The Oyster Principle
By John Counsel
If you’ve ever sat opening oysters in search of pearls, you’ll know what a frustrating exercise it is. You usually end up with a large pile of wasted oysters and no pearls! On the rare occasion when you do manage to find a pearl, chances are that it will be flawed or misshapen.
(Paspaly Pearls of Broome, Australia, the world’s largest producer of cultured pearls, put your chances of finding a pearl at less than 1 in 50,000.)
The Japanese realised a long time ago that pearls were the result of a process, and if you want to control the result, all you have to do is define and control the relevant process for predictable, desirable results. So they created the cultured pearl industry.
The only real difference between a cultured pearl and a “natural” pearl is that one is the result of a random, uncontrolled process — an accident — while the other is the result of a deliberately controlled process, by design. Other than that, the process is identical. The oyster begins coating a tiny pebble or other irritant with nacreous substance, and continues until it no longer irritates.
From our own point of view, the relevance lies in the different motives for opening the oysters in the first place.
Pearl fishers open oysters in the hope of finding pearls. It’s difficult, dangerous (life-threatening!) and they’re frequently disappointed. On the other hand, the cultured-pearl farmer opens the oyster to commence a process — to initiate a relationship — that will produce a predictable, desirable result. All it takes is time, effort and discipline.
There’s almost no risk. And if they do happen to find the occasional pearl when they open an oyster for the first time, it’s a bonus.
These diametrically opposite perspectives are reflected in the motives, attitudes and behaviour of the two groups. And in their lifestyles and stress levels!
The lesson to be learned from this principle is simple but powerful.
Instead of putting a result ahead of the relationship that produces it in our perspective (and, therefore, in our priorities), with all the attendant risks of damaging that productive relationship, focus instead on maintaining, enhancing and protecting it so that continuing results are assured. Even if no immediate result is obtainable, it’s worth the time, effort and discipline in the long run (see “The Winning Perspective”).
Two of the secrets of Japan’s phenomenal commercial success are the ability of its business leaders to think long term — 10 to 25 years ahead — and to form highly productive and mutually profitable relationships.
In purely practical terms, it means regarding every prospective customer, every enquirer (even the nuisance) as an oyster — not as a pearl!
Initiate the relationship.
Find ways to get under their skin in a positive, desirable fashion.
Eventually, they’ll turn into pearls and present themselves to you, ready to buy.
But if you expect instant results, and are prepared to “burn” prospective customers in order to get them, you’ll get exactly what you deserve… a stinking mess all around you, and no rewards. (See page 70 of the hard copy version of this book).
See “Why Other People Are Essential to Our Success”, for a more extensive examination of the importance of personal relationships to you and your business success.
Occasionally, in live seminars and workshops, people ask me which of the Principles of Success is the most important. While all of the principles are crucial to your success, this is the one I regard as the most central — and pivotal — of all.
It actually encapsulates nearly all of the other principles. Once you’ve examined all of the principles and perspectives in this book, see how many of them you can identify within the Oyster Principle.