Lessons from the Past 98: Benefits of the Protective Umbrella of Corporate World
People working in the corporate world repeatedly talk about how much better it is to be 'on one’s own'—where they can do what they like and be totally independent; where they can freely implement their innovative ideas and need not kowtow to the boss; where they are not constrained by the parameters set by company policy; where they do not have to meekly accept the annual performance evaluation; where they get a low increment, totally disproportionate to the contribution that has been made (or feel they have made); where location transfers create havoc with family and career plans; where politics becomes more important than achieving corporate objectives; and where, however well one may perform as an individual, if the whole company is doing poorly, one has to pay the price for no fault of one’s own. So much for the trials and tribulations of being an employee or even a manager or an executive director in the corporate world!
 
Some of those who feel this way may well be able to strike out on their own and become ‘entrepreneurs’. There will be those who take matters into their own hands and, quite unethically, become ‘extrapreneurs’. But the numbers who can graduate into any of these categories are small. The large majority is fated to continue in the corporate world—and would be wiser to accept this, look at the positives and enjoy it while it lasts. 
 
And what are the positives of working in the corporate world as an employee even for a whole lifetime? There are many. But, in our anxiety to see the grass on the other side, most of us ignore the freshly mowed lawn under our own feet. There is the oft-quoted story of two salesmen who were sent by competitive shoe companies to a country in Africa. Two days after they arrived, one sent a cable to his company in Europe which said, “Returning home tomorrow. No scope for sale of shoes here. No one wears shoes.” The other salesman also sent a cable to his company to say, “Staying one month. Send 1000 pairs urgently. Great potential. Nobody wears shoes here.” The same market situation, the same product and the same country. Yet, the two different attitudes make the difference. 
 
Those who choose to stay in the corporate world and spend a lifetime there, because they lack what it takes to be in business on their own, would benefit by adopting a positive attitude and thus making life more enjoyable and pleasant for themselves, their families and everyone around them. Light a candle, rather than curse the darkness. Stop complaining that you have no shoes—there are those who have no feet! And remember all the benefits that come with being an employee, in a job for which you have (one assumes) both attitude and aptitude. 
 
A Favourable Identity
 
Remember that in the corporate world, you are presold as an individual, by the reputation and image of the company. The aura of the company encompasses all those who work in it. Mr Shah of ABB or Atul of Siemens, they will whisper. The weight of the big name will add weight to the employee’s name. The person immediately gets an identity.
 
On one’s own, one will have to build one’s identity and that can take a long time. The company provides a spillover effect, and the bigger the company, the greater is the spillover. 
 
Part of a group
 
In the corporate world, you have the comfort of being part of a group. You are not alone. When you fly to Guwahati, the regional manager is there to receive you, a car has been arranged for transport, a hotel room is booked, the following days’ work schedule is all organised and the appointments already made. It is a great comfort and gives you a sense of security.  
 
When you are on your own and have a small outfit, you arrive, look for a cab, or even an autorickshaw, look for a hotel and try and set up appointments. In short, you have to fend for yourself. 
 
Large Infrastructure
 
In the corporate world, you have the advantage of a large infrastructure. You take it for granted that you have the facilities of a photocopier, and a fax machine; a computer on your desk and perhaps secretarial assistance (although it may be less than what you think you should have), and perhaps a gold credit card for travelling abroad. 
 
On your own, all this is to be paid for. You have to generate the profit to spend on such accoutrements, that you think will generate more profit. In a company, the infrastructure is immediately demanded. On your own, the infrastructure has to be slowly and carefully earned.
 
Interaction with Many Minds
 
In the corporate world, you have the advantage of interacting with many minds. You can test ideas, plans and programmes with others who are your superiors, peers and subordinates. After all, good suggestions and refinements can come from any quarter, and you can interact with people within your own function and from other functions. It is a question of many heads being better than a few. Unfortunately, many in the corporate world do not appreciate the advantages that they have of being part of a team, and often try to go it alone.
 
When you are on your own or with a very small group, you have to largely depend on yourself or interact with those outside the orbit of your own business i.e. friends, old colleagues, consultants and the like. 
 
There are many more advantages of being what they call a ‘corporate employee’- and which will be continued in another column. In the meantime, it is good to remember civil rights leader Jesse Jackson’s admonition: ‘God doesn’t make orange juice. God makes oranges’.
 
(Partly taken from the book The Winning Manager by Walter Vieira (Sage Publisher/ available on Amazon) 
 
 (Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are ‘Marketing in a Digital/Data World’ with Brian Almeida and ‘Customer Value Starvation Can Kill’ with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India)
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