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Holy Guacamole! It’s Cinco de Mayo.

Yep, Saturday was Cinco de Mayo; hard to believe it is here already. Now for those of you that think Cinco de Mayo is five reasons to choose real mayonnaise over Miracle Whip, you’d better buckle up before reading on.

Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day, right? Nope. Not right.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday recognized mostly in the United States to celebrate the Mexican culture. Oh, and to drink lots of Coronas, with limes of course. It is also celebrated in the Mexican state of Puebla, where it is formally referred to as El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla (translation: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).

In this battle in 1861 against the French, a group of about 2,000 from the Mexican army defeated a well-armed group of French soldiers numbering about 6,000—in a single day. Realize that the French army was comprised of professional soldiers, who were well-financed and consistently successful. The 2,000 representing the Mexican army? Farmers, locals and others with little financing and little experience.

How did they win? There are probably lots of factors that contributed to the victory, but there are four things that stand out that businesses can learn from.

  1. They were grossly underestimated by their enemy. The French never imagined the Mexicans would really even put up a fight. In fact, some of them believed they were likely to be friendly to the French. So, a force of 6,000 trusting the enemy would simply lay down encountered a violent response, one that turned out to be deadly for about 500 of the French. We cannot underestimate our competition. We must always assume they are working against us and a little ahead of us. We must be motivated to increase our market share.
  2. The men comprising the Mexican army were chosen by the Mexican president, Benito Juarez. He chose a group of men that were fiercely loyal to Mexico. Men who were willing to go above and beyond to make sure they succeeded, even in the face of adversity. Another good lesson for businesses…loyalty is a strong emotion, especially with associates. And associates are the “tip of the sword” for businesses.
  3. This group chosen for their loyalty was hastily thrown together. They were led by General Ignacio Zaragoza who died of typhoid shortly after this victory. While Zaragoza was there to lead these men, they succeeded because they were self-starters, self-motivators. While they relied on their leader to direct them on the battlefield, they all took their positions and each “did their thing.” Just like each of us. We don’t need anyone to motivate us; we are motivated to serve our customers and to succeed, to grow our business profitably.
  4. This victory was a real energizer for the Mexican army and set the stage for this resistance movement, with the aid of the United States, to eventually force the French to withdraw. Success breeds success. It did for the Mexican army and it will for us. We should always use even the smallest of wins to propel us.

I know. All you want to know about Cinco de Mayo is where you can get the cheapest case of Corona. But this holiday, like many things, can remind us of the things we need to do to succeed. Good lessons and a party to go with them…what more can you ask for?

About the Author

Phil Bounsall

Phil Bounsall

As president at Walker, Bounsall is focused on the development and execution of strategies and operating plans designed to enhance Walker’s position as a global leader in customer intelligence. Bounsall also works with Walker’s client service teams to help meet the needs of Walker’s clients.

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