Purpose – This study aims to examine the impact of implementation of government-sponsored intellectual capital (IC) management and reporting (ICMR) programmes in Hong Kong and Japan for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for the purpose of issuing an IC statement (ICS). Design/methodology/approach – The authors present a critical analysis using semi-structured interviews with employees and owners of Hong Kong and Japanese SMEs who participated in their respective government’s ICMR programmes and who published an ICS. Findings – The authors conclude that many enterprises did not achieve the full benefit of participating in the ICMR programme because consultants funded by the government prepared the ICS. Instead, consultants should take on more of a “missionary” role, educating enterprises about IC, rather than doing the work for them. Research limitations/implications – This research is restricted to enterprises that published one ormore ICS.Futureresearchshouldinclude enterprises participating in theICMRprogrammethat failed to publishanICS. Practical implications – Enterprises that are able to utilise IC in their daily business routine will think IC is useful and continue using it. Conversely, those enterprises that relied on consultants to prepare the ICS will not understand its benefits. Originality/value – Policymakers should not solely concentrate on creating new IC reporting frameworks or guidelines for enterprises to follow because this focus limits the understanding of how enterprises can utilise IC concepts with the consequence that they may eventually give up on IC reporting.