The Magna Carta story suggests lessons for business, too.
England’s King John ruled as a tyrant in the eyes of his rebellious barons and the Church. After sixteen years, they finally forced John to the negotiating table. On June 15th, 1215, the King reluctantly agreed to the barons’ demands and the resulting document became known as Magna Carta — Latin for the ‘Great Charter.’
John’s disastrous and costly attempts to defend his territory in France had resulted in its almost total loss. Desperate to fund its recovery, John made what his barons and knights saw as unjust and excessive demands for taxes and other payments. His interference in Church matters was considered to be a further abuse of his power.
The Magna Carta was intended mainly to protect the rights and wealth of a privileged elite. But it also asserted the freedom of the Church, improved the justice system and established the fundamental principle that even a monarch had to rule within and not above the law.
What Can Small Businesses Learn From This?
For purposes of this article, I’m viewing the King as the large firms and the barons as we small business owners. There are several lessons we can take from the history surrounding the Magna Carta:
1. Just as the King needed his barons to rule, large firms actually need small businesses for a variety of reasons: better innovation, reducing costs, third party support benefits, and niche expertise to name just a few.
2. Again as with the King, large firms can get ‘full of themselves’ and throw their weight around quite heavily for a time, but eventually will need the support of the small businesses to remain competitive. Maintaining your relationship with the large firm is key during these times.
3. Collaboration between and among small businesses who regularly support a common large firm, can and should bring value to the large firm. Coming together to address the large firm’s most pressing challenges can produce mutual benefits for all, as in the case of the Magna Carta. This would also allow for stronger influence with the large firm, suggesting a way forward instead of just accepting what the large firm dictates. After all, who knows better the value of small firms than the firms themselves.
4. Strategic concerns among the small businesses can be addressed through this ‘Magna Carta’ approach, reducing risk and opening the doors of opportunity better assuring commerce for all.
5. The end result of this collaborative ‘Magna Carta’ approach with the large firm is a much stronger foundation; better business practices, better collaboration, increased competitiveness, and stronger sustainable relationships to better weather the winds of change.
What do you think? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.