McKinsey coined the term “barbell industrial structures” a decade or so ago to describe the shift towards industries consisting of a few giant global corporations on one end, a narrow and shrinking middle of mid-sized firms and a large and growing group of small, micro and one-person firms on the other end.
We’ve studied dozens of industries and they all pretty have this structure. And it’s even more pronounced when you look at revenues and profits. For a number of reasons — outsourcing, the use of contingent labor, partnering, etc. — using the number of employees to look at this issue tends to understate the shift a bit. We also see no signs this changing — just the opposite, the large keep getting larger and the small, micro and solo firms keep getting more numerous.