I said earlier that I am primarily interested in small and medium-sized businesses and what they can do. Does that mean that I am against big business, by which I really mean trans-national and multi-national corporations?
Of course not. I think big business is far too wide a term to rail against indiscriminately. I think there are good big businesses and probably bad ones too (the film “the Corporation”, based on Joel Bakan’s book, is a great awakener). And plenty in between.
I do think big business is different from small business. It seems to me that small business often starts from a position of “giving”. Many small businesses are set up initially to give something to someone else.
Big businesses seem to me to be small businesses that have grown (!), and often, somewhere along the way, they have also forgotten this central purpose. There are exceptions of course, and indeed corporate venturing in spin-offs or small teams often seems to try to reinstil this purpose.
But in general, this idea of serving the customer, or society, does seem to get lost. I don’t whether it’s because the founders left and all that remains is an echo of the original vision. Or maybe the pressures of being big and having so many stakeholders are just too distracting.
But really that’s why I like small business and think it’s important. It doesn’t have the reach, of course. But its flexibility, energy, and creativity make it very important as we face the opportunitities of sustainability. We need to innovate not just around products or services, but also around business models, and indeed even around the very purpose of business.
This seems to me to be something that small and medium-sized businesses are very well positioned to do.