KL Yong earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, and mythology.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur. You want to venture out on your own. How should you go about it? What sort of staffing strategies are necessary for you to succeed in the cutthroat world of business?
Ancient Greece has the answer! In the form of the 12 Olympians, the most powerful of the Greek gods. They are the expression of what Ancient Greeks considered requisites for a prosperous civilization, so understanding the Greek pantheon will provide you with many insights on effective staffing methods.
Apply these insights to business, and pretty soon, you’ll be accumulating some Olympic profits (figuratively speaking, of course). Here's ancient wisdom from the Greek gods for all ye aspiring entrepreneurs!
Note: The illustrations in this article come from playing cards I bought in Athens years ago. I have been unable to figure out who the artist is.
Note: There are different versions of the 12 Olympians. This article uses the version with Hestia as the twelfth Olympian.
1. Zeus: The Big Boss (i.e., You)
Primary duties: Talent creation, recognition, and management
Zeus, King of the Greek Gods, Lord of the Sky, is renowned for many things. Foremost of which is his constant emphasis on the (pro)creation of heroes. Heroes that could be considered as talents, leaders, or managers in the business process of staffing.
As the figurative "king" of your setup, your primary tasks and concerns should be the same as Zeus. In other words, talent recognition and recruitment.
Leadership is never a simple matter of management or vision casting. Before you can manage, you need to have the people who can execute your will. On this, consider how Zeus himself did it. How he gathered the Greek Gods and successfully overthrew the despotic Titans. How he then churned out hero after hero to ensure worship of his pantheon for centuries.
Now, I'm not saying you should literally emulate Lord Zeus' (pro)creation methods; actually, please don’t! Never staff your most important positions with only family members too!
What I'm suggesting, instead, is that you follow Zeus’ philosophy of always being on the lookout for talents. Naturally, you should also constantly have on hand a variety of methods to assist with your recruitment strategies. For example, reliable staffing software, a strong partnership with dependable human resource agencies, and so on.
The process of identifying true talent is often arduous. It is foolish if you do not use the latest technologies to make the task easier.
2. Hera: Chief Financial Officer
Primary duties: Financial stewardship and management
The Queen of the Greek Gods is usually portrayed as spiteful in Greek myths. To be fair, even if she was, who could blame her? The kind of recreation Zeus indulged in.
At the same time, Hera was also the Goddess of Women and Marriage. All these make it rather difficult to associate the Goddess with business and entrepreneurship, and human resource management. In a lot of ways, Hera feels completely distanced from commercial activities.
That is not the case, though, if you examine Hera’s Roman counterpart i.e. Juno. Historically, Juno played a far heavier role in Roman worship, with the Queen of the Gods for the Romans also enjoying many additional epithets, one of which was Juno Moneta, the protectress of money.
For entrepreneurs, the Hera/Juno in the company should therefore be the person in charge of financial supervision and stewardship. He or she sounds the alarm bell when funds are shrinking, or worse, vanishing mysteriously.
The sheer importance of this task, particularly for new setups, a boss must always work harmoniously with his Hera too – not too unlike an actual husband and wife duo.
Conversely, a rebellious Chief Financial Officer could easily flip a company onto its belly. It is therefore paramount to always select the right “Hera” during any staffing process. Much care must be taken to always keep this “wife” contented too.
Trivia: The First Roman Coins
The temple of Juno Moneta was where the first Roman coins were minted.
3. Poseidon: Business Development Director
Primary duty: Business Development
Other than air, water is the next crucial requisite for life. Astronomers would readily tell you that having bodies of water is fundamental to the ability of any planet in supporting life. For that reason, Poseidon, the elder brother of Zeus, was considered by the Ancient Greeks to be the second most powerful god in the Ancient Greek pantheon. One of the most feared too, whose formidable trident was capable of creating tsunamis and earthquakes.
In business, the water of life is deals. Or jobs, projects, contracts, whatever they are called. (Air would be your cash flow, watched over by your "wife")
The sheer importance of it, deals must therefore always be vigorously supervised by your "brother," as in someone you can completely trust. In turn, finding someone like that is arguably one of the most arduous tasks of effective staffing.
In fact, finding the right business development manager often gets so difficult, the boss absorbs the task into his portfolio. Should you ever find your Poseidon, though, one who wouldn't churn the seas against you, congratulations. You have successfully recruited someone to watch over the most crucial part of your business.
Just be sure to always keep your Poseidon happy. Remember, seas are often unpredictable. Tempests occur within seconds when they come.
