Vicious Animals: Real-Life Strategy in the World of Business

The Twelve12 office, the hub of all our online marketing in Orange County, is nestled in the center of OC’s populated urban/suburban sprawl. It can be easy to forget that it’s just a short drive to the wilderness. Even in the city limits, if you take a walk after the sun goes down, you may get to catch a glimpse of a coyote, dodging through the sprinklers, chasing rabbits. Head up into the hills above the city, and you’re in mountain lion territory. Hikers are met with signs that tell you what to should you encounter one.

Head back down into the light industrial complexes, and posh office buildings, and you may be met with a different kind of wild animal. For the owner of a business, you encounter a range of people that can only be called predators. They are looking at you and your business in order to determine what they can get out of you. Surprisingly, or maybe expectedly, the way you deal with a wild animal in the bushes can be very similar to the way you confront an activist investor looking to benefit from your hard work.

When you see a wild animal, and there’s nothing between it and you, your natural impulse is probably to run—to get out of there, and fast! In most cases, that would be a mistake. Here are the generally accepted bullets on what to do in the event of a mountain lion encounter.

  1. Don’t run: back away slowly, and don’t turn your back
  2. Show how large you are, and shout
  3. Pick up any small children
  4. Pick up a stick, and if attacked, fight back

Don’t Run: Business predators, if they target you, will want to force you into a retreat. If you are forced into a reactive pattern, the predator will have the upper hand. When in conflict, don’t take your eyes off the predator. Don’t’ be forced into an action that will put you at a disadvantage, and make your exit in control, and on your terms.

Pick Up Children: The more vulnerable people in your party should not have to face the danger. Also, younger, more inexperienced team members can, in a situation of attack, become a liability. Just as you’d want to pick up younger members of your hiking party so they don’t make a wrong move, remove any inexperienced people from the equation to ensure that they aren’t picked off. In a business setting, it can end up costing the whole organization.

Look Large: Something both you and the predator know is that it is in your best interests to not get hurt in a confrontation. Sometimes a shout is all it takes to make that predator think twice. On the business world side, it is always better to not engage. Consider a lawsuit. The best legal team will make you look big and powerful, and can help you avoid expensive litigation that can bleed you.

Pick up a Stick & Fight Back: In business, as in the wild, you always fight back. In the wild, mountain lions operate in a very opportunistic world, where taking risks can mean life or death. They won’t risk getting injured, because even a minor injury could harm their ability to hunt, which could spell death. In some ways, most people in the business world operate on similarly thin margins. If you show yourself to be strong, big, and willing to fight back, and if you have a few “sticks” lying around that you can pick up in a pinch, you won’t be a very attractive target. When it does come to fighting back, it might not take much energy at all to show a predator that you mean business.

Every owner is vulnerable to predators. Still, the situation for women who are in control of companies is (as you probably expected) worse. A recent study found that companies in the S&P 1500 who were led by a woman CEO were 27% more likely to be targeted by activist (i.e. predatory) investors—firms or funds whose main aim is to buy up enough stake in the company to be able to enact change that will profit them. On the one hand, this reveals the unfortunate implication that this breed of investor tends to view women CEOs as more vulnerable, more easily influenced, and easier to make a buck off of. On the other hand, it confirms what we’ve asserted: that predatory business people out there are looking for a quick meal, not a lengthy, or dangerous fight. From what this online marketing company in Orange County has seen, no matter who you are, don’t be afraid to fight to fend off the predators to your business.

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