Harry Potter And . . .

Book One: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The plot: Ten-year-old orphan Harry Potter lives in a cupboard under the stairs in the house of his uncaring relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Dursleys and their dimwitted son, Dudley. Harry learns that he has wizard blood and must go to the train station at Kings Cross' 93�4 platform to travel to Hogwarts, a school for wizards. There, for the first time, Harry makes friends. He also confronts his enemy, Lord Voldemort.

Business lesson No. 1:Understand the various cultures in your company. On Harry's first day at Hogwarts, he and the other first-year students meet the Sorting Hat, who tells its audience, "Try me on and I will tell you/Where you ought to be." Once donned, the Hat sends each student to one of four dormitories: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. The most talented wizards (including Harry) are sent to Gryffindor, and the sinister ones bunk in Slytherin, where you'll find Draco Malfoy, the most evil high school student in the fictional universe.

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Do you know what's really going on in your company? If you're not sure, check out The Shadow Knows for tips on determining which of your employees yield the real power.

The bigger your business gets, the more cultures it will have-and you need to be aware of them, says Don Andersson, a business coach in Cranford, New Jersey, and author of Hire For Fit (Oak-hill Press).When he read the first Harry Potter book, he immediately noticed how Hogwarts' academic culture reflects that of the corporate world. "If you want a new hire to thrive, the person making hiring decisions must understand your company's culture well enough to know where that [candidate] will be best," Andersson says. "An employee can have wonderful skills, but in the wrong culture, they won't really [work]."

Business lesson No. 2:When you own a company, you'd better be in good company. Your partners and employees are everything; you do realize that, right? Such wisdom is exemplified by Harry's best friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Hermione lies to a professor to keep Harry and Ron out of trouble for confronting a troll, and Ron risks death in a live-action chess game so Harry can prevent the Sorcerer's Stone from falling into the wrong hands.

But loyalty isn't enough. You also need employees and partners who will tell you what they think, not what you want to hear. And if they're smart, all the better.

Potter Mouth

If you haven't read the books, here's a quick guide to key terms:
9: The platform where the train leaves to take Harry to Hogwarts. You'll never find it if you're a Muggle.
Gringotts: The bank where wizards keep their money; fierce goblins guard it.
Hogwarts: The seven-year academy of magic Harry attends.
Mudblood: A derogatory slang term for the offspring of a Muggle and a magical parent.
Muggle: A person with no magical powers. It can be spoken as an insult or with a tinge of pity in one's voice.
Owls: Owls carry messages back and forth-not as fast as e-mail, but more fun.
Quidditch: Think of soccer on brooms, and you've got the idea.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Harry Potter And . . ..

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