Do The Opposite

Business structures, models and cultures are being challenged by the crowd. Given the new world of transparency employees and customers are influencing market sentiment about any organization because of the fluidity of social media. These dynamics are forcing organizations to examine historical beliefs about what it takes today to run a successful business.

The very definition of “business structure, models and culture” is being redefined. These redefinitions eventually redefine how markets work and why they work. Thinking BIG is being replaced by thinking SMALL. The customer is no longer just a customer but instead a partner. Employees are no longer controlled and managed rather they are let loose to serve and do so in self managed groups. The office is no longer a physical address rather a virtual presence. Everything is changing and thus how we manage and what we believe must change.

The Opposite Works If Allowed

Richard Branson said: When my friends and I started the first Virgin business 40 years ago, we had no master plan – especially not one for a group of companies that by 2011 would number more than 400 businesses around the world and employ 50,000 people. Had we tried to plan for such a future, we would certainly have messed it up.

If there is a “right” way to develop your company’s culture, our experience shows that it should evolve organically. In 1970, my friends and I weren’t planning to do anything other than make some money and have a good time while doing something we loved. We loved listening to music, so we tried to sell records to other kids who wanted a fun place to hang out while deciding which ones to buy. We had no marketing plan or budget – our goals were simply to make enough money to pay the rent and our suppliers, and to have some cash left over at the end of the month.

Business owners often find it tough to learn how to handle success. When a business does well, many chief executives start to focus solely on increasing profits, no matter what the cost – leaving behind everything that originally made the business special. The founder usually moves to a big corner office on the top floor and never again sets foot in the factory. Employees who were integral to the company’s early success suddenly find they are the last to know what is happening, and their views are no longer valued or sought.

At Virgin, we have never had to struggle with the typical problems of big corporations, probably because we never really got big – we just diversified. Our growth was once described as “vertical disintegration” because our new businesses frequently appear to be tangential or even completely unrelated to our core mission. When Virgin was known for producing and selling records, for instance, we started up an airline.

If someone says, “That’s not the way a big company would do it,” take it as a compliment!

So future success is simple. Do The Opposite!

Jay Deragon

The Relationship Economy

July 8, 2011

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