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Small Giants: Authenticity

August 13, 2007

If you read what I learned from Starbucks you know that authenticity is something they strive for. They want to be authentic. If you have tracked current trends you know that this something people seek. They want people to be real.

Now one thing that has hit me in Small Giants is authenticity. The writer points out that with growth you lose authenticity. In researching the writer found that the larger a company got the more impersonal it became. One owner took one company over the 100 million thresholds. It was his dream and goal but he watched as bad decisions and a bad economy sent the company into bankruptcy. He watched as all the people who he hired lost their jobs and savings. He viewed what his growth at all costs mentality had done to people and he vowed never to do it again.

The second time around as he began to grow another company he made sure that he didn’t forget the people. He discovered that to do that he had to focus on them and not growth. His company is recognized around the country for its excellence but its focus is on excellence in treating customer and people, not growth.

In the book this is one area that is parroted time and time again. The owners wanted to know the people. They cared about their lives and what happened to them so they purposefully made sure their focus was not on growth. These businessmen have learned something very important. When you focus on growth you lose sight of the people.

One particular owner, Jay Goltz of Artists’ Frame Service, mentioned that he remembered to story about a little girl and starfish. The girl was throwing starfish back into the ocean and an old man commented that she couldn’t save them all, you can’t make a difference. She picked one up and tossed it in the ocean and replied that she made a difference for that one. He spends time remembering his starfish.

Now what I find interesting is that churches that want to grow say it is about people. I understand that and it seems to make sense but what if it isn’t true? What if these companies have discovered something that is true, that to focus on growth means people always come second? That is what the owners of these businesses said. What if they understand that to focus on growth means people aren’t really being helped but instead treated like cattle?

Is it any wonder that in one of the Starbucks stories told by Leonard Sweet in The Gospel According to Starbucks he tells about a Starbucks in Canada that was so busy that they opened another across the street? You see they didn’t decide to build a bigger Starbucks they decided to build another.

In the end what if the focus on growth keeps us from being real?

Isn’t the church supposed to be authentic? Isn’t it supposed to be a personal place? Do you see what I’m getting at? If our goal is to become large is it counterintuitive for what church is supposed to be? If we only view large as successful have we missed the point?

Not only that but what if people like large because it allows them to be impersonal? What if they seek those places because it insures that they won’t have to be real? If that is the case is it a mistake to measure success by size? Is it a mistake to measure leadership by principles taken from those whose only goal is to grow big, profit at all costs?

Why don’t we look at the fact that many of the leadership success stories and companies that grow big routinely downsize to keep the profits flowing? Why don’t we see that many of these companies have a healthy bottom line but little else?

Have we looked in all of the wrong places for wisdom?

I’m asking you your thoughts. The group that I grew up involved with has very few fellowships that would be called mega. Does this cause a bit of an inferiority complex? Does it make the group think we must be doing something wrong? What if that isn’t necessarily the case? What if small is actually better? What if it is essential to being real?

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 14, 2007 3:38 pm

    I’m with you.

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