Our world is dotted with profiles of top entrepreneurs growing their businesses into multi-billion-dollar enterprises. But what about the successes of small business entrepreneurs intentionally choosing to scale down, rendering a social impact the relevance of which isn’t often publicized but is as noteworthy as inclusion in Top 10 Lists.
Gary Cokins, in his “Corporate Decision-Making: Why do large, once-successful companies fail?” notes that nearly half of the 25 companies included in 1982 “In Search of Excellence” (Tom Peters and Robert Waterman) no longer exist, are in bankruptcy or have performed poorly. Additionally, of the original Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 list created in 1957, “just 74, only 15 percent, are on that list today according to research from Professor Gary Biddle of the University of Hong Kong. Of those 74, only 12 have outperformed the S&P index average.”
In his Forbes article, “Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Why Small Clients Are the Key to Success”, Shawn Freeman encourages businesses courting big enterprises to take note of the smaller clients with established industry leadership that readily send “referrals left and right.”
In our new world order where the divide between the rich and the poor continue to widen, we may confuse what real success means. We may envy those racking in the big bucks in multi-billion-dollar industries and profiled in top media outlets.
What we need more of is to re-evaluate how we define success– beyond the glamour of million-dollar profits. Deliberately leaving corporate life to establish small business or consultancy certainly has rewards that far outweigh widely publicized top lists. Not to mention priceless human connections, reduced bureaucratic hindrances – and more importantly a chance to make a more consequential impact on our world that far outweighs the glamour of being listed in a business magazine, or receive an award, or be profiled on the world stage.
Many entrepreneurs now operating small businesses once worked at major corporations but decided to establish their own small business. Many of them are trailblazers not profiled in major business and financial magazines. And while success is relative – the rewards of owning a small business are higher and most gratifying when the scale is smaller, more balanced and manageable.
Having worked with global PR agencies and well-recognized brands housed in sky scrapers employing thousands of employees and executives for the most part meant being a mere number with hollow, small talk interactions lacking relevance to meaningful, social issues. Although the vast experience gained can’t be overlooked, I have enjoyed having my own small consultancy with small business clients and working with boutique PR agencies where I am valued, have optimum support from a team that is more like a family than a division of a major corporation with constant turn over.
Rania Kinge, a successful IT executive based in Geneva, left it all behind to establish Damascus Concepts a social enterprise in Damascus, Syria where she trains internally displaced Syrian refugee women in creating jewelry and accessories that are then sold worldwide. Starting with eight employees and now employing close to 200 women across the war-torn Syria, Rania’s workshops are enabling women living in shelters to earn a livelihood, learn a life-long skill to become breadwinners and be accounted for. The rewards?
“The last reward I got was when I learned that the girls (women employees) have become certified UN trainers within the scope of the project we did with Japan which was linking displaced women to international markets. They received $2000 that they picked up straight from UNDP Damascus with their passports,” Kinge explains.
Nearly 99% of the women awarded never had a passport or earned wages previous to being involved with Kinge’s social enterprise. The award sum earned “represents the earnings of a whole year’s work”.
“It proved to me that what I was doing was right and that all my hardships were worth the effort,” says Kinge who determined to continue the social enterprise under constant bombardments, admits she direly needs to increase sales while the war rages on in Syria.
After having worked for a major corporation as a hygenist Suzanne Keuhl established Hygiene Health™ an Independent Dental Hygiene practice after she petitioned and changed the licensing requirements for independent dental hygienists in the state of Maine. Besides the “distinct pleasure” in setting her own schedule and a reduced commute to work, putting her patient’s first – rather than “hitting production numbers” – is what’s most rewarding for Keuhl.
“I believe viscerally in partnership and collaboration. Having an independent hygiene practice allows me to partner with my patients and collaborate with referring dentists. In my corporate life, it was very hard to get a new oral care product “idea” to move up the manager chain-of-command. At Hygiene Health I can implement my ideas and hope to eventually hire other IPDH’s like myself. At this stage of my life, being a small business owner gives me professional freedom and the extra “work” doesn’t feel like work,” says Keuhl.
In her recent Forbes article, Small Business Is The Engine Of The City Deborah Talbot discusses the norm of startups, disruptive innovation, freelancing, co-working, and digital nomads. “Despite the best efforts of local and national government who prefer to procure from known and large suppliers, small business is on the up. 99.3% of all private sector businesses in 2016 were small companies, and 99.9% of these were small or medium-sized. SMEs (those with fewer than 250 employees) account for 60% of employment in the U.K. and 60-80% of U.S. jobs (Source: Market Inspector).”
There may be a more innate, biological reason that drives us to seek this balance in life and career at the price of total enrichment of being fulfilled with smaller successes – as immunologist Harout DerSimonian (Ph.D) explains. Our bodies naturally are balanced with a good portion of good and bad. Too much of one thing – like too much success, sudden business expansion that can at times task the business into bankruptcy – isn’t always the best balance formula.
“For example, the body cannot handle too much salt or no salt at all because either extreme is deleterious to the body, organ and the individual cells that make up all the tissues in the body,” explains DerSimonian.
So next time you are at awe of those listed in some Top 10 list of most successful business owners, or billionaires, sit back and enjoy the small more rewarding joys of life with highest contentment that you simply can’t take the time to enjoy at a gigantic conglomerate focused on hitting the sales marks.
It’s time to evaluate how we define success.