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Just a warning, this isn’t a post about daycare – I am just using it as an example.

My kid is in a non-profit, childcare centre which I love.  But now that I have 2 young kids, we have had to re-examine our daycare arrangements.

Exploring options, I drove down the road to a centre that was more convenient and, turns out, privately run.  I kind of had a snobby preconception about for-profit centres.  But this one was different,  the owner worked there and she was obviously very passionate and proud of her amazing looking daycare.

Then I drove home thinking about it.  I believe that small businesses are vibrant, healthy and fun to be part of.  So are small organized movements – such as fundraisers or community governments.  But once they start to grow, at some point, the balance between money and power vs human passion seems to tip.  This owner-run daycare centre was great – because it wasn’t the franchised, “daycare is business”, type of centre I had seen elsewhere, which I don’t like.

Another story that demonstrates this.  I had a friend who started a hair salon many years ago.  They become really successful and hired staff and ran it as a husband and wife team.  They were so successful, they decided to franchise and had a franchisee open a second salon.  After franchising, the instances of theft increased and the quality of service decreased, they soon became disheartened sold the salons.

Occasionally there is a great leader who can motivate huge numbers of people to join their vision.  Under them, the critical mass for a productive, empowered organization is much larger.  For organizations that keep growing without one of these rare leaders, the passion eventually becomes lost in the hierarchy of mediocre leadership and the thirst for more money or power.

So that leaves a huge question.  How do you continue to strive for success, which is healthy and natural, without becoming bloated, focused solely on growth and getting out of touch with foundation of your organization?  I don’t have the answer, but I think if I ran a business, I would get to point where I think the size ‘is good enough’ – I am sustaining my business and I am happy with it.  I would have to limit growth in sales and look at other ways to continue to improve.  Is that reasonable?  It sounds kind of communist.  I just think there must be a better way to structure organizations so that they can ‘stay small’; so that every member is in touch with the big picture and feels like a contributor.

This flies in the face of our economic system.  I remember hearing an interview with an executive from Roots clothing store.  And he said (paraphrasing), I was happy with the sales we were generating, we didn’t need to grow – but if I went to the bank and asked for a loan to renovate a store, I would need to show how that would increase my business.  A business plan with no plan for growth is not acceptable.

But since we are all sheeple, it is off to work I go…  In a cubicle, for a president I have never met, with a fat pension and a set of goals that are supposed to motivate me to be my best.  Keep my mind challenged and I will probably stay engaged.  By I digress – obviously the company I work for has passed the critical mass.   The employees talk fondly of the early years where growth and success were celebrated by every employee.  Believe it or not – I like the free enterprise system we live in and am not a fan of big government, but something is not right about our organizational habits and strategies at a fundamental level.  What if every organization – company, government, NGO, whatever – had a salary cap?

I hope the daycare down the street never franchises.  I also hope it is successful beyond their dreams and that the parents, kids, staff and the owner celebrate and appreciate that.   And I dream that one of those truly charismatic people shows up soon and inspires us all to re-think how our economic systems work – and that we all have the guts to tweek it.

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