The Small Business advantage

Globalisation, online competition, energy prices, low economic growth: we are all aware of the challenges.

Small business has a natural advantage, however. We are embedded in our community and have the opportunity to build and reinforce our networks of stake holders.

Great Notion, Griffith University and the Circular Economy Labs have put together a networking opportunity and lunch at Soutbank during Small Business Week to discuss the role of small business in the circular economy.

Come to the Executive Boardroom on the 7th floor of QCA at 226 Grey St for a two hour session starting at 10am on Thursday 30th May. Thrive in the circular economy will give small business the chance to discuss the opportunities with the Queensland Government, the Circular Economy Labs and local practitioners. 

Hosted by Great Notion and Griffith University, this is a unique opportunity to talk to the practitioners and the people who are testing the business models and training the practitioners.

Register now

#circulareconomy #stablestate #neweconomy

Why value values?

The notion of values being core to business success is not restricted to the profit-for-purpose sector, impact investing or philanthropic work.

Apple is widely held to be a world leading example of market domination through value identification

Brand strategy approaches like Simon Senik’s Why, the Business Model Canvas, or the currently fashionable disrupt to succeed approach are all based on identifying the value that you offer to your customer and placing that value at the core of your business. All refer to Apple as a leading example of this thinking.

Even traditional sales and branding approaches, though, depended on the identification of your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

We do not have to assert any new world view to assign an important role to your values as a business owner or director of an organization.

The importance of value to a brand is that it overcomes price, convenience and other considerations that undermine profit. If we appeal to the values that we have in common with our customers they will reward us with their dollars.

Values, then are the core of a brand and the basis of your message, raison d’etre and brand.

But wait, there’s more.

At the heart of the logic about brand value is the recognition that our values tie us together. It is our values that make us feel to be part of something.

In his best-selling book Good Profit, Charles G Koch – yes he is one of those Koch brothers – writes “What I consider to be good profit comes from creating superior value for our customers while consuming fewer resources and acting lawfully and with integrity. Good profit comes from making a contribution in society.”

We can complement our drive for profit, then, with a drive for values. In fact, we can release our profit to harness our values to create that network of stakeholders with common values that in turn will future proof our business by creating a community of values that supports our business.

Necessary but not sufficient

It seems like heresy to put something other than profit at the heart of our business strategy.

After all, business cannot survive without profit. If you are running an organization that is not balancing its books, that is losing money, then you will have to close the doors and you will lose everything you have built.

Profit is absolutely essential to success in business.

The key, though, is that profit is necessary, but it is not sufficient.

I can make a profit by bullying people to give me money, I can make a profit by stealing, I can make a profit by selling the river running through my city, the clouds above or the trees in the local park, but none of these business models are sustainable. Eventually, the stakeholders whose resources I am appropriating will find some-way to stop me from profiting from taking their stuff.

It is only when we contribute value to our stakeholders that they support us.

By overtly declaring that value, and working with our stakeholders to build and protect that value we can future proof our businesses.

Amish barn raising
A community with common values collects and nurtures value within the community

The advantage that nearly all small business has over its larger competitors is that it is already part of a community. The fact that you work in an area where your customers know you is your secret weapon, a starting point that cannot be replicated by the world’s biggest corporations, by global trade agreements or by unsympathetic governments.

You can release your profits to invest in nurturing secret advantages like that and build the stakeholder community that will future proof your business, simply by identifying the values that you have in common.

Values and identity politics.

There is one potential danger in the focus on values and building communities with like values and that is the sense of tribal belonging that it creates.

It is this tribal urge at the heart of values that has made religion and other belief systems such a powerful tool in imperial conquest. You do not need such a huge army to force distant populations to pay taxes if they believe in the values that you offer them.

I am an unlikely person to be quoting Charles G Koch, because the values that drive the Koch brothers enormous coal business, their funding of climate denial media and the support of conservative politicians and their politics of fear are the same values that he considers to be the basis of Good Profit. I have been selective in my use of his quotes to show that the application of values to business is not a partisan view. He is selective of the philosophers that he quotes in his identification that Economic Freedom is the most important freedom of all and the moral duty of government.

We promote our values, then, at the risk of fanning the flames of tribalism. Identifying our values identifies groups of people who will support us come hell or high water. If we work together to support each other, we weave a community that is self-reinforcing and resists outside attempts to break it up.

The relationship between values and the circular economy is that those communities will then find ways to close the loop, keep value in the community and reduce the wastage of energy, resources and value from the community. But that is the topic of the next article.

Read earlier articles in this series

THRIVE: Small Business in the Circular Economy

Attendees to Small Business Week on Southbank are invited to discover the opportunities presented by the Circular Economy at Griffith University, Southbank at 10am on May 30.

10am May 30, 226 Grey St

Circular Economy opportunities in Australia alone represent billions of dollars of dormant value that can be released by Small and Medium Enterprises focused on the sector. “Many companies assume that the Circular Economy is specifically focused on waste,” said lead strategist for Great Notion, Geoff Ebbs, “The truth is that it is focused on wasted value.”

Business owners and managers attending the workshop at QCA Grey St South Bank will be brought up to speed on strategies, tools and opportunities to engage with the Circular Economy.

