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Thanksgiving tips: 9 great business skills entrepreneurs can learn from the Pilgrims

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 28 2012 3:53 p.m. MST

Work hard: Surviving in a new land took hard work. Unfortunately, after the leaders organized a collective farm, without free enterprise, many of the men were unmotivated to work. The crops suffered, as did the Pilgrims. Fortunately, the leaders decided that the land could be divided and each family grow its own corn. The ambitious would eat while the lazy would go hungry because they wouldn’t work for it. The hard workers prospered, as did corn production. Within two years they had a surplus and began trading it with Native Americans and other small settlements for furs to export to England in exchange for supplies. Corn became currency as entire families worked on their own patch of soil. Now those were entrepreneurs!

Form partnerships: The Pilgrims learned to partner with each other and with the Native Americans to survive. They couldn’t do it alone. If you’re struggling with a certain aspect of your business, partner up with an expert.

Be teachable: If the Pilgrims hadn’t been willing and humble enough to accept help from the natives, they would never have learned to live off the new land. As entrepreneurs, we need to be willing to ask for help and be teachable enough to learn and apply the new direction. As educated as we might feel, there’s always something we don’t know.

Be thankful: After arriving at Plymouth Rock, Governor Bradford wrote in his journal, “Being thus arrived at a good harbor, and brought safely to land, they fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof.”

Whether or not you are religious, expressing gratitude (even to your employees, partners, customers, etc.) will give you the humility needed to continue on.

So, as you pause to give thanks during this holiday season, remember these characteristics that helped the Pilgrims lay the foundation for the country we love — one that allows the right to own property, to engage in free enterprise and to live in a society governed by justice and the rule of law. The lessons we can take away from their experiences can be invaluable.

What other characteristics do you see in the Pilgrims? Send your notes to @AskAlanEHall or you can find me at www.AlanEHall.com.

This column originally appeared in Hall’s weekly Forbes column.

Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.

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