The Business Lessons of Purim

With tales of beautiful queens and evil villains the story of Purim seems strait forward. In reality the story isn’t just for kids- it can be used as a business text. Move over Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, Mordechai and Esther have written the definitive business text.

As a kid I always enjoyed the story of Purim. As I got older I realized it wasn’t just a kid’s “story” about beautiful queens and evil villains, but offered many important lessons in life. Now I realize this story also holds important business lessons. Here are a few:

Guard Your Important Information
An obvious lesson learned by every kid who read the subplot of Bigson and Seresh (where Mordechai overhears their plot to poison the king) is that you don’t tell secrets in public (and knowing extra languages is cool). But for adults this lesson is also important. Having your data get in the wrong hands is dangerous, so don’t assume that you are clear: secure your computer network, shred your important documents and be careful where you use your cell phone.

Do research before making suggestions
When the King asked Hamen “what should I do to honor someone?” Hamen mistakenly thought it was he whom the King wanted to honor. Thus his advice was much different than it would have been had he known the full situation. It is important to know the facts before making important decisions.

Sometimes you need to make a bold statement to get your message across
One aspect of the Purim story that always bothered me when I was younger was why did Esther enter the King’s chamber without an appointment and risk death? Couldn’t she have waited till she saw him during the course of the routines or have her people call his people to set something up? Now I realize that sometimes in business and in life one must make a bold statement- Esther’s statement was that this is a very important meeting. Surely, the king’s interest was raised.

Timing is important
When entering a new market or launching a new product timing and delivery are important. Esther pushed off her request for one more day so she knew her audience would be more receptive and eager to hear her request.

Surround yourself with dedicated employees
As evil as Hamen was, he was obviously smart to be able to win the King’s good graces. But Hamen’s advice was often self serving. When picking employees look for more than just brains, seek character and cultivate loyalty.

Setting Appropriate Deadlines
Hamen picked a deadline for the extermination of the Jews by drawing a lot. That seems too haphazard. Ultimately, picking a date almost a year away gave the Jews a long time to repent, devise a plan and prepare for war. Similarly when setting deadlines for projects don’t make them random- figure out when the work needs to be done and project appropriately. Pick a deadline too far away and you risk loosing focus and obsolescence; Pick one too close and it will cause bitterness and may inhibit performance. Further don’t hide the real deadline date from people working on the project- they will resent working overtime for a project that isn’t due yet.

Clearly this story isn’t the children’s story that it would seem at first glance. Perhaps we are making fun of the method in which Hamen picked his deadline by naming the holiday Purim (literally “drawing lots”).

Interesting Links:
The Story of Purim

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