Growing pains for the business establishment

The guns were out for the head of the British Chambers of Commerce today. At the launch of Small Business Week 2007, David Frost (not that one, obviously) was taken to task over his insistence that all small businesses want to grow.

The guns were out for the head of the British Chambers of Commerce today. At the launch of Small Business Week 2007, David Frost (not that one, obviously) was taken to task over his insistence that all small businesses want to grow.

Well, obviously they do, you might say. But Frost and his co-panellist Steve Pateman (head of the Royal Bank of Scotland) came up against an extremely vocal lobby at the event who pointed out that many home workers and other small businesspeople - particularly women - were taking that route precisely because they want a sustainable income with flexibility and without wanting to take over the universe.

His opponents poured scorn on his claim that most small businesses want to hire more people - too much hassle, they said - and (obviously on a winning streak) he then went on to incur the wrath of another panellist, Everywoman co-founder Maxine Benson, for dismissing those who opted for a "lifestyle business". Oddly, she found the term patronising.

"Do we want fifty million individual businesses or do we want growth businesses?" whimpered Frost, before claiming that every single business had to grow because of increasing competition from overseas.

An alternative view on that last point came from BT Business chief Bill Murphy, who told me later that, "if you're starting up a business at home today, you are not going to be competing against India and China".

Of course, Murphy was there to punt Tradespace, a free BT service geared towards exactly that sort of cottage industry (28k registered users and counting). But I still think he's right.

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