Hanh mitakyapi. Every so often, someone asks a question that seems really off in left field on the surface, but actually begs for a considered answer.
Recently, someone asked me why anyone would “want” to establish a business with an eye to remaining a small – or even, a micro – business.
My answer was, “In order to be able to keep track of it and to feel as if they were in control of it & the immediate ‘world’ that attends it. Not everyone is suited to something the size of General Motors, and not everyone wants to deal with attempting to keep track of and control something that big.”
This person responded that if the small / micro-business were successful, “one of the big corporations will either swallow it up or destroy it”, being apparently of the mindset that ‘might makes right’ and ‘David and Goliath’ is the only world model. I disagree.
“My” for-profit, Indian Maid Products, Inc., is smaller than the period at the end of a sentence. We are not exactly comatose, but we aren’t doing any regular business right now, either. (My / Our Big Secret! Out in plain view! Duwahleh!)
If you have read any of my other posts here, or on my Blog, Four Winds N Fast Company, you already know that there are plenty of “big” people in North Dakota who want to do whatever they can to keep Indian Maid from becoming lively, partly because we are Indns, and partly because I am the founder & CEO of the company.
It’s quite a compliment, if you think about it – however back-handed.. For my money, they could just send Hallmark.
These “big” people consider me a considerable threat to the status quo of the handful of people controlling businesses here, and also of politics. I continue to hope that somehow, I can make the “threat” they fear really come to life here; and of course, that means getting Indian Maid up and running, paying a living wage, putting a dent in welfare-as-lifestyle, and empowering Indn People.
Even a small business success means decreasing welfare-as-lifestyle, and so decreasing the death rate of Indns, along with the crime rate involving us. For bigots, decreasing the “Custer Effect” is not on the map. For us, it’s crucial, and is one of the reasons for us to be in business.
I’ve made some small dents in the status quo, but certainly not as big as they need to be. For the dents to be as big as they are needed to be, we need lots more minority micro- and small businesses. “Success in business” would empower the rest of the “threat” to the status quo here, where business relationships are, in my view, incestuous. Nepotism is rampant here, including in state government, and “conflict of interest” is a term people know, but don’t subscribe to, much.
The rationale is, “this is a small-population state, so it needs every aid to success it can come up with. If that means nepotism, it does.
In the last grant application we made to APUC, in 2003, one of the APUC members asked, “What will happen if we don’t make a grant to your company?” I replied, “It will take a lot longer for us to get into our markets.” Most of the Committee nodded, and I’m still not entirely sure if that was affirmation / recognition of the fact or in hope they could keep us from establishing ourselves by keeping funding out of our hands as long as possible.
I don’t subscribe to the view that if a small business is doing well in its niche, some larger business is automatically going to either try to destroy it or swallow it. The reason is, small business is the foundation of the economy of the free world, particularly in the U.S., and if the “swallow or destroy” scenario were true, small business would have disappeared long ago.
Even Wal-Mart has not been able to eliminate small and micro-businesses..
The control we have of our lives is tenuous enough, and always has been. But when we establish micro- or small businesses, we have control over more of our lives, and of our time, and of how we allocate our time. We make a trade between the theoretical security of a job (a security I don’t see) and the pride of accomplishment that comes from successfully continuing in the face of rising costs, supply and supplier challenges, and changing world markets for whatever we produce. It’s probably the same mindset that makes people climb mountains, or ride bucking stock, or sail the oceans in outrigger canoes. You never know what you ‘can’ do until you try, and the only people who truly fail, are the ones who never try.
More than that, we who establish and maintain “micro” businesses prove that we have power in and of ourselves; that ‘power’ and ‘size’ are not automatically ‘only big’. It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog, and the TNT molecule is very small.
World Changing Ideas
New workplaces, new food sources, new medicine--even an entirely new economic system.
The major tech ecosystems that battle for our attention and dollars.
What’s next for hardware, software, and services.
The brave new world of automation, from AI to drones.
How our urban centers are building toward the future.
Most Creative People
See members of our Most Creative People in Business community: leaders who are shaping the future of business in creative ways.
An award-winning team of journalists, designers, and videographers who tell brand stories through Fast Company's distinctive lens.