Predators in the business world

In a recent trip to our public library I noticed a group of kids huddled over the glossy pages of the Predator vs. Predator books. The pages came alive with epic top-tier animal battles; the honey badger faces off against the wolverine, and the fresh water alligator takes on the great white shark. Fascinated by these creatures, the kids speculated about which traits would make one more successful than another in the wild.

While most of us don’t live in the wild, and so don’t anticipate a face off with a territorial badger, Malcolm Gladwell, citing researchers in France, suggests that highly successful businesspeople are more like those apex predators and less like the superhero entrepreneurs of popular lore. In other words, Ted Turner, the maverick Atlanta Braves owner, dubbed Captain Courageous for his brazen business pursuits, cultivated the image that he was braver and bolder than the rest of us. But, Turner didn’t act impulsively. In fact, he and other uber-entrepreneurs like him, set themselves apart with the cunning and prowess of the animals leaping from the pages of the Predator vs. Predator books. Equipped with loads of data, uber-entrepreneurs move decisively for the right deal again and again. They are calculating, analytical, and patient, lying in wait for the right time and place to strike.

Successful entrepreneurs also have a keen sense of what they’re pursuing (their prey is the niche market they can profit from), while minimizing their chances of failure. In reality, they are far from the conventional notion of the daring risk-taker.

Gladwell says the predator thesis can also hold true for small business entrepreneurs. If they do their homework and are agile, savvy, and skilled, smaller enterprises benefit from these same predator strategies. So while the tiger and the cobra battle it out in glossy color photographs (Whose teeth are sharpest? Who is the most tenacious?), business predators small and large stalk the (virtual) halls of corporate wildernesses looking for their next pursuit.

“The Sure Thing” by Malcolm Gladwell