There’s an excellent quote in our ENT (Entrepreneurship) lecture notes on IP (Intellectual Property):
IP often provides the leverage needed for successful companies to stay ahead of the pack. That makes protecting your IP essential. After all, the only one who should benefit from your innovation is you, right?! [Emphasis added by yours truly]
This honest opinion from a proponent of IP and it’s benefits has that child-like innocence of complete ignorance of what was really just said.
For a long time people would say to me that you start a business to make money and give yourself a better life. For some time I responded that no, you started a business to serve a purpose. To build something, to provide a service, to help people – even if only a relatively small niche of people. To do something better than anyone else is currently doing it. Some people take that as rather grandiose, but it applies just as much to someone working in a restaurant as someone researching cures for diseases. The world runs only because everyone plays a part, and takes some pride in what they do, no matter how big or small their task in the glossy version of the scheme of things.
I kind of let that ideal slide over the years, as I have with many. The recurring talk on IP, copyright and other such issues that pervades modern media has long been irritating… so many times now people have reiterated that you don’t have to be good, or make good products, or like what you do – just do it cheap and nasty and undercut everyone else.
And that sucks, it really does. It ties in with the modern view of competition – that it’s this horrible burden that makes life harder, that forces you to follow the pack and stifles creativity. That’s a horrible point of view. Competition is what allows you to pursue your own ideas – if you’re the only provider of something, you have an enormous burden, the responsibility to make everyone happy – or at least you should. You may not be able to pursue ideas you yourself like because “the market” won’t support them. If there are alternatives, you can invest in your own ideas, because if it really does turn out to be a bad one, your competitors, having taken different paths, will be able to serve the market. Meanwhile, you find a new idea, and sometimes it gets to be your turn to have the success.
Which then gets onto this fear of mortality that people have. A fear that extends to – nay, dominates – business. We assume that if a company closes, if it ends, it must have failed. We make it personal. If a person passes away, do we presume they screwed up? Was it unquestionably their fault? Did they not adapt, evolve, meet the needs of their environment? Reality check – all things die. It’s an inevitability. Death is a change, one we might take offence to when it becomes too personal for our liking, but one that is necessary, like much change. Death doesn’t need our approval – Death is not a fanciful skeleton & scythe; it’s just a function of reality, of the real necessity of the environment to end something.
Of course the distinction here is perhaps of natural death versus unnatural. The thing is, we never think of a business ending as a natural thing. So we remain afraid of it.
In the end, it may be the business’ time. If it has served it’s purpose, and is needed no more, it’s time to go. So many people cling to a failing product, service or market, for no reason other than that they’re afraid of that change. Some try to reincarnate the business as something else. But that’s really just a charade, of keeping up appearances, while the old business dies and the new one is born.
It’d just be nice sometimes if business people could bow out gracefully when it’s their time, rather than kicking and screaming and losing sight of the real reason they started at all – to improve our lives.