First of all it began with nine French Nobles (Knights) all of whom were related with three of them being brothers. These men were strong Christians so when they heard that some people who were trying to visit the Holy Land were being murdered by Muslims, they decided they would put together pilgrimages and help them get to Jerusalem safely.
The men moved to a site that was rumored to be the gravesite of King Solomon so people started calling them the Knights of King Solomon’s Tomb but later their name transitioned to the Knights of the Templar. They were kind of like priest in they took a vow of chastity and poverty. What wasn’t known at the time is they were mighty warriors who never retreated. Their reputation grew as they would win battles no matter what the size of the enemies they faced.
Because of their reputation in battle and their overall mission, people swarmed to join their cause. As they traveled through villages men would volunteer to fight. What started off as nine men turned in to an army of thousands. Although this sounds good it actually led to their demise and this isn’t uncommon to any organization which I’ll explain at the end of my blog.
One of the first problems they incurred is that the original passion they had for protecting Christians became watered down as most of the volunteers weren’t joining the army due to the Knights mission but instead for food and money. During these medieval times conditions for farmers and surfs were terrible. Their governments took so much from them they could barely feed their own families. So although the king of their province tried to stop them, men joined the army for the provisions not the cause. Most experts will tell you that passion motivates people more than material things. With this in mind, the army became stronger in number but not in effectiveness.
Another negative issue that came up with the massive amounts of people joining the Crusade is they no longer had knights/noblemen serving but now had non-soldiers in their ranks. So at first the Crusaders didn’t have to spend a lot of time and resources training but all of a sudden they did and they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Men were going into battle with equipment but not the skills necessary to use them; naturally the army lost strength.
The influx of volunteers led to another huge problem for the Crusaders because the various kings were upset with them for taking away their labor. Plus they were afraid of them because the Crusaders had a large independent army. They figured that at any time the Crusaders could turn on them and take away their kingdoms; of course they never tried to do this but the fear was there. So the various kingdoms started spreading lies about the Crusaders to tarnish their image and stop the donations that were coming in to support their cause. They said things like the Crusaders were raping and pillaging, that they were getting rich off the donations, etc. Their strategy worked because more and more people were concerned about helping them. With the army of Crusaders being as large as they were, not getting help from the communities was devastating.
If you remember from your studies the Crusade lasted for years which meant they kept getting further and further from their homes. With this in mind many of the men deserted the army. The money they were getting for fighting wasn’t worth not being with their families so the size of the army began to shrink taking away from their effectiveness.
One final point in reference to the demise of the Crusaders is that once they started to lose battles they lost their edge. Armies were afraid of them which made it difficult for them to beat the Crusaders but once there was a chink in their armor it opened the floodgate to continued defeats.
The Knights of the Templar were like a civilization unto themselves so they did last over two hundred years before they disbanded so their overall track record wasn’t bad.
This is the end of the story regarding the Templar but if you read on you’ll see there are some great lessons for businesses from what the Crusader’s experienced. In it you’ll get a good idea as to where your company stands in the “life cycle” of existence. Of course some of the best of companies only last three generations so the cycle turns at a much faster rate than what the Templar experienced. As you read what I’ve written see if you can spot the similarities between what the Knights went through and what companies go through.
Problem number one is that when a company starts there’s a tremendous amount of passion for the products and/or services the company offers; they’re excited about their name and the logo. The more the company grows the more diluted the passion becomes because it’s only natural that most people will start joining for financial reasons. Usually the original employees will get frustrated with the addition of new employees because they don’t feel like they have the work ethic they do and this isn’t good for morale.
Another issue that develops when a company grows to fast is they begin to lower their standards a bit in reference to the quality of employee they bring on board. Sometimes they’ll kid around and say something like: “If they’re breathing, hire them!” They’re somewhat kidding around but there’s certainly some truth in it.
These people generally require more training to get them up to speed but most companies are terrible at allocating the resources necessary for quality training. So what ends up happening is that employers end up with people that aren’t necessarily representing the company well. Of course this means customers will start leaving and will have a bad attitude towards the company. The problem is they don’t keep this to themselves so all of a sudden the company starts having people bad mouthing them and negatively affecting their reputation; definitely not good on sales.
It’s kind of funny how this next thing works and I definitely experienced it in my start-up company. As long as you’re not on the radar of your competitors you’re fine but once you start negatively affecting their sales, you’re a target. We would nibble away at small clients but when we started taking away large ones from our competitors’ things started getting ugly. They began starting rumors about our company that we were stealing clients, that we weren’t living up to our promises, etc. None of it was true but it was still out there for us to have to overcome to stay in business.
Lastly I’ll mention a major problem with growth if it happens too fast. Many companies go bankrupt because they try to expand too quickly. Their cash flow gets stretched too thin to stay afloat. Most of the time they overestimate what the new business will do for them. Say for example someone opens up an outdoor furniture store and it’s doing great so they decide to open up another store. Too often they think that after six months it will become profitable but it is rarely the case. Many times it takes around two years for a store to get a foothold and start to stand on its own. With this in mind the owners have to continue to pump money into the start-up store until it becomes profitable and because they often neglect to plan for this, the bank start calling in loans. The owners not only lose their expansion store but their original one as well. Very rarely can a company sustain quick growth without eventually crashing and burning; the examples are endless including many companies that are/were traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
So the story of The Great Crusaders has many similarities to what any organization goes through. Maybe now you can get a decent idea of where your company is in reference to an organizational life cycle. Please don’t be afraid if you see your company is in a bad place because companies turn around all the time and abandon their current approach. There are many things that are too late for them to change but if they will at least pay attention to the type of people they are bringing into the company, allocate a proper amount of resources to training and development (usually 4% of profit is good), pay attention to growth because it makes much more since to take care of your current client base and have their positive word of mouth help grow sales for you, and lastly make sure that all employees are constantly exposed to the desired culture from the owners and why the products and/or services are better than your competitors. This will help instill some passion into the employees; certainly not as much as the founding members of the company but a lot more than if nothing was done at all.