Dr Rob Hales, Director of Griffith Sustainability will launch a short course in the Circular Economy aimed directly at small business.

The course has been developed in conjunction with CELabs, a Circular Economy laboratory funded by the Qld Government to engage 65 corporates in building a template for the Circular Economy that will be presented at the inaugural Circular Economy Conference in Finland in June.

Marjon Wind of the CELab will outline the project in detail.

Free tickets are available to attend the event, information packs and vouchers to hands-on workshops are available for $125.

Unpacking the Circular Economy

The circular economy differs from a linear economy because the output of one process is the input of another.

No alt text provided for this image

The available outputs of the food production are uneaten vegetable matter and sewage from which we can harvest nutrients, energy, water and solid waste. Natural ecosystems are circular in that plants and animals accumulate nutrients and grow during their life, and then release those nutrients back to the environment as they excrete, or when they die.

An ecosystem is a circular economy built of component linear processes. An ant nest organizes and concentrates nutrients that form a valuable supply for nearby trees or scavenging beetles. A tree accumulates resources and stores them in the form of timber.

A specific ecology may also rely on external cycles. A rainforest, for example, relies on a larger circular system for its water. The water cycle injects water into the rainforest which releases it to the sea. The rainforest is also a net user of energy. Sunlight powers the growth of the forest, and is the primary source of energy for all other life forms.

Of course, sunlight also powers the water cycle, evaporating water and driving the winds that move clouds around the earth. Our fossil fuels come from ancient forests. The only sources of energy on earth that are not derived from sunlight are the gravitational pull of the tides and the geothermal energy from our molten core.

When planning a circular economy, it is critical that we take note of this net use of energy, and the reliance on larger cycles, so that we do not cripple each component of the ecosystem with artificial constraints. Linear processes can participate in a circular economy if their waste provides valuable inputs to other areas of the economy. 

Read earlier articles in this series

Inspiration and perspiration

Edison went through many thousands of versions of the electric light globe, literally, before finding one that worked and could be mass produced.

Photo credit: Richard Warren Lipack / Wikimedia Commons.

It is these thousands of iterations that led to his famous observation that success is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.

The one percent inspiration is critical, though. Without an idea that drives us forward, we would never keep going through the endless repetition of trial and error that builds success.

It is that inspiration that builds staff and customer loyalty and that gives your brand meaning.

Many branding tools, discussions and seminars, including Simon Sinek’s famous Why Ted Talk, emphasise the importance of passion in building your unique brand identifier.

But inspiration has another, deeper significance for business in tough times.

Nearly all businesses, and business models, have a reasonable chance of succeeding when the economy is booming, but we need something special when the going gets rough. The customer and staff loyalty, and their willingness to pay for our unique value, is an important ingredient in the recipe for survival.

The challenge in tough times is to find that competitive edge that allows us to thrive while others are struggling. Some businesses become more aggressive, use their market position to dominate their competitors, or their global reach to drive down costs. These strategies are exploitative. In the current global economic climate, these strategies exacerbate the problems we all face, not ameliorate them.

The premise of Great Notion is that innovation and inspiration provide a non-exploitative differentiator and allow us to build stronger, long lasting relationships with our stakeholders. We can expand by exploiting others, or we can outcompete them by being better, and being better in this context usually means being smarter.

Putting your inspiration at the core of all your business practice, or identifying the inspiration that belongs at the heart of your business practice allows you to build value, based on your values, rather than on exploiting your customers, staff or suppliers.

That is the way to build thriving, viable, sustainable business. Now, that’s a great notion.

Qld to break Greenwash barrier

Minister Enoch argued recently to increase the levy on dumping waste in landfill

Launching the Circular Economy Lab in Fortitude Valley yesterday evening, the Minister for Arts, Science and Environment, Leeanne Enoch, said that Queensland has committed $150,000 to the lab as part of its commitment to protect the natural assets of the State, such as the Great Barrier Reef.


Recycling is just rubbish

In the light of last month’s detailed analysis of the shortcomings of plastic recycling that ran in The Conservation: we decided to reprint this article from Geoff Ebbs’ 2007 book – Sydney’s Guide to Saving the Planet.

Statistics have not been updated and refer to 2007. Shockingly, most of these numbers are worse today than they were 12 years ago.

The business of waste

Our major metropolitan areas are running short of landfill and it is being transported increasing distances. Sydney ships around 400,000 tonnes of waste to Woodlawn, near Canberra, every year. Domestic waste makes up around 30 per cent of the total waste produced  with more than 40 percent of that waste goes to land fill. The vast majority of domestic waste is still dumped.


SnöApe emodies Great Notion thinking

Snoape logo

Snöape’s founder, Benjamin Monteiro, studies business and marketing with Great Notion founder, Geoff Ebbs, at Griffith University. Launched in February 2019, Snöape is based on the business model developed with Geoff and embodies the Great Notion approach.

Ben decided to create a business in the way that he believes a business should be run.  Ben strives to operate his company with an altruistic approach; where the environment, his employees, and his customers are put first before profits. He is proud to own a business that cares about the quality of his products, from the materials used right down to the impact that they have on the earth.  He wants to create a better world; a world where products are not just made for the profiteering of companies, but a place where decisions are thoroughly thought-out, as every action has a consequence.