But I actually think both sides miss the point -- one that I learned this week by speaking to five CEOs of five gigantic companies: Jim McNerney at Boeing (BA), Ellen Kullman at DuPont (DD), Alan Mulally from Ford (F), Terry Lundgren from Macy's (M) and Howard Schultz from Starbucks (SBUX). That point is: You can't compete effectively against the big dogs anymore.
You want to start a small business against Starbucks? You want a coffee shop, a restaurant, a place to grab lunch? You'll have to wind your way through the thicket of regulation, and at the same time you'll need to tackle a company that can figure out pretty much everything that needs to be figured out and has the staying power to go through downturns. You will be going up against a company that has the best supply-chain management, the lowest costs, dedicated employees and a CEO on a mission to run the best company on Earth.
Macy's has the systems, the wherewithal, the talent and the clout to beat up on suppliers. You want to open a retailer and try to compete with that, while at the same time retaining the local touch that had been the edge a small business person could have had? Good luck with that.
You want to be a supplier to Ford or Boeing or DuPont? They can demand whatever they want of you and get it. This is demonstrated daily by Boeing's Partnering for Success program, the one where they put you on the "no-fly list" if you don't play ball.That's right. What's happened in America is that the huge corporations with lobbyists in Washington and tentacles throughout the country -- the ones with the best balance sheets and, yes, the best leadership -- simply can't be beaten by small-business people. I think that, more than anything else, is the reason behind the lack of small-business creation -- and, judging by the execs with whom I spent time this week, it's not rational or economic to start one. Until that's dealt with, and it is behind me to figure out how to do it, get used to the new norm and what might be a permanently lower-job-growth environment.
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