Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Edward Abbey

Perhaps it is my natural temperament to do things deliberately and with purpose (after all, it is the tortoise who wins the race). Maybe it is my persistent skepticism. Quite possibly it is an outgrowth of my intuitive personality type (INTJ). Whatever the reason, I have always been resistant to Wall Street’s incessant demand for growth from public companies.

I have an MBA. I know that investors demand growth because growth drives the stock price up. And investors want the stock price to go up. Q.E.D. But at what price? And over what time horizon?

Yesterday’s announcement of the Pfizer / Wyeth merger reminded me of the long odds such marriages have at success. Depending on who you read, anywhere from 50 – 80 % of mergers fail – destroying vast amounts of shareholder value in the process. Why pursue such a risky strategy?

I am in the process of launching a web-based career management site and if my nascent little company ever reaches the size that we have shareholders, we will continue to drive growth organically and sustainably. We will pay dividends to share the wealth. We will stop growing when doing so means preserving the long term viability of our enterprise.

I have my suspicions as to why “growth at all costs” is so prevalent. Wall street and the board rooms of corporate America seemed to be fueled by transaction fees and bonuses. Filtering the behavior of corporate executives through these simple lenses reveals that short-term vision can be blinded to long-term implications. In any case, they would do well to behave less like a cancer cell and more like a redwood tree.

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