One evening, while I was channel surfing, a teaching caught my attention. I guess it was because I had a professor in college who taught on this subject and I had not heard of it since. The subject matter was the cycle of the rise and fall of great nations. In the history of the world, many nations have risen to be a world power and then fallen back again in a cycle that usually lasts around 200 -250 years. I found the teaching most interesting. I certainly could relate it to the history of the United States. I scribbled the eight steps as they were taught on an advertisement page in a magazine:
From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
From Great Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Complacence
From Complacence to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependence
From Dependence to Bondage
I could not help but to think that these same steps are relevant in business as well. Perhaps the cycle is less than 200 years, but it is still much the same. Look at General Motors (GM) as a prime example. GM was formed in 1908. It reached its peak in 1954 when it enjoyed a 54 percent share of the auto market, a period of abundance. It became complacent and didn’t react strongly enough to the gains of European and Japanese cars and the Arab oil embargo. Although it had some good years of profit in the mid to late 1980s, it began its fall from greatness in 1991 when it posted a $4.5 billion loss, never to really recover and only to find itself trying to survive in bankruptcy courts today.
I am also reminded of something that was referred to as the weakness or fault of second generation management. The founding person had vision for the company and fulfilled the vision bringing it to greatness. When the founder dies, the second generation loses the original vision and passion that made the company great. Both the second generation management and employees lose the founder’s vision, and they focus more on the benefits that the company can bring to them. Soon the company’s profits start to flounder and it loses its greatness. It is also known as the bell curve in the business cycle. Is there a lesson to be learned here? How many businesses really last over a long period of time? What stage of the business cycle is your business in? What can be done to keep the founder’s vision and passion alive in a company?
Vice President, Dodge Development, Inc.