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Run Your Business Like a Pirate

Business Tips from Little Otter Swim School’s
John Kirk 

Recently it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  Not everyone celebrates this important holiday, but I like dumb pirate jokes and work around kids all day so I wait all year for this day.

Let me preface this by explaining saying that this pirate analogy is involves the Johnny Depp type movie pirate rather than the outlaw pirates that robbed and killed on the high seas. Stay with me on this because there  are some things we can learn from pirates.

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”
– Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

First, let’s look at the way a pirate’s crew was organized. 

The ship was run democratically with the captain making the final decisions.  This meant that the captain had to gain the respect of his crew.  Even though the captain was the leader, he led at the pleasure of the crew.  If he was unpopular, the crew could stop by the nearest island and get rid of the captain.  While our employees can’t really get rid of us, they can choose to leave our employ and find somewhere else to work.  It is important to make sure we are giving our employees an environment that they enjoy working in and that they can thrive in.

The captain was the one who made the tactical decisions, deciding where to sail, when to attack and how to fight.  We need to make sure as captains that we do not get caught up in the day to day operations but rather focus on the tactical decisions to help out companies grow.

Below the captain in command was the first mate.  This was probably the most important member of the crew.  It was this person’s job to carry out the captain’s orders.  He also acted as a buffer between the crew and the captain.  He also acted as sounding board and counselor to the captain.  Who is your first mate? Do you use them to their fullest potential to make sure you are able to concentrate on the tasks that will move your company forward?

Second, pirate had to be creative with resources.

Pirates were the underdogs in most fights.  They usually had inferior ships and smaller crews.  They had to compensate by being more creative and using the resources they had to the best advantage.  Their vessels were frequently smaller than the ships they were going up against and they used this size difference to their advantage through speed and agility.

Sometimes the size of an organization can be a limiting factor.  How can you use your creativity to make your business more attractive?  Are you using your resources efficiently and effectively?  Are you using your agility to your advantage or do you have systems in place that should be updated to make you more competitive?

Third, pirates had to be decisive.

The captain faced important decisions in where and when he and his band of pirates should fight. He had to decide where to sail and – upon reaching the destination –when the to fight.  The captain had to look at a lot of factors to make these decisions .

Setting goals and holding ourselves accountable are two of the most important things we can do. .  By studying our markets and learning from our peers we can start to see where opportunities are and how we should approach them.  By including all of our factors in a strategy, we can lead our crews to success.

“Why join the navy, if you can be a pirate.” – Steve Jobs

I think many of us started our own business because we wanted to be our own people.  We chose to work in smaller businesses rather than larger ones because it feels better to us.

“If you don’t look around every once in awhile, you might miss something.” – Matthew Broderick as the immortal Ferris Bueller

By looking around we can gather knowledge from many sources. We take risks by going our own way and there are rewards for taking those risks.

In some ways, we should immulate the organization, creativity and decisiveness of pirates as lessons  for ways we can be better at running our businesses.

Here are some pirate jokes for you:

What is a pirate’s favorite element? Not Arrrrghsenic  but Surprise (Arrgh!)

What are a pirate’s favorite socks?  Arrrghgyles

What is a pirate’s favorite vegetable?  Arrrrghtichokes

Where do pirate’s park their ships?  In the Harrrrghbor

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