Last week was Mayflower Day, celebrating nearly 400 years since the Mayflower left the UK on its voyage to the new world. The story of the Mayflower’s voyage is a great insight into the history of the world we now live in. Beyond this however, the universal themes epitomised by the voyage leave us with valuable lessons applicable to both business and our personal lives.
Like setting sail for an unknown country, starting up a business requires focus, determination, an ability to accept risk and the confidence to face the unknown. So, what lessons can we learn from the voyage of the Mayflower, more than four hundred years later?
Lessons from history
The Mayflower set sail on 16th September 1620 carrying people in search of profit, a new life and religious freedom. They crossed the Atlantic in winter, headed for an unknown fate in the ‘New World’ – what is today North America – that lay beyond the horizon.
As in business, the voyagers met unexpected challenges along the way, forcing them to adapt to circumstances as they found them. Over the course of the 66 day journey across the Atlantic, those on board faced winter storms and winds that were so bad that the ship’s sail couldn’t be unfurled, and all those aboard could do was drift.
Tenacity and courage were vital when it came to meeting these challenges. These attributes are just as powerful a force when applied in business as they are when navigating the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean. As this article in Forbes explains;
“For leaders and their organizations, tenacity is the trait that means the difference between failure and success, and that takes their teams from doing all right to thriving.”
Different challenges, same values
While the challenges faced by the crew of the Mayflower are very different from those we might face in the corporate boardroom, or when faced with a drop in consumer demand resulting from unforeseen storms such as that unleashed by the coronavirus, dealing with them requires a similar degree of resolve and adaptiveness.
The passengers and crew aboard the Mayflower epitomised the true spirit of entrepreneurship. They weighed up their choice between the risk of the unknown and a potentially stormy autumn voyage, against the potential returns from life in the new world.
For the modern-day entrepreneur, whether working within a small start-up, a social enterprise or a large business or corporate, the ability to weigh up pros and cons and adequately assess both risk and reward is vital. Here’s some further reading on how to begin strategizing your approach to risk and reward.
Steering business through stormy waters
The current global pandemic has brought loss, failure and fear to many businesses. It is undoubtedly business disruption on a worldwide scale with consequences as yet unknown. However, from all such disruptions interesting breakthroughs, changes to plans and innovations can arise.
Turning disaster into success is a true sign of entrepreneurship, following the model of the Mayflower passengers and crew who persevered in the face of hardship to ultimately achieve success.
That is why, it is not just the American Thanksgiving Day which is celebrated annually, but also Mayflower Day which marked the true starting point for a whole new world of business success. Tenacity, adaptability, and a willingness to endure loss and failure until the green shoots of growth push through are key to business now, as they were to our forebears 400 years ago.