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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005 07:16 pm

A better business model

Bigger isn't always better

What if businesspeople started saying no to the prevailing corporate ethic that your business must always be getting bigger to be a “winner”? Well, it’s happening. It gets little coverage by a media constantly fawning over the barons who run the slam-bam expansionist operations such as Amazon and Starbucks, but a quiet rebellion is spreading among entrepreneurs who are choosing a heretical business path. These are folks who want to make a profit — but not a killing. They don’t want to run over their competitor or become a far-flung chain. They want more control over their own lives, and they want their businesses to be based on genuinely satisfying customers and treating workers as valued partners. One of these community-based entrepreneurs says that he rejected the chance to buy out a competitor: “I’d rather pack my kids’ lunch and walk them to school.” Another, who runs a tea shop, is dreaming not of 10,000 stores but of making customers feel truly welcome: “You need to become part of the community and give people an alternative to the big chains.” Likewise, the owner of a natural-foods store that successfully goes head to head with the Whole Foods supermarket chain says, “We live in an isolated and lonely culture. People stop in our store for the social interaction, as well as the products. We’re an oasis.”
These community-based entrepreneurs are creating an economic model that contributes much more to our society’s pursuit of happiness than the suck-’em-dry Wal-Mart model so beloved by the corporate establishment. You can vote with your dollars: Either choose Wal-Mart, where they have to hire a greeter to give you a hokey hello . . . or choose some real place where they actually know your name.
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