The Rocketship Analogy

When I owned Rocket Reprographics I developed a business model that worked very well for a business of this size and type. I called it the Rocketship Analogy, and it became a useful tool to describe our work philosophy to interview candidates and to create staff buy-in for my business goals.

The basic premise held that the business was a figurative rocket ship. However, it was more of a Hans Solo Millennium Falcon than a Star Trek Enterprise. Feature a small working craft deep in outer-space. The ship is equipped with supplies to sustain us throughout the mission, but we’re on our own. Whatever happens, we deal with it. The objective is to make it back to port, cargo intact, so we all get paid and set sail again.

Every ship must have a captain, and that was me. But we were a small working vessel and every crew member was equally important. It took everyone doing their job well, being efficient, looking out for the ship, and manning his or her watch to get us back to port each time. We didn’t carry passengers.

Our primary objective was to complete the mission and get paid, but while we’re working the rocket-ship was for us. As long as we met our goals, we were free to occupy the job in the way that suited each one of us the best. The concept worked great for us. We were interdependent on each other and on the company for our jobs and we all knew it. The idea of being in space with limited supplies reminded us of the value of everything. The equipment, the crew, our resources, all were vital to the success of the mission.

When you own a small business, you are much more dependent on your staff than they are on you, although most people working at their jobs feel it is the other way around. When you put someone in a job you make a sizable investment in that individual. You also entrust him or her to represent your company to your customer base. Your success is largely in the hands of the people who work for you, so it is in your best interest to make sure that the business provides well for those people. The Rocketship Analogy recognizes this as part of its structure. The crew you go into space with are the folks that will be with you in whatever emergency so you choose well and you do your best to make it worth their while.

On the other hand, employees depend on the captain to secure a cargo, ply their trade, and generate an income. The Rocketship Analogy addresses the responsibility of each crew-member to the well being of the mission and the ship.

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