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Perverted Inversion

In simplistic terms, material wealth in the form of profits is created through the delivery of products and/or services that provide some sort of perceived value to a set of customers. The figure below illustrates the priorities, from highest on the top to lowest on the bottom, of all successful product-oriented startup businesses.

Since products create the wealth that sustains a business, they receive top billing. The care and feeding of the golden geese via a supportive product development group is next in importance. At the bottom, and deservedly so, is the management of the business. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s on the priority list at all means that managing the business is important – but not as important as the product-centric activities.

Without any facts or any background research to back it up (cuz I like to make stuff up), I assert that most entrepreneurs hate doing the business management “stuff”. Some despise the mundane activities of running a business so much that their negligence can cause the fledgling enterprise to fail just as quick as launching the business without any product or service to sell. Having said that, hopefully you’ll agree that any business priority list without the product portfolio perched at the top is a sure path to annihilation. The other two arrangements of the lower priority activities (shown below) can also work, but maybe not as effectively as the initial proposed stack.

As a business thrives and grows larger, a strange perverted inversion occurs to those who lose their way (but thankfully, not all do). The business management function bubbles to the surface of the priority stack (WTF?). This happens ubiquitously across the land because hot shot, fat headed, generic managers who don’t know squat about the org’s specific product portfolio are chaufeurred in to grow the business. These immodest dudes, thinking of themselves as Godsends from MBA city, put themselves and what they do at the top of the priority stack to…… enrich themselves no matter what. Of course, these wall street stooges perform this magic act while espousing that the product set and those that create it are forever the org’s “most valuable asset“.

Post-startup businesses can survive with the perverted priority stack in place, but they usually muddle along with the rest of the herd and they aren’t exhilarating or engaging places to work. Do you work for one?

At a certain age institutional minds close up; they live on their intellectual fat. – William Lyon Phelps

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