Nature is my passion. Biology was a subject I enjoyed. It’s exquisite. Some aspects are not elegant, however. It’s still a work-in-progress, so it’s not perfect. It is clear that we can learn a lot about business from nature, especially the more bizarre ways it goes about basic processes like growing, evolving, and reproducing.
Auto-cannibalism is a type of animal abuse. Auto-cannibalism is when an animal eats a portion of itself. For example, snakes can mistake their tails for other snakes and eat their own seats. They may also eat their own skin, which they then ingest.
Do not be like the Snake.
Do you ever feel like running your business can be difficult? It can feel like you are running fast and trying to catch your tail. Suppliers have to pay, employees have questions all the time, customers want to talk to you directly, and there is never enough time to do all the admin or plan.
All businesses eventually reach a point where their growth slows down. Breaking the cycle is possible by letting employees handle the bulk of customer and supplier relations, leaving directors to focus on developing and implementing growth strategies. It is as easy as having a reliable delivery and distribution system.
Instead, emulate the Sea Squirt.
Elegant cannibalism is a more sophisticated form of autocannibalism. Occurs during metamorphosis. For example, the sea squirt eats its own brain. It swims in the larval stage filtering food. The larval stage requires an essential brain to move and sense its surroundings. It attaches to a surface, and it never moves again after the larval stage. It eats its nervous system and uses the brain sac to feed itself. The larval sea squirt wouldn’t grow if it didn’t eat a portion of itself.
Which part of your business are you able to do without? Are you unable to move on to the next stage of your business cycle? Companies can continue to offer products and services long after their strategic or profitable life spans.
These services can also be a source of emotional attachment, especially for those who are good at what they do. It’s great to start a web design company because you are good at building websites. It can be hard to scale a business when you spend all your time creating websites. It might be an intelligent move to shift to website maintenance. Although it might not be as glamorous to deal with hacking threats and platform updates, there are long-term benefits in building a business around these issues rather than building one website. The company could be unable to offer maintenance programs if it continues to supply websites.
Changes in technology could signal the need for autocannibalism within a business. Cloud accounting software has transformed the way accountants work. Cloud accounting is changing the way that companies operate. They are now having to repurpose their staff, taking over the technical accounting departments, and creating new departments that offer business advice.
Escaping A Trap
Some animals will even chew off their limbs to escape from a trap. Although it’s not auto-cannibalism, they do eat the stem. But close enough… Do you have to chew some of your business to escape from a trap? Perhaps a supplier won’t give credit to you? Maybe a supplier who refuses to pay on time or an employee who isn’t engaged, or a whole department that isn’t performing well or has been overlooked by the competition. Perhaps it’s time for you to go through the 72-hours of pain that comes with announcing the decision that you know you must make but have been avoiding. You can take the pain and make your business grow. Your business will be more successful if you are able to concentrate your efforts on the most productive areas of your business.
Pareto’s principle says that 20% of your results are due to 20% of your effort. 80% of your profits come from 20% of your products, 20% of your customers, and 20% of your employees. 80% of problems can be traced back to 20% of employees, customers, or products. Focus on the 20% that is not working and let them go.
Your business might be struggling to grow or thrive because you are overeating your own tail. Or because there are certain parts you should be cannibalizing and others you shouldn’t. There are also parts of your business that are holding you back from the future.
Auto-cannibalism occurs naturally in the life cycle of growing organisms and organizations. But don’t be afraid to be a sea squirt.