As the end of another flash sale event drew near, I checked my watch impatiently. It was the one aspect of the business world I passionately despised -- the seemingly indefinite period between the handshake that initiated a sales campaign and the purchase order that formalized it.
Some people (naive fools they were too) still believed the spoken word was enough to close a deal, with mutual honor carrying it through. I envied their peace of mind, but simultaneously couldn’t help scorning their fuzzy idealism. Obsessively, I refreshed my emails until, sure enough, there was the purchase order, signed and ready. The money had come through, too, and my bank balance was looking healthy. Healthier than my mental state, anyway.
The ubiquitous SWOT analysis identifies internal weaknesses as one of its four components. Lack of infrastructure to scale. High operational costs. But what if the internal weakness was truly…internal?
The fiercely competitive climate of the entrepreneurial world is an unmistakable variant of social Darwinism. The best businesses will thrive, beating out weaker, less efficient or simply less attractive competitors. In that sense,the unforgiving nature of capitalism is hardly a unique phenomenon. Much like biological evolution, it simply happens. But one nagging concern, often pushed to the recesses of our minds, is no less true for the dark mental nooks and crannies that house it: a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest society is deeply unpleasant to live in.
Inevitably, any framework that emulates the Darwinian model suffers from the same shortcomings. Economics does not mind which firms go under. That it might lay ruin to livelihoods that are the pride and joy of generations of artists and craftsmen counts for nothing. The suffering of thousands matters not in the slightest. Why should it matter, really, any more than nature cares for the lame gazelle that is just as terrified the lion might catch her?
Entrepreneurs know fully well this environment they work in. One bad day could undermine decades of accumulated trust. One leap by a competitor could leave them panting in their wake. There is no time to relax. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward, goes the mantra, as inelegant as it is pragmatic. The clock in one’s head keeps wearing down as the shrewder businessmen priorities the health of their savings account over that of their minds. Might they perhaps be, for once, making a bad deal?
The thrill of pursuing such giddy success may well be addictive, and possibly what attracts the best entrepreneurs to this cutthroat world in the first place. But, exceptional though these people may be, the road to success makes no exceptions for anyone. Triumph at the workplace must only be a means to an end of attaining a sense of satisfaction and achievement.
The difference between gleefully bounding after something and being led towards it on a leash is often indiscernible to the dog. Untethering oneself every now and then is absolutely necessary, or one might find themselves going out of business in ways far worse than having to file for bankruptcy.