Is big business just a bit too… big?

Just let me start out by saying I am no anarchist and I am not someone who is particularly anti big business. Big businesses create a lot of jobs, deliver a lot of tax for the benefit of all and (the good ones) look after their employees very well.

However something quite profound struck me recently. I was in London – in the City – on a regular weekly trip walking between client meetings. I’m a regular visitor to London and lived there for 10 years but I get completely bowled over when I visit an area I’ve not been to for a while to find it’s utterly changed – unrecognisable from the last time I was there.

The City is one such place – the wealth, the levels of investment, the money – it’s pouring down the walls of the outside of those new glass structures. And the new glass structures just keep on popping up everywhere.

Cut back to me. I too am a business, or at least a business owner – just one which is very small by comparison. When I thought about it, the juxtaposition was mind-blowing. Not helped either by the fact that my business pays something called ‘corporation’ tax (not micro-business tax!) at the same level as these Gargantuans (very probably less in many cases).

Question: do businesses really need to get so big and so wealthy? Maybe I am just naïve but where’s the humanness in these corporations?

The recent Carillion debacle was described in one committee of MPs’ report as “a story of recklessness, hubris and greed” with a business model which operated as “a relentless dash for cash”, driven by the “exploitation of suppliers”.

This probably understates what Carillion has actually done and the legacy it leaves behind; the people who’s lives have been utterly devastated by the actions of just a few.

The 2008 financial crisis was much the same. The greed of a few has completely changed the lives of the many.

But even without these extreme examples I find myself asking why? all too often when it comes to big business.

  • Why do Sainsbury’s and ASDA really need to merge in order to defend themselves against the likes of Amazon?
  • Why is it appropriate for Ram to use a Martin Luther King Jr sermon to sell its trucks?
  • Why did 2 Sisters Food Group feel the need to tamper with their food safety documentation meaning consumers bought out of date chicken?
  • Why are technology firms such as Facebook operating free from any regulation?
  • Etc.

In my world, it saddens me that so much effort and emphasis is placed on so few clients. Research agencies typically chase the corporate money, the most profitable contracts and actually the businesses who are most likely to succeed anyway, simply from their sheer scale. I generalise of course but I think you see the point?

The small and medium business owners I speak to generally shrug when I talk about the potential of research and insight to help their businesses. Even the simplest stories – happy customers buy more, buy more often and refer your products and services so let me help you make your customers happy – often falls on deaf ears.

This feels wrong and it’s my ambition to try to change this, to help those who need my help most to position themselves well, to better understand their market and their customers to therefore grow and succeed.

I’m starting a one-man mission to help these smaller guys out and it starts now.

Who’s with me?


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