Say what you will, Lord Voldemort is the ideal businessman. Even though he failed in the end, did he not manage to create a spell of utter terror, right from the day he unleashed the Basilisk, till the day he cast his last Avada Kedavra?
Inviting you to look closer into this widely hated character.
The format of this post is like this. First, the heading. Then, we look at the relatively good things that Lord Voldemort did, and then we look at the possible reasons behind his downfall. You also get a small paragraph on how you can implement strategies. Add your own, as per your own situation. Also, a link to more content at the end of each lesson.
A small disclaimer: Like all advice, this post does not aim to be the perfect solution to your problems. It only aims to expand your perception, and bring to your attention some ways of solving age-old problems.
In HP6, we learn that Tom Riddle Marvolo, before he knew that he was a wizard, was an extreme bully. He misused his unknown magical powers to frighten his fellow orphans, and everyone was quite scared of being with him. He was lonely, friendless and a weird boy to the entire world.
All that changed when he joined Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He knew, thanks to Prof. Dumbledore’s kind but strict advice, that bullying would not be tolerated in the school. Hence he changed tack and started creating an illusion of trustworthiness and humility with his snake-like skills. To the extent that he was made Head Boy in his seventh year. He fooled everyone he could, without a trace of guilt or fear.
But Lord Voldemort was different. The Magical World knew him as merciless and coldblooded, someone who killed for the pleasure of it. He unveiled his snake-like personality at the same time when he reinvented himself as Lord Voldemort.
Think for a moment: Would the humble Tom Riddle Marvolo dominate the world, or would the wand-brandishing Lord Voldemort be Head Boy?
It’s a confusing statement, since both people are one. But the sole lesson is this: Your personality has to be suitable to the role you wish to assume. You may feel like you are cheating yourself and others when you go for business events and network like there’s no tomorrow. But unless you are planning something as sinister as world domination, you have to brand yourself, in the qualities and skills necessary in your particular profession.
Also, a fun fact: having a bad image can cause your customers to Avada Kedavra you.
How to implement: Instead of taking the Voldemort-route of faking it till you make it, learn more about successful people in your profession. Analyse their traits, and ponder over how it has helped them. There are plenty of resources available online to help you develop skills and traits, Accio them.
Having dedicated people in your team
The Death Eaters were feared as much as Lord Voldemort. That’s the power of a good team.
When each and every member of your team has the dedication to see a goal through till the end, that’s when you know that you have the dream team.
I won’t say it’s easy. Even Lord Voldemort had a few weak links. Example? The Malfoys.
But if you had a team full of Bellatrix Lestrange-y people, ready to do each and everything at your beck and call, wouldn’t it be too easy?
The reason why building the dream team is difficult, is because each and every person is different. Motives behind ‘why I want a job’ are different for everyone. So, in my opinion, it is important to find people with the same motive, irregardless of the way they approach the problem. Diverse approaches are super amazing, specially in startups. What would be better? A team of employees each working on their own solution to one problem, and coming up with at least one successful solution OR working together as a team, one idea at a time, watching it fail, and then moving on to the next one.
Lord Voldemort hired werewolves (Fenrir Greyback), skilled Dark Arts practitioners, a man brilliant at Legilimens (Severus Snape), a lonely and grieving elf (Kreacher), a delusional Minister of Magic (Pius Thicknesse), a hardworking and motivated teenager (Barty Crouch Jr.), a subservient wizard (Wormtail), giants, Inferi, and unwittingly, even Harry Potter (The Department of Mysteries and the Prophecy).
The diversity in this set is crazy. None of them were motivated to the same goal. Some did it out of fear, some did it out of love, some did it because of pride, some did it because they frankly didn’t know what else to do. Their contributions varied and spanned across various fields, because their approaches were different.
It wouldn’t be enough to say that Lord Voldemort failed because of his weak links (just remembered another one: Severus Snape). He had a crazy team, which was not glued together with the same intention.
