After we leave school and the teacher no longer points a gun our head, why care about literature? What makes a book great? The answer is because it increases our knowledge of the human condition. It is “great” if it does so in a unique or creative way.
It also deepens our understanding of how to run our business. Even the most poetic romances may contain wisdom about conducting mercantile affairs.
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, is a great American novel. It is the story of Ahab, a New England captain of a whale catching boat. He abandons financial sanity and embarks upon the disastrous pursuit of the white whale, Moby Dick. We learn a lot of practical information about the whaling industry in 19th Century America. The true business lesson, however, is that of setting the right goal.
Have a realistic objective
Having the right goal is life or death for a new business. There is the temptation to say “the sky’s the limit!” This is a mistake in that what you must give yourself is a series of little steps which, eventually, will take you all the way. It feels good to set a big aim like “I want to sell my app to Facebook for 16 billion.” This, however, may get in the way of attacking the little goals, which may be tedious but necessary. Captain Ahab is entrusted with leading the operation to capture whales, render them into whale oil and return back to New England. If he does this he will enrich the ship owners and himself. He immediately turns away from this charge. He does not try to create profit through executing the trade of whaling but rather hijacks his mission. His true goal is is to find and kill Moby Dick.
Understand your resources and use them well
Captain Ahab had a fantastic set up; a modern whaling ship and a skilled crew. And the crew was further motivated by the system of profit. Differences of talent and status were recognized. Harpooners were the rock stars of their time. Crew members signed on for a certain amount of absolute pay, but they were also given a “lay” or a portion of the profits. For example, the lay of the Captain might be 1/8 of the profits while the least skilled might receive 1/350 of the profits. The key thing is that the crew were impelled to perform both by pride and by potential profit beyond their wage.
The ship itself, the Pequod, was a marvel of technology. It stayed at sea for a voyage of years and was a floating factory that could convert a captured whale into that most valuable of cargos, barrels and barrels of whale oil.
And all of this capital, both human and technological, was dumped to the bottom of the sea. Ahab, instead of properly utilizing his resources, threw them at an impossible goal.
Do not be led off course by smaller victories. Keep a correct goal in mind
During his chase for the white whale, Ahab did conduct the whaling business. A little reluctantly, he made time to kill whales and fill up his boat with oil. This was the correct application of his efforts. And if he had turned the boat around when it was full and gone back to New England, everyone would have been happier, richer and alive. Instead, he saw that his activities gave him the license to be even bolder in chasing his impossible dream.
Everyone wants a big success. They want to knock the ball out of the ballpark. They want, in fact, a “whale.” The business lesson of Moby Dick is that success comes from doing what you are supposed to do. Cultivate the habits of industry and rectitude. Do not throw away the small daily victories that lead to success by falling in love with a dangerous, unattainable goal. IncPlan can help you building your business plan leaving you to concentrate on development in other areas.
For your Incorporation, Virtual Office, Banking, and Merchant Service Needs please visit www.incplan.net.