Ever since I worked at my first ‘business’, in the winter of 2005, I have always found it to be dynamic, fragile, and transient. On and off, with no use of the forums, I was involved in various café and restaurant type businesses, all of which I saw first hand to be precarious places. Measures introduced by Jagex a few years later – namely, the Grand Exchange and trade limits – essentially diminished business as a monetary pursuit and transformed it into more of a form of role-playing, further hindering the longevity of any commercial venture. Thus, when I first stumbled across corporations and formal business in 2009, I believed them to be perhaps the greatest idea since the history of humankind. However, in the mere two years that have elapsed since then, a few events and a gradual evolution of my opinion has led me to ask myself, more than once, ‘What good do corporations serve these days?’
It is not the first time this question has been asked. Indeed, drawing from my own experiences, the summer of 2010 saw it asked on such a wide scale that there was a massive collapse of confidence in many corporations (though not all), for various reasons. In the space of two months, between July and September 2010, many of the leading corporations of the time fell victim, some by their own doing, to this lack of confidence; among them were the fledgling Empresa and Xenia and the venerable BluTex. In order to understand the significance of this, one must inquire as to the purpose of the corporation. My understanding is that what we call a corporation is an umbrella organisation which is responsible for managing, be it directly (via ownership) or indirectly (via sponsorship), a few businesses in the hope that this form of centralisation will stabilise all involved by providing things such as a centralised monetary fund from which overheads, often vast (such as POH renovations), can be easily subsidised. Indeed, if my own time in BluTex and Empresa is anything to go by, corporations do serve that end rather well, though not because of their structure or any special quality of their modus operandi, but because the people that set them up tend to have enough money to do so themselves. From this perspective, it figures that a small business set up by someone of such financial status would share this financial security, something which many smaller businesses lack. As a general rule, financial security and freedom equates to stability in a business; it gives it the opportunity for change and dynamism which stops staff from becoming bored and renews their interest in whatever is happening at that business. If dynamism were to truly result in greater activity in a business, which my own experience suggests to me that it does, then surely places such as corporations, where things are always happening and on the move, would ensure perfect stability and eradicate the monotony of smaller, single-aimed businesses?
On the contrary, it seems, corporations have similar problems, and balance is therefore something quite difficult to attain. Some spend months slowly planning their next branch, utterly convinced it will ace the competition, while others blast through three openings in a month. These slower corporations tend to suffer from the same repetition that plagues small businesses, one of the primary reasons that people tend to either lose interest in business (some lose and regain their interest on and off on a regular basis) or move quickly on to a new type of venture. Conversely, dynamic corporations tend to feel as if they were running on adrenalin – employees are bombarded by a series of successive tasks, meetings and ideas which occupy and stimulate them – and as a result tend to fizzle out quickly. Though it would be wonderful if this could be maintained, it quite simply cannot. Boundaries such as real life, time, energy and often fallouts end these periods of manic output, hence their comparison to adrenalin, as they are just as fleeting.
Perhaps another point against corporations is the lack of individuality which they created by being perhaps a little too conscious of their own brand name. By this, I mean that they slap their brand name on all of their branches, creating an essentially identical network of businesses where individuality is suppressed, albeit unintentionally. One could argue that it does little damage to a business and even manages to create a sense of brand awareness among the community, yet, from my own experience in working in a menial role in a branch of a fleeting corporation, this lack of individuality leads to an overall sense of expendability and mass uniformity which detracts from the sense of fun normally associated with businesses.
One further fault I can see with corporations is the lack of dynamism as a result of their need to straddle multiple businesses; because they have to divide their efforts, their time, and their funds, corporations tend not to hedge their bets or innovate (with exceptions, of course, but this does generally apply) as much as they could, and, I believe, should. The stagnation of the community which occurs as a result is something that must, at all costs, be avoided. These past years have seen considerable stagnation in the community, to the extent where many things need to be done exceptionally in order to feel anything other than dull.
In my mind, the corporation is an outdated, primitive institution. It hails from a time when business was still in its formative years, when the rules weren’t written and people had little idea about the spirit of ‘creative gameplay’, as it is refereed to nowadays. Now that some unspoken rules have been set by years of corporation after corporation, I think it’s time we let go of them and move on. Around the turn of the year, there was much talk amongst the community of change, as per every New Year. There was talk of a need for innovation. This, too, is commonplace, and the usual enthusiasm seems too to be present. But there is one thing holding us back; things are not really changing, and each business venture remains just as fleeting – and in most cases generic – as the last. I do not blame this on corporations, but I do think that, as a part of our community history, we have become attached to and dependent upon them, when in fact they may not be as vital as we think. Certainly, they have their downsides, which are often swept under the carpet when raised. Personally, I think it’s time we implemented the dynamism everybody talks about and tried a community where the corporation is as physically obsolete as its purpose. Perhaps it will work, perhaps not. We can only know if we try. After all, isn’t that what innovation is?