I read a chapter by Tom Hodgkinson in “Do good lives have to cost the earth” last night. He wrote one of my favourite books of the last few years – “How to be idle.” His article is a variation on that theme – ending with the suggestion that in order to save the planet we should “stop working, stop spending and start living.”
I have huge sympathy with this idea and in our own small way I think this is what my wife and I have been trying to do for some years. I try to work as little as possible (although I fail lots of the time), and we have also down-shifted quite a bit.
Making this step is about attitude as much as anything else. And often my attitude is less than the best. I am still plagued by the same socially driven desires as most other people (Hodgkinson is clearly a saint). Security drives me, sometimes status drives me, and the desire for the easy, perfect, TV-like-life drives me.
But I agree with Hodgkinson, it’s worth the effort. Maybe I am getting better at it too. There really is more life with less spending and less work.
But what does that mean for businesses? Hodgkinson rails at business because he believes the whole system depends on greed. That 0 percent growth means death to business. And that “business” therefore drives us to work and spend.
I think he is talking about big business. I don’t see why small business (and he is the owner and operator of a couple of small businesses: publishing a magazine, writing books) has to be just about growth in terms of scale. It’s also about growing in strength. Perhaps it is easier to grow your small business if the economy is booming. But I don’t see why it has to be that way.
For example, a small business can get stronger by changing from a dependence on one large account to a larger number of smaller accounts. The latter business is stronger and more resilient. But its income (and profitability) may not change at all.
A small company can get stronger when one of the team learns some new sales skills. And then finds it easier and simpler to close a piece of business – using less time and less effort. If that sales person spends more time playing and doing nothing (and definitely not shopping) revenue won’t rise. The company won’t grow in conventional terms. But it is stronger and more resilient. So it has grown in that sense – like a piece of bamboo.