How to implement: To avoid the Voldemort-route of hiring a mix of motivated idiots on your team, keep interviews flexible. Some startups do not follow the traditional route of interviewing. Instead, they place the interviewee in a room full of employees, and ask them to contribute and participate in a meeting. This is a wonderful way of figuring out the new person’s approach. The group atmosphere ensures that the person works toward the common goal of the meeting.
Understanding the intentions of others
If you are an Economics student, you may be familiar with this term: Consumer Surplus.
For the benefit of one and all, let me explain it here.
Consumer surplus is the difference between the price that the consumer is willing to pay and the price that the consumer actually pays. For example, if you wish to buy a diamond-studded watch, and you are willing to pay Rs. 1,00,000 for it (I don’t know anything about diamond-studded watches, just an example), but the list price is Rs. 80,000 (again, I know nothing). The consumer surplus, therefore, will be Rs. 20,000.
Now, the ideal situation for the seller of goods, would be to charge exactly the same price that the customer is willing to offer i.e. Rs. 1,00,000. It would help him maximise profits to the highest extent.
But as a rational consumer, tell me: would you actually tell the seller that you are willing to pay Rs. 1,00,000 when he is only asking for Rs. 80,000? Defeats logic, right?
This reluctance of the buyer creates a problem for the seller: He/she cannot accurately predict the price which the consumer is willing to pay, because the consumer will not always truthfully declare the price he/she is willing to pay.
But if Lord Voldemort worked at Borgin and Burkes, don’t you think he could have used Legilimency and figured out the exact price which the consumer was willing to pay?
Just kidding. He would have Imperiused the buyer to pay more than what he/she was willing to pay.
From these last two lines, comes the standard approach to understanding others: You either understand them, or you get them to believe what you want them to believe. Marketing and advertising does exactly that: The seller could conduct a market research study and figure out what the buyer wants, needs, and how much he is willing to shell out for it. Or the buyer believes that a certain product has so-and-so value, because the advertisements influence his/her decision to some extent.
For startups which create brand new products or services, this is crucial. Testing the market with a minimum viable product is an approach given by Eric Ries in his book ‘The Lean Startup’. A must-read for anyone trying to start something revolutionary.
A minimum viable product is something like a skeleton product: You create a product with a basic function, which was intended by you. By frequent testing, taking feedback and editing, you develop the product into a finished one, which your consumer wants and is happy to use. This approach is said to be better than creating a finished product and praying to all the gods in the holy skies that the consumer picks it up from the store/Play Store.
How to implement: Since you cannot take the Voldemort-route and blast your way into everyone’s minds, trying out the Minimum Viable Product Approach is something similar. You get access to your user’s minds, learn what they want, who they are, the experiences that define them, and use it to create a good product with the least amount of effort.
Read More : The Lean Startup, Eric Ries. Buy from Amazon.
Having the right contacts
Crystallized pineapple. Constant flattery. Contacts in the Ministry. Club of Slugs, oops. Slug Club.
Prof. Slughorn was the best Connector in the history of Connectors.
And who knew that? No points for the answer.
In his book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, Malcolm Gladwell writes about this one group of people who seem to know anyone and everyone. These people are called Connectors.
Fun fact: Social Media Influencers also form a part of this group.
No doubt, Prof. Slughorn used his connections to get fatter and fatter, but Lord Voldemort used his Slug Club parties to 1. meet future Death Eaters 2. learn about the Horcruxes.
And here comes the whole point of having the right contacts. Even though Lord Voldemort had major trust issues, getting into the Ministry was not a task capable by one person. With a combination of Imperius Curses, multiple Death Eaters planted in the Ministry at high posts, bags full of Galleons, and voila, the Ministry of MAGIC has fallen.
Imagine what you could do, with the right contacts.
