23 July 2007

Lessons of control and interdependence

Running a business is a profession by itself. Two years ago I introduced the parallelism of a business to the human body, by corresponding various human resources to the different parts of the body, with the position of the owner of the business acting as the brain of the business “body”. Still this “brain” would have to make sure that all parts of the “body” of the business would be healthy and functional with the aim of ensuring the welfare of the “body”, but at the same time providing enough food and oxygen for the “brain”.

To achieve that as the “brain” of your business, you have to admit that there are universal principles that no body or brain can overcome. The idea of physical or business existence lies along the lines that by violating such principles we contribute to the creation of an unhealthy environment for the viability of everybody, us and the ones around us. This “unhealthiness” is obvious nowadays both in business and social/physical terms. When a number of similar entities (human or business ones) gather antagonistically, then survival in an “unhealthy” environment becomes a much tougher issue.

Then is when the “brain” has to move onto a “meta-phase” of existence. The role of the brain once was to ensure the viability of the “body” and of “itself”. Now the required role has to be more sophisticated, it has to come up with strategies, techniques, long term plans to ensure “survival space”, which sometimes will have to claim land from another “brain”.

In the business world, I would call this phase “identity distancing”. My own company, hyphen, once upon a time was a concept, and then it was conceived and went through a pregnancy period for the first years, bringing up hick ups, draw backs, side effects, like every pregnancy. The development of an embryo doesn’t stop with the birth. On the contrary it continues after the birth; mechanisms become consolidated and functions are put into place. And, of course, post birth development takes place in the real world, and not in the sheltered world of the womb. Most of all, post birth development takes place after the child detaches itself from the mother. Thus, in business, development in the real world takes place once the whole operation detaches itself from the brain that conceived it. Then the brain that conceived it, as the parent, acts as a close monitor, ensuring learning, feeding, growth, inspiring responsibility, self-protection, self-control, happiness and balance. This parent though has to remember that a) the child / business is a separate entity and b) too much interdependence can become suffocating.

In a similar way, when a parent, being over protective and overindulging does everything for his/her child, depriving it from the joy of initiative, experimentation and effectiveness, this parent produces a lazy and disabled child. However, every child deserves the freedom to grow creatively, but within specific frameworks, restrictions and guidance.

What I have been telling my clients in the past year is that my own business managed to breathe when I repositioned myself in relation to it. It was then, actually, when I managed to breathe, myself. My business is its own vision, human resources, targets and practices, always under my close monitoring and ensuring that its practices cater for its survival, growth and self-respect. In return I receive plenty of satisfaction in both material and spiritual terms.

This “meta-phase” has created a whole new world in running my own business, which reflects the targets of every mature co-operation of my business with its own clients. As “unhealthy” practices, good practices reflect from entity to entity and can create a positive domino effect, which shows more and more in the wider environment. So much, that it gives you the strength and satisfaction to realize that one day, your “child-business” will have to detach itself completely from you. Either you make a mature decision to let it go strong, or you let it grow ripe with you and die slowly with retirement. It all depends on what each one of us has catered to leave behind.

As I’m talking, I consider hyphen my Number 1 client. We have a fair and just relationship of moderate interdependence, I offer my know-how, planning and guidance and, in return, I get material and spiritual satisfaction. Almost exactly like with every client of mine. I have chosen not to be my business or my children or my relationship with my wife or even my client. All these entities grow healthily by themselves and within our relationships. So do I along with them. Just like a brain does along with the rest of the body. Realism is the means not to break universal principles.

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