Corporate Hatred for Richard Branson

The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges as the very uncorporate The Big Lebowski

I’m not Mr. Lebowski. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, uh, that or His Dudeness or Duder, or El Duderino.” – The Big Lebowski

While being interviewed about his multi-billion dollar Virgin empire, entrepreneur Richard Branson was quick to point out that his business is nothing like a “big, giant corporation.”

Really dude? One of your divisions is building a rocket to take customers on intergalactic road trips. Lot’s of samll businesses doing that these days?

But Branson’s sentiment is not unusual for entrepreneurs; like the Big Lebowski, entrepreneurs have a universal hatred for formality. And a universal distaste for anything that smells of corporate.

Magnus Socius Combibo
If entrepreneurs had a motto it might read “Magnus Socius Combibo,” or roughly translated, “Suck it Big Companies.” Corporate America with its formalities, processes, procedures and HR departments are the death knell of innovation. At least to an entrepreneur.

They believe that not only is structured corporate America stifling to creativity and progress, they also believe that its employees are nothing more than Night of the Living Dead zombies on a quest to suck the innovative life force out of business.

Entrepreneur Earl Graves (founder of Black Enterprise magazine) summed up this belief when asked why he became an entrepreneur. “People who don’t have ambition—they get a regular job.”

Small Starts
But let’s not forget, Coca-Cola was once poured a single, fizzy drink at a time from a pharmacy soda fountain in Atlanta. Wal-Mart was once a single, family owned store in Bentonville. A small, good idea, if managed correctly, will grow up to be a great, big idea. Which then grows into a great, big (gasp) corporation.

So, how much structure is too much? Where’s the line between oppressive rigidity and innovation producing management practices? It’s hard to say. But as a company grows, processes must be put into place or the business becomes less Good to Great and more Lord of the Flies.

Apple, Meet the Dark Family Tree
One of the hardest entrepreneurs to work for is the entrepreneur who insists on being unstructured for the simple sake of not being corporate. This entrepreneur refuses to accept the family lineage of business, and will not adopt practices proven to work.

He believes that any concession is a step closer to the dark side. This entrepreneur may even find weekly status meetings too much of a slippery slope down the spiral of corporate conformation.

You’ll know you work for this entrepreneur if you frequently hear statements like “we’re small” and “we’re nimble,” stated with pride. To your entrepreneur this means the company is unencumbered by corporate nonsense, and can get things done.

The reality for you may look more like lack of clear direction, miscommunications, and goals that are constant moving targets.

Working for Wonka? Know this: Corporate America is the entrepreneur’s Boogie Man; an enemy that is only dangerous in the entrepreneur’s mind. But perception is reality, so keep any reference to time you’ve spent working with this enemy off your resume, and out of conversations with your entrepreneur boss. (And may the Force be with you.)

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