How to implement: Avoid taking the Voldemort-route by blasting inconvenient contacts out of the way. Do not consider networking as a chore, instead think of it as the first day of school, and do the same thing that you did on the first day in school: Make friends. Figure out which group of people is likely to bring nice and tasty food in their lunchboxes, and more importantly, share it with you. Don’t forget to carry your lunchbox too! (Metaphor intended)
Having a backup plan
Not one, but seven.
Lord Voldemort created seven parts of his soul (actually, eight, but that’s not the point) so that he could be invincible, and be the true master of Death.
You can create seven backup plans (actually, eight, in case you are a hyper paranoid person like me), so that you can protect your backside from potential failure.
I know, it’s easier typed than done. But, didn’t Lord Voldemort have to do too many painful tasks, to get his invincibility?
Having a backup plan to reach your goal is as important as packing an extra pen for an exam. ‘What if the first one stops working?‘
Backup plans could be as simple as looking for alternative sources of funding, or as difficult as creating a new Java program. (Intentional messing up of levels of difficulty to figure out which readers consider the author to be dumb enough to know nothing, or smart enough to write sarcastic business humour)
A backup plan may seem like the conservative way of minimizing risks and in short, being a baby. But I’d rather take some initial steps to figure out two steps ahead of me, instead of going a hundred steps forward, and suddenly getting thrown back to square one, just because I didn’t have a backup plan. OR is that just me?
How to implement: Have a solution to every problem you can predict. Consult with team members for the ones you cannot solve. This helps you to be calm curing a crisis, even though you may have a solution for just 3 of the 7 problems you are facing. You can then focus on the remaining 4 and get them solved. But if you are someone who can think brilliantly at the spur of the moment and in the heavy mess of problems, go ahead and create one backup plan. If you are a paranoid git like me, don’t end up stressing too much on the back-up plan and forget to work on the actual plan.
Managing one main goal, while simultaneously achieving others
Every business does not have just one goal. There may be one goal, but n number of goals must be reached before even considering the main one. Or, there could be n number of goals, which when done completely, lead to the accomplishment of the main goal.
For Lord Voldemort, world domination was the MAIN goal.
But a tiny midget with a lightning scar on his head managed to thwart him at the tender age of one. How amazing.
Now, Lord Voldemort had to figure out a way to eliminate Potter (As neither lives while the other survives) and also fulfill his main goal of world domination.
Think carefully, and you will realise that both goals would be accomplished one after the other.
Hahahahaha, yes and no.
Lord Voldemort also had to get rid of Prof. Dumbledore, the greatest wizard ever. He had to keep his Horcruxes safe. He had to ensure that he got the support from all the people who had supported him in the first Wizarding War (from around the time when the Order of the Phoenix had come into existence). And, he had to find the Elder Wand.
So you see, it wasn’t as simple as killing Harry and lording over the world. Lord Voldemort had to invest his time and energy for all these problems, in such a way that they all were given adequate attention to.
And even though he was who he was, he still couldn’t find a way to keep all his Horcruxes safe.
It’s pretty simple for a competitor to get an edge over you if he/she figures out that you aren’t paying full attention to some aspect of your business. Doing everything else perfectly would be of no use, if you falter somewhere. .
How to implement: Delegate. Severus Snape was asked to spy on the Order of the Phoenix. Bellatrix Lestrange was ordered to keep the Hufflepuff Cup and the Sword of Gryffindor in her Gringotts vault. Barty Crouch Jr. was in charge of bringing Harry safe and sound to the graveyard at Little Hangleton. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and the ones of others, and delegate accordingly.
I do hope that I could present my ideas clearly. At least seven revisions and thirty three edits later, I feel fairly confident about this.
Feel free to criticise, share your point of view in the comments. I am just a beginner in the world of startups, and I don’t even have a business plan to my credit! All this wisdom has been gained from extensive reading of Harry Potter (I owe you a lot, JK Rowling), various business books, watching Shark Tank and just being generally more aware than the average person.
If you wish to add some more lessons we can learn from Lord Voldemort, do share it in the comments too! It would be a relief to know that someone else thinks like me 🙂