Last post I briefly mentioned competition NOT being part of your crowd of skeptics as you build your business. Today, let’s dive deeper into that.
You have probably noticed that there is a growing acceptance of socialist policies in the political arena. Rather than mock or dismiss them, as many are want to do, I have spent time thinking about why these policies are increasing in appeal. I have concluded it is because people are focused on the bad aspects of capitalism – the exploitation of low-level workers, the remarkable greed of some individuals and companies, and the general appearance that humans are almost literally sacrificed by a small percentage of people in their insatiable quest to have everything for themselves.
Not all of this perception is hogwash. Huge corporations are structured in such a way that when the company makes money, the top executives and stockholders get most of it, and the rank-and-file employees get next to nothing. This meme sums it up perfectly:
I spent almost 25 years working for Fortune 500 companies. This meme is 100% accurate. I have always been fine with executives making big dollars. But if I truly exceeded expectations and was an All-Star performer, why is my raise so small that when inflation and health insurance premium increases are factored in, I’m actually taking less home than last year? The answer is the executives that approve the compensation package every year want to keep all the profits for themselves, and dole out as little to the stockholders and employees as they can get away with.
So it makes sense that people, especially the younger ones, are warming up to the idea that everything should be distributed by the government, since the evil capitalists want to keep everything for themselves and starve everyone else to death. The corporate lords are evil demons and witches, and won’t stop until everyone “beneath” them is done away with.
Of course, the only way that works is if the government officials can manage to distribute everything without trying to hoard things for themselves. Since government officials are human beings, just like the big corporate executives, they are as prone to greed as everyone else. This makes the implementation of socialism problematic at best.
Outright greed is real. If you are young enough that you don’t remember the Enron scandal, Google it. Spend a good 2 hours reading about it. It’s a chilling story about corporate and executive greed. In doing research for a freelance writing project this past weekend, I ended up reading some awful stories about people who work for Uber – drivers that are paid poorly, engineers that are ridiculed because of their gender, and members of both groups being ignored when they were sexually harassed and assaulted. And all of it because the executive leadership was more concerned with increasing profits than the actual physical safety of its workers.
Why does this happen? I think because too many people view money as a zero-sum commodity. A zero-sum commodity is one where there is a defined amount of something, an amount that can never increase or decrease. Energy is such an item – energy cannot be destroyed nor created, it can only be transferred from one source to another. Government, which desires to control more, pushes the narrative that money is a zero-sum commodity – that there is a finite amount of money in the universe. As such, every piece of money one person earns is one that no other person can earn. Thus, government is needed to ensure that this finite amount of money is spread out enough that everyone has enough to live. This is a staple of more liberal ideology. Most large business interests claim to champion the more conservative ideology that money is not finite, that more can be created. That is actually true; money is not finite and more can be created. But the way most corporations behave, you see them embracing the zero-sum model, as the executives hoard most of the money for themselves and leave next to nothing for the rank-and-file workers.
One of the other aspects of capitalism that seems to be a turn-off to people is the way companies try to eliminate all competition. I’m a big fan of the NPR podcast How I Built This, a podcast where people who started some of the biggest companies began with just an idea, and eventually had something big. One episode was with the late Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines. Part of the story is where the other airlines spent an enormous amount of energy trying to ensure that Herb’s airline never put a plane in the air. There are several stories like that in other episodes of the podcast. One of the main reasons that the public has a fairly negative opinion about labor unions is their drive to ensure there is no competition for their members. You could Google “eliminate competition” and spend hours and hours reading stories about companies trying to eliminate competition from existence.
This is a terrible – and quite unintelligent – practice. Competition is what makes everyone better. Consumers get better products at lower prices. Innovation happens faster. Companies have to pay their workers better or lose them to another company. It’s not a perfect world, but a more healthy one. I believe we would be far more primitive in computers if Steve Jobs and Bill Gates spent all their time and effort trying to eliminate the other one from existence. Whatever your opinion of fast food, I’m sure you will agree that if you want something from one of these places, it’s nice to have so many choices and such low prices. Conversely, as the number of national cell phone providers and airlines continues to decrease, conditions are deteriorating for the individual end user. As I have mentioned here, the internet service provider in my ZIP code is the only one that serves this area. This company is well aware of this fact, and the product they provide is more unreliable than it should be. But they know we can’t go to another provider, so they are not incentivized to provide the best product.
So, I believe, eliminating competition is not in anyone’s best interest. We should embrace it.
Embracing it comes when you change your perception. In my business, I don’t even call other players “competition.” The other VAs out there are not my competition – instead, I call them colleagues. As the amount of business conducted in cyberspace continues to increase, the need for VAs will continue to increase. Like money, virtual work is not zero-sum – every client “VA #1” gets is not a client that I can never get. So no, I’m not the slightest bit concerned that more and more people are becoming Virtual Assistants all the time. There is plenty of work for all of us.
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