Would you do business with someone you can’t trust? It may be unavoidable. First some discussion of my approach to this article: I know it comes off as a huge generalization at first glance, but my intent is to suggest a path by which some corporations come to behave as they do, not to make a blanket indictment of business in general or any specific organizations. Like most of you (if not all) I have both worked within corporations and bought things from them (how many times a day?), and have fought occasional battles and at other times felt robbed, frustrated, and complete unsatisfied. I have seen terrible behavior inside companies and I have had great experiences, but the bad experiences were more prevalent and affected a lot more people. In fact, some companies seem to never fail, never succeed, and instead muddle through time generating misery for employees, customers, suppliers, and anyone else involved. It was those experiences that moved me to observe and think about why organizations behave badly when tiny local proprietorships can be so friendly and easy to deal with, and how and why the change might take place over time. I recognize that few companies grow from small to large any more because successful small companies are usually bought by larger competitors and absorbed before they become giants, unless they have such amazing success that they can do the acquiring.
My big complaint with corporations is ... I can rarely trust them. After decades of observation and study, a top rank business school MBA, and working in about five careers in eleven companies ranging from a half dozen to nearly 350,000 employees, I have a theory as to how companies evolve from small startups to global corporations and go from customer-friendly and reliable to predatory and untrustworthy. The conduct of corporations is rooted in the relatively normal actions and motivations of relatively normal people. Corporate behavior is all based in human nature, as you might expect, but it changes greatly from the founding of a small company through when it reaches ascendancy as a multinational corporation. So how does this huge turnaround in behavior come about? Read the rest of this entry »