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Building the Better Biz

Is your company tough and tenacious or lithe and limber?

There are two interpretations of "survival of the fittest." The first and more widely accepted is the idea of being competent and able--as in being physically fit. The first interpretation fits well with the saying, "Only the strong survive."

The second and less accepted interpretation is survival of the most adaptive or flexible--survival belongs to those that can fit in a new environment.

In January, General Motors Corp. announced it was seeking to cut costs by $11 billion. It plans to achieve these cost savings by reducing worker health-care benefits, letting go of 30,000 workers and closing or consolidating a dozen plants.

In that same month, Google opened an office in Phoenix. Suddenly, local companies were losing IT workers to the high pay and benefits Google was offering.

GM and Google are examples of the two definitions of "survival of the fittest." Suddenly, the biggest and strongest automaker in the world is finding it more difficult to survive, simply because it wasn't flexible or able to adapt. At the same time, Google, a young company, fits into the new economic environment and has become the new 800-pound gorilla of the business world.

The comparison of GM and Google holds valuable lessons for all entrepreneurs. What kind of fit do you and your company want to be? Do you want to be fit by being the biggest and the strongest, or by being adaptive and flexible? Are you building a company that looks like a muscle-bound bodybuilder, or are you building a company that looks like a yoga instructor?

As an entrepreneur, my company's growth and success are dependent on being strong as well as flexible. Adapting means keeping an open mind and not becoming too attached to yesterday's successes. It also means hiring strong and flexible people rather than bodybuilders bulked up with degrees and corporate titles. Though both types are strong, the question is: Which body type and, ultimately, which company type, is best designed for survival?

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad series of books, is an investor, entrepreneur and educator whose perspectives have changed the way people think about money and investing.

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This article was originally published in the June 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Building the Better Biz.

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