table 1 summarizes the products, customers, agents, strategies and scenarios faced by SEBRAE, along its 40 years. From there if you show some of the many changes that happened, along your story.

You can highlight the predominant actions of the institution, being the products targeted primarily to small and medium-sized (SME), then to the micro and small entrepreneurs (MSE) and in the last phase, micro and small, in addition to individual entrepreneurs (MSE and MEI). The products, initially the Enterprise Diagnosis, which was linked to loans from development banks, and if characterized by survey information and deepening of knowledge about the peculiarities of the public served by institution, in the second sentence are the quality programs and Empretec, which were pointed out not only in Brazil, but worldwide and finally, from 2000 the spraying with diversified programs in addition to massive awards to women and Mayors Entrepreneurs, academics, and even distance education, the internet, radio and TV, keeping the person too.

4 Final considerations

Whereas the initial objective to enable a better understanding about the contextualization of SEBRAE in their historic moments, it was possible to highlight your permanent performance with programs and projects targeted to the small entrepreneurs, which was setting better from the formal and legal support set by the Brazilian Government. The main results point to the institution's participation in various forms of action, such as providing management techniques, and training, but also with support for participation in events and preparation for export, in addition to your role of join to the politics middle. The positioning of the SEBRAE consulting space shown extremely differentiated consulting firms, both large and small, and national companies. First because it provides the vast majority of its services at a subsidized cost, since the institution has a budget in excess of R $4 billion per year and still because the public serving is not a target of major consulting firms.

Lopes (2001, p. 90) points out that the SEBRAE is created from a proposal for revocation of the CEBRAE, whose functions would be of technical, technological and administrative offices. Melo (2008, p. 61) highlights that there was a deliberate strategy to link the image from SEBRAE to small business, which depended on your stay. According to the author, “[…] the SEBRAE built around the belief of small business”, not only as an actor, but to even representation of the micro and small business segment. On the other hand, remains acting as government policies, but on the other also makes proposals for policy measures (Melo, 2008, p. 62).

Since your appearance was close to the Government, and even when he ceased to be a public body, in 1990, having passed through a rupture that nearly died out, managed to reposition. Became a State and remains as arm of Government support for the promotion of actions in favor of small and micro businesses, projects and incentives for formalization of small businesses, strengthening of the micro individual entrepreneurs, as well as agent intermediary between the interests of this public with the Government agencies, including the Department of micro and small enterprise, established in 2013.

From 1980 showed the growing increase of the then CEBRAE, and particularly your consolidation in Brazilian consulting space, from transforming the products offered, featured initially for operating and configuration of information (diagnoses) and training professionals (consultants) to operationalize your performance, and subsequently the offer of customized products to make your mass, if not exclusively with consulting, but with her always as part of their “packages”. Stands out in this context your strong performance as an intermediary for small enterprises, and the novelties, after your commitment to firm up as the creator or managerial techniques, translator for the organizational universe of small businesses.

Through the research data, highlighting the ways that SEBRAE has adapted to the new field he helped to build, acting as an intermediary of the organizational and institutional transformations in this space, as well as the legitimate articulator, managerial knowledge carrier and the interests of micro and small entrepreneurs in the country.

How to cite: Ralio, V. R. Z., & Donadone, J. C. (2019). The forms of intermediation in the space of Brazilian micro and small-sized enterprises: SEBRAE, from foundation to performance in the 21st century. Gestão & Produção, 26(4), e4219.

Financial support: Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).


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Received: August 09, 2017; Accepted: April 25, 2018

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