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THe Audacia Company

The Trader & The Camel - A Case For Better Staff Training

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

Here's a story that might resonate with people managers, executives, and HR specialists. I originally read this story in a book written by Paulo Coelho, a world renowned best selling author who has books translated into over 30 plus languages.

I've taken this parable and applied some of it's wisdom to the world of business strategy, but the intrinsic knowledge extends far beyond the use of business.

The Trader & The Camel

Once upon a time, a trader of fresh & dried figs took his trusty camel & set off into the desert to trade his wares. Earlier in the month, he received word that a festival would be occurring in a city on the other side of the desert that bordered his small agricultural village.

The city was about a week's travel away, and he made all the necessary preparations to make the trip. He stocked enough water, packed his cases to the brim with figs, and dreamt of profits.

Two days into the journey, the trader stopped at an oasis along the route to water the camel & take a break. In an uncommon occurrence when trying to remount, the camel turned and spit in the face of the trader. In a fit of anger the Trader pulled out a whip and struck the camel, scoring it along it's flank. Having his anger satisfied, and the camel sufficiently disciplined - he remounted & continued his journey.

Around two days after the incident the wounds on the camel got infected. The camel collapsed in the desert exhausted from fighting the infection, carrying the trader and the figs. This left the trader stranded in the desert with a dying camel, 3 days away from the market where he planned to sell his goods and turn a profit.

Breaking Down The Story

The eventual fate of the trader and the camel are irrelevant. The core concepts that exist are the same, and that's what I'm here to focus on.

The Wisdom Of The Trader:

Earned through experience, trial & error, savvy business acumen, & a willingness to take risks.

  1. To select the camel, built to travel in the exact conditions presented in the desert.

  2. The foresight to research, find, & select a heavily populated city to sell his wares.

  3. The willingness to take the risk in crossing the desert.

The Utility Of The Camel:

  1. It can survive the desert, because of its intrinsic qualities.

  2. It has the ability to carry the goods along with the trader.

  3. It can execute on the point 1 and 2 provided that it has water to drink.

The Folly Of The Trader:

  1. Whipping the unruly camel while in the middle of the journey.

  2. Attempting to ride the camel without treating it's wounds.

  3. Not having additional camels to share the load.

The Folly Of The Camel:

  1. Spitting on the trader for apparently no reason.

The Insights For Management

What does this message convey? What is the point and how does it relate to investing in staff? The trader is the executive suite or decision-maker in any company. The camel is the staff.

The executive suite has a value proposition (the figs) that they want to bring to the literal and figurative market, which is heavily populated ( high-demand). The staff are responsible for realizing that value by carrying out the unique value proposition ( carrying the figs).

The trader & the camel have a mutual agreement. When it's upheld - both sides get what they want. When that contract is broken, disaster ensues, even if it doesn't happen right away. Often times this disaster comes slowly just like an infection, and then all at once. This all was spurred on by a seemingly justified initial response.

The camel must be willing to be led by the trader, and follow the path set out. It requires trust. The trader must recognize that the camel has the ability to bring him to his destination.

The intrinsic ability of the camel is represented by an employee's willingness to work. The ability to carry the figs isn't something a camel naturally does, but it can be trained. This is the important factor.

The Final Insight i'll share from this story although there are countless - Even though camels spit ( ask for raises, more PTO, Hybrid work environments, more vacation time, etc.) whipping the camel almost never provides a positive outcome.

It's never a good idea to discipline the camel on the way to the market, if the camel isn't properly trained, it must be addressed before the figs are loaded up. If the trader can help it, leaving for the market with just one camel is unnecessary risk. Have different camels ( functional teams or departments) to help carry the value.

Wrapping It All Up

There are definitely more insights here. But the key thing? Well trained camels carry figs to the market without issue. Obviously, your staff aren't animals or beasts of burden to exploited for their labor. Some may need to read that previous sentence again.

But with regards to this story, the proverbial camel and real human beings working for your venture have the same capability. They can get you where you're trying to go.

If you find yourself traveling through the desert and are looking for help in getting all your figs to the market, book a call with me to talk about what we can do to get you a fleet of well trained and hydrated camels.

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