Thursday, July 12, 2012

Of Corporates and Individual Businesses

David Brooks wrote this eye opening article a few weeks back. It is a must read.

Most people around us, in India, in cities hear this untiring trash that the social sector is a better place to work than the corporate world. Whether people say this because they think it is cool to say it or because they genuinely believe it I have no way of knowing. Whether they say it because it is nice to earn a fat salary and talk about becoming a volunteer without having intention to do so is equally unknown to me. But over the years, even NGO's and other self righteous champions have started mouthing the same - that corporates are bad and other things (like themselves) are good. A diluted version of this argument is that IT in general is bad while other businesses are good.

For all of you who want to counter things like this, that David Brooks article should be a welcome read. Here is the one killer sentence, though the entire article is worth a long read and a much longer thought time.

It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero.  [David Brooks - The Service Patch]

So, all you corporate warriors out there, please remember this the next time that self righteous, contemptous of corporate person attempts a takedown on your job with a statement that the social sector is better than the corporate sector.

There is another bigger reason for this as well. Look around you and see how corporate and individual businesses differ in their ways of operation.

Look at a corporate set up and look at an individual set up. The former is set up in the manner of an "ongoing concern" where the show will go on regardless of who is in what position - by and large. The latter, on the contrary, will be a one person show, where everything and anything is as per the whim and fancy of the one person in charge. The immediate focus of the individual business is to make money flow into the pocket of the founder one way or other - and not skill building of some employee way down the food chain. This does not include start ups which are in the formative stage that cannot afford to hire too many people etc. I am talking about well set up, established businesses.

There are exceptions on both sides, but look around you and make your own guess.

The doctor, the chartered accountant, the lawyer (and there are many many more) - each of which is typically run by the individual - their succession plan stops at their own progeny and nose. It rarely extends beyond that. Think why this is the case? And your answer is clear. Because their interest is them and them alone.

Extend this to NGO's who are purportedly in the business of servicing people. Show me an any NGO that has a great succession plan and you will see an NGO that has clarity of purpose and is genuinely working towards a goal. The moment you see an NGO driven by a "founder" and a bunch of lackeys, you can see "personal interest".

Am I saying now that corporates are better than NGO's and such individual firms? No. All I say is that the moment you see opaqueness (and niggardliness - in reporting, succession plans, developing talent), you will see personal interest. The moment you see transparency (and openness), you will see genuineness in purpose. That applies to NGO's and Corporates alike.

(This is a developing thought, but let me see, hopefully, I will be able to stitch the thoughts together better over time.)

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