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Big difference between big, small business

Great Expectations

Our field of reference — how we view the world and feel about things — is determined by our experiences, knowledge and, to some degree, our intellect. If we view the same situation as others and have different opinions, it is because we have a different field of reference.

A decade or so ago my field of reference, related to business, began to change.

Most of my professional life was spent in public education. On the plus side, working with children was very rewarding. I knew exactly how much money I would receive at the end of the month and how much increase I would get for advanced degrees and work experience. I did not fear lay-offs or job loss. I knew the exact dates that I would have time off from work. I had affordable health insurance and a retirement system.

However, the pay was low, and I decided to change careers and position myself and my family for a better retirement.

My experiences have changed my field of reference.

After studying for a degree in counseling, I became a self-employed counselor/consultant. For the first time in my life, I was faced with buying my own health insurance, professional liability insurance, paying for professional licenses, paying self-employment tax, making quarterly income tax payments, providing my own office space, computer, printer, phone and on the list went.

I quickly learned that there were no paid holidays, vacations, health care insurance or retirement plans. If I wasn`t working, I wasn`t getting paid. The result has been working for periods of up to four years without taking a full week off from work. Long weekends and mini vacations became the norm rather than having blocks of vacation time. My field of reference began to change even though my mom-and-pop venture is not even in the same ballpark as a small business.

I greatly admire the entrepreneurial spirit, the vision, dedication, sacrifice and work ethic of the small businessman. The risk-taking is great. One business friend said that the real initiation of a businessman was the challenge of meeting a payroll with no money in the bank. I have seen businessmen who have both made and lost small fortunes. I revel in seeing these people become wealthy. They are deserving of their rewards and are the persons who create most of the jobs and wealth of this country.

For more than a decade, I have worked with both small businesses and large corporations.

I have a unique perspective of both. They are very different animals. Large corporations and small business are lumped together by many as businesses. However, their needs and the culture are as different as daylight and dark.

I have a cynical view of the publicly-owned mega-corporations. The CEO and other upper management are usually bright, politically-savvy people who manage to climb the corporate ladder. They missed the experiences of the small businessman and have a skewed field of reference. There is a sense of entitlement that exceeds most welfare recipients. During the 1990s, corporate executives’ income grew by 571%, compared to the 34% growth of the workers.

And every time we think that corporate abuse has ended, we have another revelation — after-hours trading of mutual funds comes to mind.

More disturbing to me than the abuse of corporate executive compensation is the fusion of corporate America with government, but that is another topic.

My major point is that there is a vast difference in small business and the mega corporations. Their needs and vested interest are different. Tax laws and other laws pushed through Congress are not always in the interest of the small businessman. Perhaps it is not in the small businessman`s best interest to allow corporate America to continue setting our political agenda.

Archie King, LPC, is a human resources consultant who lives in Madison. His column appears from time to time in the Mississippi Business Journal. E-mail him at



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