We are competitive by nature, if we weren’t we wouldn’t be here right now. We used to have to compete with the other organisms of our environment to gather or hunt enough food to stay alive. With the Agricultural Revolution, our need to compete for food nearly vanished as a few individuals could provide food for many others beyond themselves.
The humans not farming found themselves with an abundance of time that they could use to come up with new things to make or services to offer. Our ancestors first exchanged food and goods based on a trading system. However, money would soon be created to settle any inconsistencies in value between traders. The Agricultural Revolution allowed us to graduate from our first competition and move onto a new one. We started as organisms competing for food, then we created businesses competing for money. In this Manual, a business will refer to any organization that trades goods or services for money.
The competition of businesses was somewhat similar to the competition of organisms. Each individual is willing to do whatever is necessary to gather more resources than their competitors. Nature is pretty cutthroat, it has to be when the only rule is Don’t Die, but there is a balance in nature because all living things must die. The problem with our newly created form of competition was that it did not have a means of balance like nature does with death: a business doesn’t have to die.
I’m not saying that businesses are inherently immortal. Rather, when an individual is able to raise a business from nothing, the business doesn’t die when the individual does. The reigns of the business can just be handed down to a successor who now has the opportunity to enter the competition with a huge head start.
The amount of money in circulation at any one time maintains a carrying capacity of how many businesses can exist, but it doesn’t stop a few businesses from growing into monoliths. Often, huge companies emerge from the organizations that have been around for awhile and just haven’t died.
As businesses continue to grow, they have the ability to purchase other competitors. This isn’t like a predator killing one of its own for less competition. Buying another business is subsuming that competitor and gaining everything that they had. To maintain these larger businesses, a hierarchical chain of command is put into place to allocate resources wherever necessary. A large business usually has the original owner still at the top but with much greater power than the majority of the competition.
A business can even choose to buy into new niches of the market to further increase their profits. There are even some examples of a single company owning the housing where its employees live, the grocery store where they shop, and the movie theatre where they relax. A business could potentially “own” the people working for it with their paychecks going right back to the company!
A growing business can choose to “go public,” meaning it will accept money donations called investments in exchange for owning a part of the company. The original owner will usually keep a majority of the company to maintain power but the biggest businesses are usually run by a Board of Directors who each have a large stake in the company. Each board member can leverage the power of their shares to make decisions for the company. It’s important to recognize the amount of anticipation and strategy that goes into decision making for large scale businesses. These are savvy people making the decisions, there’s a reason those businesses continue to survive for generations.
Our rapidly progressing technology expands the possible niches of the market. Just like the competition of organisms, businesses will adapt and diversify to fill all those new niches. Sometimes a new niche can be filled by a brand new business but, more often than not, it is filled by a larger company allocating resources to the new niche. We have even created laws against businesses fully dominating an entire section of the market, we call it a monopoly and it’s technically illegal.
What isn’t illegal, for some reason, is to dominate a huge portion of the market yet still allow for some competitors to exist solely to avoid a monopoly. Those smaller competitors stand no real chance but they still exist and therefore there’s still a competition, so it’s legal. Many of the largest businesses are the ones that diversified to fulfill specific niches in many markets without totally dominating.
The largest companies today are the ones that have continued to survive and merge with other companies with a toe in every market. These are companies whose names you don’t know and they have a huge amount of hidden power. An unknown enemy is impossible to defeat, do a little digging and you’ll find the largest companies cannot hide from the Internet.
Just like your main priority is to get food, a business’s main priority is to get money. That creates a problem when the competitors are the same as you. In nature, sameness helps us to identify our own kind and our empathy allows us to see from the perspective of our competition. Animals in nature usually kill only for the sake of eating, killing for fun would disrupt the balance. When it comes to business, we begin to see our competitors as different than us and we forget to empathize in our mad dash for more money.
You’ve heard the saying “money brings out the worst in us,” and it’s true. We forget the things that makes us human when we get too distracted chasing after a resource that has replaced food as our highest priority. The phrase “it’s not personal, it’s just business” should not be an excuse for forgetting our humanity.
It’s important to remember that money, the coveted resource, is completely made up by us. We gave it value and we can create more of it anytime we want which means that it is unlimited in theory. The unlimited nature of money also means that our selfishness leads us to always wanting more; after all, whatever you have is always less than someone else.
Throughout your life you will gain money and you will lose money but there will always be more money out there to gain and lose. The only resource you have that is truly limited is your time. You can choose to exchange that time for money with a job but you cannot gain more time. You are an organism which means you must die, it’s your choice how you spend the time you have before you go.