A business is not like a baby. It's more like Weekend at Bernies.

Business Metaphors

People love to compare businesses to babies. Recently, Richard Branson said that a business is like a baby turtle.

I have tons of respect for Richard, and the similarities between the fragility of early businesses and babies are undeniable, but there is one important distinction to make here: A startup is never alive, in the sense that it can survive on its own accord. A startup is always propped up by its founders, and its arms and legs are waved around in an attempt to mimic life.

In other words, we are all orchestrating a grand hoax by puppeteering Bernie on the dance floor.

Even a successful business is still just good ol' dead Bernie on the dance floor. He is merely being propped up by the users instead of the founders. As soon as the users choose to go elsewhere, he collapses into his default, inanimate state. There is no residual dance left in him, which one would expect from something that is actually alive (in the baby metaphor sense of the word).

Why does this metaphor correction matter?

Anthropomorphizing, or terrapomorphizing1 a business can mislead founders into becoming lazy. For example, if you believe you're nurturing a baby, then you'll also believe that one day it'll walk on its own and you can take a break.

A business will never walk on its own. You should always be figuring out better ways to move Bernie's arms around, otherwise your users will stop holding him up for you.

1. New word: Terrapomorphizing. "To attribute turtle form or personality to things not turtle. Derived from Algonquian word for turtle."


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Damian SowersCreator of Silvrback. Rails and JavaScript Hacker. Living in South Lake Tahoe.

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