The Volcano Business

I have recently returned from a volcanic island and noticed that the island is so much more than just about tourism, it has a ‘volcano’ business feel to it, anyone who’s been to a volcanic island or province will have a feeling of what I’m saying here, it’s just something a bit unique or special in a way that’s somehow related to the near-by volcano.

What I mean by this is that the island’s businesses of which there are many and varied in nature are nearly all concerned in some way with the volcano(s) that made the island millions of years ago. Yes there is the obvious tourism businesses; after all it’s an island in the sun 12 months of the year so tourism will feature strongly, that’s just a no-brainer.

But what I mean is that the volcano business is about making the most of what you have in the time available. The actual time when the mountain decides to explode is anybody’s guess. The last time this island had an eruption was in 1971 and it added an extra 6 km2 to the island which is just short of an extra 1% total surface area. So you can see the islanders are tasked with the uncertainty of when the next eruption will be and the level of devastation that may follow whilst carrying on in business and life.

What I can say with certainty is that the food stuffs grown on the side of the volcano are on the whole exceptional in taste. I bought a jar of honey and not 3 days had passed and it has almost disappeared, the taste was exquisite. I could taste the flower buds of the forest and the aroma was just unbelievable. I’ve been to a few islands now and all of the volcanic ones are the same, different products perhaps but the quality of the products; outstanding.

So the volcano business is based on quality of product, yes! The volcano business is artisan in nature, also yes! There is a scarcity to the number of, and range of products produced. The prices for some of these products is naturally quite high, after all scarcity is the order of the day. This therefore is just one of the business lessons the volcano business teaches us; scarcity + high quality = very high price.

The other defining factor at play is the uncertainty of supply. The volcano could erupt at any moment wiping away a life-times endeavour in the hot ash and lava flow. This is true but nonetheless essential for the quality of the products. The renewal of the land process is essential, the earth gives-up its inner secrets and these are transformed in to fantastic food stuffs, and experiences for the traveller and island dweller alike. I open my pot of honey and it is as if the earth has whispered her inner most secrets into the honey for me to taste each time I have honey and bread.

So the other business lesson the volcano business teaches us is that of renewal. Usher out the old and usher in the new. The timing should be decided not by schedules or plans but should be natural and spontaneous. Do it when it is necessary to do it, NOT when you deem it convenient to do it. The moment will be lost I assure you and the vibrant continuity of your business will be lost, possibly for ever.

Plans and schedules are for managers, change and spontaneity is the stuff that leaders are bothered with. Plans are important, yes, but not essential for leadership. The volcano business is a lesson in enforced spontaneity, it is unavoidable, it will happen. And in addition to this forced cycle of uncertain change is the essence of high quality, scarce and so highly valued goods and services.

So the questions you should be asking is;

Is your business situated at the foot of a volcano? Would it benefit from being at the foot of a volcano?

What would you do if your industry were to be suddenly changed for ever? How would your business respond to a fundamental change in the business environment it operates in?

Could you be the volcano? Could your business sweep all away before it by introducing a product or service so new, and special, and scarce, and highly valued?

That is the essence of modern business, that you are responsible for the change, you are responsible for the spontaneity, you are responsible!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post and if you have any comments or thoughts please feel free to be in touch.

Philip

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