When maturity can be a bad thing

When maturity can be a bad thing

An apple hanging on a tree: It sits there alone, ripening as each day passes. If we were to pluck it whilst still ripening, it would be too sour to enjoy because we have not allowed it to mature and sweeten. If we pluck it when it reaches maturity and has fully ripened, it will burst with taste and succulence when we eat it.

However, should the apple remain too long on the tree, it will shrivel and die because the maturing process was not stopped. For the apple tree, this is good because this is the way its seeds are spread. For the person who would like to enjoy the apple, this is not good. Worse than that, the apple, as it matures, produces chemicals that induce the other apples on the tree to also over ripen. Thus, this one old apple helps generate more old apples. The result is an apple-tree full of dying apples.

When most companies start off, they are usually operated by young entrepreneurs who are too young to be restricted by the “box mentality” that older people are often trapped by. For these young up-and-coming minds, the paper has no lines on it, so everything is possible. They experiment and dare to risk it all. Unfortunately for them, they do not know what perils exist because they have yet to experience them. These young bucks are also more likely to surround themselves with like-minded people of similar age who are willing to strive in the same adventure that they are embarking on. For them, it is the spirit of exploration that matters more than anything else.

Consequently, young companies make more mistakes than you can count, but in the end, the good ones prosper. The really great ones become the “Googles” and “Walmarts” of the world. As these companies grow, a large, but ever so subtle, change starts to take hold. These same, free-willing companies start to embed structure into their game plan. They slowly shift toward protecting their hard earned gains by posting guards around their victories. This is usually in the form of more experienced, if not wiser, people who help build fences around their spoils of war. A new word starts to creep into their vocabulary and into their minds: “protect”. This translates to fear. Fear means that these same people who once threw caution to the wind, are slowly accepting that they need to secure what they have fought hard for. Perhaps, they do not have to be so “gun-ho” about pushing the envelope further, and start accepting the fact that they are maturing. They are no longer willing to risk it all.

This company management now starts to form its own culture and promotes it throughout the organization. This, however, begins to kill the one thing that made the company great entrepreneurship. The older generation, fearful that their way of life will erode, do all that they can to sabotage the young people coming into the company, hoping to revive what was once a great place to create. Conformity takes precedence over creativity because the older people who founded the company are still at the helm reliving their days of glory. They stamp out any non-conformity because it threatens them. They make it quite clear that their rule is the law even though it will lead to the path of destruction. Then they commit the last heroic act in their minds by staying on because they believe that only they have the magic that could make the company great again.

Why not, they suppose? Was it not them who made this all happen in the first place? Was it not their ability to risk it all to get it all? Who are these young people who are going to emulate the greatness that they accomplished?

In essence, the management creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. Like the spoiling apple on the tree, the established management exudes deterioration, causing those around to “shrivel”. The only way to save the company is remove the older management. The question then is: When? The answer can only be when the stakeholders allow. If a company is to grow, it must be prepared to shed the old and allow the new. The best that an owner/manager of a company can do is to know when the right time is to leave.

“The really great ones become the ‘Googles’ and ‘Walmarts’”

Original Article on Arabian Business