Lessons from the Incan Empire

By David Rubin, president of 1-800-GOT-JUNK DC.

I am a serial entrepreneur and franchisee who is intrigued by the mechanics of business. While I have successfully run a number of profitable companies in the past few years, I also have plans to begin franchising my own concept— Just Moulding, a niche business that designs and installs decorative moulding. Much of my inspiration comes from the brilliant design of the Incan Empire, the largest empire in pre-Colombian America.

I’ve always been fascinated with building systems for managing work and moving information, and I learned that the original Incan ruler had a similar way of thinking. After an unforgettable trip to Machu Picchu and the Incan Trail in 2007, I started to seriously study the design of the Incan Empire. My goal was to discover as much as I could about the Empire’s success and apply it to my own franchising plans.

Here is what I took away from my once-in-a-lifetime experience:

  1. In order to be successful, empires should be distributed so that people can live and work where they produce food. In my case, the franchise system will be distributed so that franchisees can produce money from their geographic market.
  2. In order to spread culture, empires should develop a common language, common units of measurement and a common currency. In my case, we will develop a brand that includes common scheduling system, common branding standards, common training systems and common operational software at each location.
  3. In order to manage an empire, you need discreet management points in the field. These points control the flow of work and the flow of money. In my case, the franchisees will have a very sophisticated IT/management system to enable them to run reports resulting in more efficient operations. I’ve determined that this approach is better than centralized management.
  4. Finally, in order to sustain an empire, resources need to be organic or grown locally. In my case, we will establish relationships with local suppliers and vendors directly benefiting the franchisees in their own markets. This will establish business relationships at the local level and lead to greater business opportunities for our franchisees.

It’s easy to ignore history when you’re in the process of making it yourself. Still, I make it a point to use what I learned about previous civilizations and apply the same methodologies to my own burgeoning business. In the end, I’ve discovered that sometimes the answers to starting and maintaining a business lie in the past. It’s just a matter of digging up the knowledge.

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