The phone hacking scandal which has engulfed News International in the UK over the last two weeks is a reminder of a key difference between big businesses and small businesses.
The CEO of a small business is less able and less likely to rely on a defence of I didn’t know what my employees were doing.
In small business we are closer to each other, more aware of what is being said and done in the name of the company and more accountable for these words and actions. We cannot rely on the defence of size making ignorance acceptable.
It was a shock to see Rupert Murdoch effectively use the defence of we have 52,000 people and I don’t know what they say or do and therefore should not be held accountable. His responses to the House of Commons Inquiry earlier this week make a strong case for fewer big businesses. Commentary is certain to turn to this in the coming weeks, looking at business size and wondering if big really is better.
Of course, from a shareholder value perspective, size probably will always matter. There is more to this discussion than shareholder value however. We must consider the role business plays in society and in that consideration is the question of ultimate accountability.
A world of many more smaller businesses would be far more economically valuable, socially responsible and ethically accountable than a smaller collection of massive corporations .
While we continue to grow we have a long way to go before we could be called big. Even after thirty years in business and more than 2,000 customers, we remain a small company serving small businesses. We like that, we feel comfortable with our size and the size of our customers.