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Small business and the quest for change

More than 99% of all UK businesses are defined as small - CYB founder Ben Stewart writes about how together they can help reshape society
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Ben Stewart

Managing Director/Founder

20 Jul 2023

From just 1 individual striving to do what they love for a living, to micro-businesses with under 10 staff, to those - like our own Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) - with 10-49 people employed, UK business is almost entirely made up of organisations with under 50 employees. Each one of those is defined as a small business, as per the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). 

Businesses of more than 50 employees are not the norm, but that is not the impression we all get - media and social conversation focus on the big money. Consequently, government follows that line too, with debate and policies in support month-on-month of the 1%. But more important work in the UK is quietly going on with over 13 million people busy in small businesses - almost half of the total employment for all UK business.

Here in the small business sector, passion and creativity are important. We engage readily with challenges like: how does our work contribute to a more equitable society? How innovative can we be? How can we help people more? How can we improve? Can we blur the lines of work and not work? What could work look like? How can we negotiate financial challenges e.g. is it politic that ~40% of our revenue goes to a government strangling us in the market and preventing investment in people and products at the very heart of business? 

To join or own a small business is often an expression of disenchantment with big business, with its ubiquitous focus on growth, profit, and the way business is practised, for example where business priorities are placed before those of nature and communities. Often it is a way of attempting to find another way to live. Often it is a way of fighting back against discrimination. Almost always it is an individual attempt to survive in our capitalist society.

It is this tenacity to find a new way to work and live that offers promise - and in this we are witnessing new opportunities here at CYB that are important and exciting for contemporary living. Ultimately, small business raises the question: what is business? 

Escaping a focus on finance we encounter the thing we care about much, much, more: culture. Culture reflects individuals in connection with each other and with all living things; it generates a new lived environment. Culture is the result of individuals expressing their experience of this intermingling, such that life itself surfaces in front of us. With all the hours, efforts and challenges confronted at work, people naturally seek to express themselves in their connection to others, and to their wider world (both natural and virtual) through their work. 

In this way small businesses can become cultural hotspots where:

  • an individual still has a voice

  • location can really matter

  • the consequences of good and bad leadership are a shared felt experience for everyone in the company, not just personal

  • working in a conscious way combines contemporary practise with elements of self expression, even when doing repetitive tasks

  • central management and hierarchy have been downgraded and flattened to become simple facilitators of people 

  • collaborating is the natural and organic way of working together

  • collaboration with other businesses is valued over marketplace competition

These aspects and more allow culture to blossom. In this way a small business can manifestly enable its people in a transparent and readable way to the external world. Belonging to something bigger than oneself that becomes an expression of its individual parts creates a gestalt organisation. Such belonging is increasingly hard to obtain in western societies and small business promises an antidote to this loss of belonging and loss of a meaningful life at work. 

By coming to exist as a signifier of their life within, small businesses become an experience - a dynamic art form in the making. As the wilderness mentor Jon Young said, “a good question must be made into a quest”. Which is exactly what we are on here at CYB - a 21st century quest - and who knows where it will lead us. To date with this approach we can say that in our experience small business holds a key to living that is very important, it is a means by which we all can become reflective and active in the contemporary problems and opportunities of the day through individually expressing ourselves. We see this generates more aliveness and meaning in connection with other people and nature. 

Consequently small businesses - the 99% of all businesses - are our best chance of driving the changes needed in society, such as realigning human life with a sustainable planet. But they are also the most actively undermined and neglected. This needs to change; in order to thrive going forward it is essential that the UK places small businesses at the very heart of our national and international strategic aims.

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in any specific aspect of this article please reach out to us here at CYB at

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