I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to learn that I’ve won Suikoden II.
It is about the soldier Riou, who after surviving a disastrous false flag operation, ends up leading the Allied Army against his former homeland. Along the way he can recruit up to 108 soldiers. The main antagonist of this game, the Highland king Luca Blight, is such a terrifying villain that his genocidal rampages seem like something from the six o’clock news. Suikoden II’s mechanics are standard 16-bit RPG, the graphics are slightly more detailed than Chrono Trigger, the music is good nice and the story is heartbreaking. If you enjoyed Breath of Fire 2, Final Fantasy 2 or Chrono Cross, Suikoden II is the game for you.
But it doesn’t matter whether you’re a gamer or simply a busy mum trying to make ends meet, because Suikoden II has five amazing lessons to teach us all how to better run our small businesses.
1. First, Take The Time To Relax
Suikoden II is technically a game, but I doubt that the traumatic events it depicts were much fun for Riou. What sort of teenager would enjoy watching their adopted sister die, villagers getting massacred and the other horrors of war. Likewise, being the owner of a small business can be very stressful. Dropping your kids off at the local private school, fiddling with your own taxes, dealing with freelancers… it’s a war-zone out there!
Riou certainly knew how to relax. Whether it’s throwing dice into bowls with Tai Ho, dancing with Karen, fishing with Yam Ko, whacking moles with Tony, or helping the renegade chef Hai Yo win a cooking tournament, Riou always found a way to decompress after a hard day of watching the destruction of everything he cared about.
Why not take a leaf out of his book? Deactivate your cell and go mini-golfing. Enjoy a wine-and-cheese night with the lads. See the new Zoolander film. Being busy is fine, but get too busy and you’ll soon be too tired to actually achieve anything.
2. Recruit Hard, Recruit Often
A small business is nothing more than a small amount of people coming together for a single purpose, money. An army is no different, although an army is different in that those people are usually armed and about to kill other people. But the principle remain the same, neither organisation can perpetuate its existence without new recruits.
Riou knew this well, so well that he recruited just about anyone who would join his army. It didn’t matter to him whether the volunteer was a homeless man, a vampire, a talking bipedal dog or even an actual wolf. Riou’s open-mindedness paid huge dividends, with that same wolf playing a crucial role in defeating the final boss.
A similar approach to potential employees would serve any small business well. Look beyond team-players, marketing superstars and anyone who describes themselves as fun while maintaining a straight face. Consider those who are different from you: diverse races, religions, sexualities as well as the disabled. Riou was able to find 108 soldiers for his army. How many will your prejudices let you find?
3. Strive For Peace, But Win The War
Riou may be something of a rarity among military leaders in that he didn’t want war. He’d much rather be hanging out in his hometown of Kyaro with his friend Jowy and step-sister, practicing his martial arts or just mucking about. Any small business owner worth their salt will recognise the feeling, when a new competitor enters the market and you must crush them in order to survive. You don’t want to hurt people, but more importantly, you don’t want them to hurt your small business.
Knowing that the peace only occurs in the interlude between wars, Riou worked to end the conflict as fast and as ethically as possible. Even though he knew that people would suffer in the long run if the Allied Army attacked hard and often, he knew that things would be worse in the long run if he let the war drag on indefinitely. Similarly, in the high-octane world of small business, it is cheaper to crush an opponent entirely than to gradually grind them down.
Next time some new firm muscles in on your market, why not undercut their most popular product by producing a slightly cheaper version of the same thing? Or maybe run a smear campaign, vetted by your lawyers, to demonstrate to the public the vacuity of your rival’s claims? Or even, and I’m just spitballing here, develop a superior version of whatever you’re currently doing and hope it becomes a big hit. Whatever you do, do it fast and do it hard.
4. Your Sympathetic Enemy Is Still An Enemy
After Riou, fifteen of his soldiers, and several archers finally defeated the genocidal king Luca Blight, things were looking good for the Allied Army. Even better, Riou’s old friend Jowy had managed to make himself king of Highland. The palpable sense of relief this leadership change gave the Allied Army would be familiar to many Australian small business owners, especially after Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott. No one is fooling themselves by thinking he’ll go to heaven, but in Turnbull Australia has a leader it can respect, right?
At first, Jowy seemed trustworthy. Even before he was king, the player was treated to scenes of him protecting civilians from the worst excesses. And after the defeat of Luca Blight he reached out to the Allied Army through the appropriate diplomatic means and even offered them an armistice. Unfortunately, that armistice was actually a treaty of surrender, and so the war had to continue. Turnbull is arguably worse than Jowy, as he failed to shield Australians from the demented policies of Tony Abbott. Jowy and Turnbull are seemingly sympathetic replacements for monstrous leaders, and both betray everything they claim to believe in by continuing the disastrous policies of their terrifying predecessors.
Turnbull will charm some small business owners with words like ‘innovation’ and ‘agile’, confusing them into thinking that their interests are identical to tax-avoiding multinationals. Be like Riou – realise that the new boss, while capable of presenting a human facade, is functionally the same as the old one. Although I doubt that the small business owners of Australia will need to lay siege on Parliament House and fight a two-headed wolf to remove Turnbull and his party from power, more political engagement would be nice. Read from a variety of media sources, scrutinise the policies and past performances of each political party, and always remember to place the Liberals last.
5. Leadership Comes In Many Forms
Although Riou was technically the leader of the Allied Army, he tended to do all the work himself, aside from a few occasions when he delegated to certain experts. Leadership in the small business sector is often very similar, with valiant owners taking responsibility for the failings of their employees. But just as in Riou’s story, the worst business situations can be ameliorated by a dose of delegation.
And who did the great Riou delegate to? There was the mercenary leaders Victor and Flik, the turncoat General Kiba and his tactician son Claus, and most importantly, Shu the military genius. While Riou provided the moral direction and some of the HR work for the Allied Army, Shu was the one with all the plans. Really, Shu was the most interesting character in the game – if Riou wasn’t there Shu could’ve easily run the whole show.
There are people in your life who would love to take a leadership position in your small business. Give them a chance to show you what they’re worth, by allowing them to take on some of your already swollen workload. Go look through your resume slushpile, where you may find a golden candidate. Who knows, maybe you’ll find someone willing to die for your vision, like how General Kiba died for Riou’s.