Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Oxen and IPOs

Randy probably thinks I know only one verse in the whole Bible. A number of years ago, when his company was trying to expand, he was thinking about venture capitalists. The money they provide can be very helpful for a business, but when you let these guys in, life can get really messy. Anyway, we were talking about that, and I read this verse to him:
Without oxen the manger is clean,
but from the strength of the ox comes an abundant harvest.
Proverbs 14:4
Or, "if you don't hire help, you don't need a payroll department, but you can't do it all yourself." I don't remember what else we talked about that day, but I think he decided to go ahead and use them.

The company went public, and some years later, he mentioned some other issue to me. I don't remember what it was -- outsourcing/subcontracting, cross-marketing agreement, some other kind of partnership. I said, "Well, you know, Randy, without oxen the manger is clean, but much profit comes from the strength of the ox."

He gave me this funny look and said, "You gave me that verse 10 years ago too!"

If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, right? If the only verse you know is one about oxen, then every problem looks like a tradeoff between complexity and upside potential!

Oh well, I never claimed to be much of a Bible scholar. Or a businessman either, for that matter. But isn't that a great verse? It doesn't say that every complicating piece of technology is worth it, but it does warn against a technophobic bias.

I love that about the Bible -- It's got wisdom from the ages, yet it's fresh as today.

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