4. Athena: Chief Analyst
Primary duties: Data analysis and strategy forming
After Zeus, Athena is likely the most famous of all Greek Gods. Not only is the current Greek capital named after her, she also features heavily in video games, comics, and movies. For this list on effective staffing strategies, I'm referring to the traditional manifestation of the Greek Goddess of Wisdom. This being that of a stern, no-nonsense, armor-wearing strategist.
Or blunt-speaking, harsh counselor, to put it in another way. The Athena in your company is the person capable of objective data analysis and interpretation. Also, the one who wouldn’t hesitate to twist your head or arm a little bit, should you refuse to heed warnings.
To maximize objectivity, your Athena might sometimes need to be someone outside your setup too, in which case, a professional consultant or a genuine friend should suffice. Lastly, remember that knowing whom to listen to and whom to ignore is itself a complex business skill. It is most unwise, to say the least, to mistake saboteurs for sages.
5. Ares: Operations Director
Primary duties: Production supervision, company policy enforcement, etc.
Ares, the Greek God of War, does not enjoy positive publicity in ancient or modern times. Unlike his half-sister Athena, who personified strategy, Ares represented the violent and untamed aspects of war. An uglier way to put it would be that he personified brutality and physical violence.
Not characteristics for any ethical business, I should highlight, but consider one of the more obscure aspects of the Ares persona. That of the sheer determination to get things done.
That raw, unyielding drive to see objectives accomplished, even if it means camping in icy sleet for weeks and months.
Consider too the Roman version of Ares, who symbolized order, discipline, and structure. Like Hera, the Roman version of Ares played a far heavier role in the Roman pantheon, and in many ways, Mars epitomized the foundation for Rome's success.
Apply these values to your company and you will soon succeed in the same way. Like that great empire of old, your centurions and legions would be unstoppable across the continents.
6. Apollo: Communications Director
Primary duties: Marketing, service write-ups, and crisis management
Let's see. What’s there to say about Apollo? Other than being the Greek God of the Sun, Apollo was also the god of music, poetry, medicine, prophecies, healing, etc.
So many portfolios!
But it becomes clear after a while, does it not? The Apollo of your company is the person responsible for public communications such as speeches, press releases, and marketing collateral. His way with words and his ability to attractively package information establish the crucial links between you and the all-important customer. In many cases, he makes such links feel indispensable too.
With Apollo also a god of healing, the human version in your company is the one tasked with crisis management as well. He heals, or at least encourages healing, in the face of conflict. Whatever he says in those times then pave the way for recovery and mending.
Important note here. Tempting as it might be, do not use Apollo's glib words to badmouth your competitors. While the Greek sun god was also previously feared as a god of diseases, such efforts to poison competitors typically come to no good end. In fact, such sabotage inevitably backfire. Keep communications sunny and clean. As the sun is.
7. Artemis: Purchasing Director
Primary duty: Management of suppliers
Like her twin brother, Artemis held many portfolios in Greek mythology.
She was the Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt. She was also representative of virginity and childbirth. Today, historians generally consider Artemis to be one of the most venerated Greek Goddesses. Incidentally, many Greek myths involving Artemis also describe her as chaste and stoically wise.
Hereby, I’d focus on the childbirth aspect of Artemis and apply that in a metaphorical way to the art of effective staffing strategies. As Purchasing Director, the Artemis of your company keeps a watchful eye over your business children i.e. suppliers, on top of always being on the lookout for new ones. She’s also the one who watches over business relationships and partnerships, and ensures only healthy ones are nurtured.
Now, by calling suppliers and partners children, I am not encouraging a derisive view of them. I am also of the view that no business can survive without ardent support from suppliers.
That said, it is a tragic fact that unreliable suppliers promptly bring about the doom of even the strongest company, thus necessitating proper management of such “children” right from the start.
In addition, the chaste nature of Artemis keeps such supervision clean and healthy i.e. no under-table dealings or the likes of. With increasing scrutiny and regulations in the business world, such chastity is crucial for long-term survival. I’m sure you don’t need me to give examples of why you don’t ever want to be caught in bed with your suppliers.
8. Hephaestus: QA Chief
Primary duties: Production quality assurance and R&D
It's easy to see why any entrepreneur would dream of having a Hephaestus in his setup. The Greek God of the Forge was the personification of invention. He was also the creator of numerous miraculous weapons and gadgets. Many of these saved the lives of heroes and mortals in classic Greek myths.
In real life, it's tough to find a real Hephaestus. But you wouldn't actually need one; you just need someone who believes in the values of Hephaestus, these being quality and innovation.
In other words, your Hephaestus is that hands-on, production-level person who understands what quality is, and what must be done to maintain quality. He/she is sometimes also the irritable and quirky one, who constantly cooks up new ways to improve processes or churns out creative product concepts every other month.
Now, to keep any Hephaestus motivated, there naturally a need for a continuous provision of funds, a requisite that could get painful during business downturns.
