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Getting Bigger by Growing Smaller

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Getting Bigger by Growing Smaller

A New Growth Model for Corporate America

FT Prentice Hall,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Companies can foster big growth and small scale entrepreneurship at the same time with Strategic Entrepreneurial Units.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


"Bigger is not always better" sounds right, but the patina of sweat on executive foreheads in boardrooms worldwide stems from the mandatory requirement to increase short-term revenues constantly in ever greater amounts. The problem with the corporate fixation on bigness is that size often brings a less desirable quality: unresponsiveness. That helps explain why the lifespan of the average Fortune 500 corporation is about 50 years. Now comes author Joel M. Shulman to suggest a mechanism your company can use to avoid that burnout lifecycle. In a sophisticated book targeted to tactical thinkers, he proposes that you consider the Strategic Entrepreneurial Unit (SEU). He explains that establishing a diverse portfolio of small-scale entrepreneurial enterprises within a parent organization can help convert a large, unwieldy corporation into a more enterprising, forward-looking company. And, then, he tells you how. This capably written, insightful manual is very soundly based on practical business realities and experience. recommends it highly to business strategists and executives who guide the long-term well being of their companies.


Size Does Matter

In the corporate boardrooms of global organizations, the executives all share a common quest for growth. Size matters a lot. But, the bigger the organization, the more it must focus on large-scale projects that promise substantial increases in revenue. Penny ante is not a game played in the executive suite. Given this reality, executives place "big bets" on major initiatives, acquisitions and capital improvements, seeking large increases in revenue. Small-scale entrepreneurial efforts are nickel-and-dime and, therefore, end up on the back burner or off the stove altogether.

The problem with this circumstance is that it leads many companies to gradually become less innovative and competitive, and they fall behind their competition. Once exciting, high-flying companies begin to settle into their corporate rocking chairs as they grow obese and less entrepreneurial. However, management can have it both ways by continuing to invest in large projects while also seeding entrepreneurial initiatives that may bear the fruit of future innovation and growth.

How can corporations keep all the plates spinning and add new entrepreneurial initiatives to the ...

About the Authors

Joel M. Shulman is an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson College. He directs the global Shulman Review Program for investment professionals. He consulted for Ford, Freddie Mac, Kmart, Sears, UNISYS and the World Bank. His books include How to Manage and Evaluate Capital Expenditures. Thomas T. Stallkamp is vice chairman and CEO of MSX International, a provider of collaborative enterprise services. Stallkamp serves on the boards of Visteon Corporation and Baxter International. He teaches at Babson College’s Graduate Entrepreneurship Center.

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