Skip to: [ search ] [ menus ] [ content ] Select style [ Aqua ] [ Citrus ] [ Fire ] [ Orange ] [ show/hide more content ]


With the “passing” of Sun Microsystems (1, 2) earlier this week, I realized that I have outlasted 3/5 (60%) of the companies that employed me! :-) The other two, the first and the last (I am currently an “Owner and CEO,” not an employee), are “quasi-governmental” institutions that the federal government would most likely keep alive, for the resources present. (Maybe the Feds already ARE! I know that they are big customers. Who knows?) If you have worked at a lot of startups, you might say, “So what?” My employers were not startup companies at the times that they employed me, “That’s what!” :-)

Since I do not remember (and do not want to look up) all of the verbage in the agreements that I signed when I left my employers (other than there were 1 1/2 pages of legalese about “age discrimination” :-) in one of them), I would like to talk a little bit about companies in general, and why they fail.

For those of you who have followed this blog only recently, it might help to know that my undergraduate and post-graduate degrees are in the biological sciences.

Many executives like to compare their companies with biological organisms. They’re not. Usually the comparisons are made by executives who know very little about biology, but have “latched onto” a catchy phrase like “Survival of the Fittest” (like the Social Darwinists), a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer, or “in our DNA.” (Was that a right-handed double helix or a left-handed one? Huh?) :-) Such executives think that they understand what “fittest” means, and it “fits right in” :-) with their preconceptions of why such entities should survive. Why read any more? :-) (The old expression, “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts!” comes to mind.) Indeed, the “thinking-judging” personalities in command of most companies would not want to “waste time” on such things. :-) (Some of them would rather golf…..)

I can see some comparisons that could be drawn between small, fast-moving, free ions of inorganic chemicals bouncing about in solution and inorganics bound rigidly in a large crystal lattice structure, but companies are not chemicals, either! :-)

And if the only two of the five likely to survive are those with strong government (that’s us, well, at least that’s our MONEY) ties… then what’s all this nonsense about “free enterprise?” :-) Even when those companies without such strong governmental ties FAIL, it is our government (that’s our MONEY again) that bails them out. So, what was that nonsense about “free enterprise” again?

One of the companies that employed me was effectively “out-competed” :-) by a convicted monopolist, which, by the way, is still around. There is also nothing “natural” about the selection that occurs among companies.

Years of living and working and surviving have convinced me that the “root cause” (yes, I am a “root cause kinda guy”) of companies failing is the personality “cloning” that occurs, especially among management, and the BLINDSPOTS (definition #2) that such “cloning”  allows (if you don’t like the biological metaphor, call it “rubber-stamping” or “cookie cutter” management). (See Commandment #3 of “Fake Steve Jobs.”) I have attended meetings in which there were no discussions or comments, everyone thought the same course of action should be pursued, and the meetings ended with everyone rising to implement the action. Scary!

(If you find personality tests interesting, you may like this “tongue-in-cheek” description of personality types that I discovered today.) :-)

The personality cloning just takes longer to kill some companies than others. I am happy to have survived longer than a majority of my employers, and proud that many companies will likely outlast me ONLY with the help of my own (and YOUR own) tax dollars, in their highly protected “niches” (1, 2). Hmmm, does that make US “the fittest?” :-)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®. Both Shutterfly™ and CafePress® ship to most international locations worldwide! If you don’t see what you want or would like to receive an email when new photos are up on the site, send us an email at

No Comments to “Sunsets”

  (RSS feed for these comments)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

InspectorWordpress has prevented 52153 attacks.
Get Adobe Flash player