Every business is a small business

Dave Ramsey is coming out with a new book soon about Leadership.  In this book, he has announced his concept that all business is small business.  At first, the realist in me sees that statement as false.  However, there is a sliver of truth to the statement even if it is not a “real” statement.

For me, a “real” statement is one that is born out of what we like to call reality.  While I would love to get philosophical about what is real and what isn’t , we will use a working definition of “real” to mean in this case, the current attitudes and actions of business dealing with one another.

The problem is, that while ALL business SHOULD BE small business, the larger corporations don’t like playing that way.  Once you get to be real big, a fear is created by believing the business may shrink.  If it shrinks, it may not be large and the advantage to a large corporation is that the number of competitors is less in their space.  However, being a realist, I realize that the pie is not limited, and this fear of becoming small is the very reason that most of these companies will be small again some day.  For example, consider Novell who was once larger than Microsoft.

The reality of business is it being about people.  While there are large people and small people, people are people and business is about that person to person relationship.  It is true that larger people, such as my father, were always good sales people because when he stated something with conviction, you listened.  You don’t argue with the big guy.  As least to this once small son of my father it was that way.

But the fundamentals of business are people.  One-on-one interactions with people are the game.  You cannot get smaller that one person and the decision is never far from just one person.  Every company has that one person with whom the final buck stops.

Large companies try to change that dynamic as much as they like, but sale by sale, unit by unit, brick by brick, all business is still conducted at the small level of the person eventually.  I might need to go through a committee to get the one person to sign the PO, but it still comes down to one person.

So in part, yes, all business is small business, but I am sure that Microsoft or Apple will never fully appreciate that nuance, because they are fundamentally afraid of being small again.  Maybe not the company directly, but the shareholders and the board defiantly have that fear.  If they didn’t we wouldn’t have them making decisions based on the short term, like locking people out of their products.

So for now, the small business of Microsoft or Apple will keep trying to insulate themselves by doing what a puffer fish does when it is afraid…make itself look big.  Someday, these companies will be small again and have to learn all over again that the question is not the next greatest product, but how you treat each person.

PS There is another facet of the large/small business based on transaction volume.  However, I know companies that deal in billions of dollars with a fairly small staff.