Don't be tempted to evict your Hephaestus when facing such a predicament, though. Remember, a company that doesn't innovate is a stagnant company. Stagnancy inevitably leads to rotting death.
Always be glad you have weird new ideas to listen to, even when you aren’t asking for them. You'd be begging for these ideas when the industry has forgotten your setup.
9. Aphrodite: Publicity Head
Primary duties: General publicity, branding of company name (not company product)
I have to be very careful with what I write about Aphrodite when it comes to human resource strategies! After all, Aphrodite is the Greek Goddess of Love and Sexuality. The goddess with the most scandalous affairs too.
I'd therefore approach this by encouraging you to ... embrace the power of LOVE. Love, not as in the amorous type, but general love for your company. Love, from the public, for your company.
Your Aphrodite is the poster girl responsible for disseminating positive vibes about your setup. The one who also encourages smiles whenever your company name is spoken. In case you feel this sort of publicity is beneficial only for retail companies, remember real publicity goes far beyond that sort of definition, and is a crucial criterion during large tenders and bank financing.
With consistent effort achieved through the careful use of words and campaigns, the Aphrodite of your company also grows the reputation of your setup. Over time, her efforts become a magnet in your setup; one that pulls customers towards you
Eventually, you might even find your Aphrodite to be indispensable. This is not too unlike how most male Greek Gods find the absence of the real Aphrodite absolutely unbearable.
10. Hermes: Information Systems Director
Primary duties: Management of information, data, and communication systems
When reading Greek myths as a kid, I utterly adored Hermes. The Messenger of the Greek Gods was always so cool and mischievous, and with such cool winged boots! Love him as I did, though, I didn't quite understand why he made it as one of the 12 Olympians. At the risk of incurring his “divine wrath,” I'd confess I thought it was because Hermes was Zeus' little boy. Or simply because the Ancients Greeks preferred an even number for their pantheon.
As a working adult, I finally understood his importance, especially with regards to entrepreneurship and human resource staffing. Hermes was not just a messenger or an errand boy, he personified efficient channels of communications. If you do not see the importance of this, just do a google and see for yourself how many companies painfully lost millions because of information delays or inaccuracies.
With this in mind, the Hermes in your setup should be the one responsible for keeping your communication channels updated, running, and vigorous. Like the case of Athena, he also doesn't always need to be an actual staff; sometimes an external vendor would do.
Last but not least, your Hermes must be providing a functional service. It is meaningless if you have to pay through the roof for him, or if the system itself is too burdensome to use. The latter is no winged boot. It's deadweight.
11. Demeter: Environmental Representative
Primary duty: Environmental affairs liaison
I'd be honest. I'm wasn’t sure what to write about Demeter. The Goddess of the Harvest didn’t feature prominently in Greek myths. The whole agricultural association also makes Demeter somewhat ill-associated with modern concepts of commerce and human resource planning.
But I can't leave Demeter out. Therefore, I'd associate her with environmental issues.
Now, some businessmen would be disdainful about this, but please consider the monetary benefits of environmentalism. Costly as it might be to set up, a deliberate effort towards environmental conservation brings longs term savings. For example, while LED lights cost more to install, they significantly reduce your yearly electricity expenditure. This is a saving that never stops accumulating.
Moreover, environmental consciousness is increasingly insisted upon by governmental bodies. You might be getting away with it now, but how long would it stay that way?
Personally, I think the world would eventually be forced to insist on all industries adopting environmentally friendly practices. With this, in turn, having significant repercussions on business processes.
If you're in an industry that produces a lot of rubbish, do consider getting some Demeter-ish advice. Hey, with enough effort, you might be recognized as a trendsetter.
12. Hestia: Office Manager
Primary duties: Office management, housekeeping
Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth, is the most mysterious of the Greek Gods. And I don't mean "mystery" in the worship sense. There's simply not a lot of stories about her. Sometimes, she's even not one of the 12 Olympians, despite being an elder sister of Zeus.
This fact, and her actual role as keeper of the sacred fire, gives me the impression of a quiet housekeeper. The one who diligently keeps everything up and running.
Sounds to be a very menial role, yes? But how would you be if you return home and there's no water, no bed, no electricity, and no internet?
That's how important Hestia's role actually is. She keeps your company running so that you can forget about these menial things and focus on doing business. She also ensures paperwork is always in order, things are where they need to be, and office equipment is never outdated or faulty.
To put it in another way, Hestia is the silent, almost invisible force in the backend that keeps everyone and everything together. Mundane as this sounds, you'd be truly foolish to ignore the importance of her role. Doing so is akin to courting catastrophe right within your office.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2017 Yong Kuan Leong