5 Start-up Lessons Movies Taught Us

It’s summer! And summer always makes me think of summer blockbuster movies!

Movies provide a fun escape from our everyday reality – and with the economy over the past few years, a bit of non-reality is definitely in need. Movies entertain, educate, spark discussion… We often leave a movie with a different perspective than the one we took with us into the theater. Though they are fantasy, movies provide a point of view we take with us into our real life.

For every “Gone With The Wind” there are at least ten in the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Hangover” genre. And for every depressing frame of “Sophie’s Choice” there are 100 inspiring scenes like those from “Rocky” or “Field of Dreams”.

From the perspective of a start-up, we can learn a great deal from Hollywood.

Here are the Top 5 lessons we learn from watching movies:

Never Let a Fellow Cast Member Slow You Down

We’ve all seen the movie where the bad guy is in hot pursuit with a gun, chainsaw or a 1967 Chrysler. Invariably, the slowest of the group running from said bad guy falls – placing the good guys in further peril, and the audience in suspense.

In a start-up, a CEO needs to make sure his entire team is capable of out-running those with black hats and waxed mustaches. One “slow” team member stuck in an antiquated mindset, or paralyzed by a lack of contribution, can jeopardize the hard work of the others – and allow the bad guys to catch up.

When You’re Disarming a Bomb, You Will Cut the Wrong Wire

Just once, will the hero be blown to a million pieces after cutting the wrong wire; and those big red numbers count down to zero? No, probably not – not good business in Hollywood.

At many points throughout the growth of a start-up, you’ll have to make quick decisions. And you’re going to cut the wrong wire. When that happens, it’s time for a re-write. Take two.  You’ll learn from your mistakes and the second take will be better than the first .

Besides… To really start over, sometimes you gotta’ blow stuff up!

Turning in Your Badge and Gun Doesn’t Fix Everything

In every cop movie, the maligned “good cop”, fresh off a cussing out from the agitated captain, pauses – then gently places his gun and badge on the desk. He turns slowly and, without saying a word, walks out in resignation.

In a start-up, we all feel like that once in a while. “Screw it!” we say. “I’ll go get a real job, and enjoy my weekends and sleep peacefully.” But we never do it. Just like the good cop always returns to solve the case, so do we – coming back for more, wondering if it’s due to commitment, or perhaps insanity.

Sometimes More is Less

Hollywood is constantly seeking out the next big hit, willing to throw hundreds of millions at the next potential blockbuster. In the meantime, movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, and more recently and modestly “Black Swan,” rise from minimal budgets to prove themselves, and go on to great success.

Fresh out of the Great Recession, more and more start-ups – those that might have received $5 million in seed money just a few years ago – are now running as lean, bootstrapped organizations capable of stretching a single dollar to its tearing point. Proof of concept is king. Those that gain an audience slowly and sincerely – perhaps through organic social media campaigns and viral video – go on to achieve greatness.

Leadership is Based on Motivation

In the movies leadership is absolute – and seemingly always based on the ability to motivate, energized by the need to survive. With flaws readily apparent, leaders in movies always rise above the challenges and inspire those around them to do something bigger. William Wallace. Erin Brockovich. Crash Davis. Mandela. George Bailey. Ripley. All exceptional leaders and motivators – in fiction, or not.

Like the movies, in a start-up leadership is in large part the ability to motivate and inspire; to do more than you ever thought possible, with little or nothing to work from. All while ensuring the company’s survival.

Of course, it’s easy to inspire others to greatness when you have four script writers working for you. Not so easy in real life, where your ability to spontaneously muster up a witty quip at just the right time – to give others a reason to charge the hill while outnumbered and out-gunned – is substantially more difficult. Not impossible, however. In today’s entrepreneur-driven world, those who do can assume a status previously reserved for movie stars. Right, Mr. Zuckerberg?

Movies, from independents to blockbusters, can teach us a great deal about our businesses, ourselves and our ability to lead and inspire.

What did you learn from the last movie you watched? What movie inspires you to greatness?




About the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, YouTern CEO Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in Forbes, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, and Under30CEO.com regarding internships, emerging talent and the current job market – and was recently honored to be named to GenJuice’s “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” list. Follow Mark on Twitter!



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