Summer isn’t just for beaches and barbecues; it’s also the perfect time to retool your small business strategies and improve as an entrepreneur. Let’s take a look at five classic summer blockbusters that taught us awesome lessons about small business.
‘Jaws’ and Reliable Advisors
Police Chief Martin Brody of Amity Island finds himself in over his head when a 20-foot great white shark terrorizes his picturesque seaside village. He knows little about sharks, so he calls in the experts. Matt Hooper is a marine biologist with a PhD and a hipster beard. Quint is a weathered deep sea fisherman, a self-taught shark hunter with scars to show for it. Together they’ll confront the beast and save the day.
When you’re new to small business, one of your most precious resources is established entrepreneurs. They’ve been there and done that. They’ve taken the wrong turns, they’ve made the false starts. Reach out to them. Cultivate relationships. Thanks to the internet, networking is easier than ever before. But it’s up to you to make your network work. Like Chief Brody, be open to outsiders, especially those who don’t seem wildly successful on the surface but who’ve been in the game long enough to know how to survive. Expertise comes in many forms; look for the quality, ignore the form. A simple phone call to an experienced colleague can mean the difference between trouble avoided and a costly mistake.
‘Anchorman’ and Outsourcing
Popular news anchor Ron Burgundy undergoes a crisis when Veronica Corningstone, a romantic interest with big ambitions, proves herself as talented a news anchor as he is. Instead of celebrating her achievement, Ron throws a tantrum and embarrasses himself through various shenanigans until he sees the light and realizes that not only does he love Veronica, they make a perfect on-air team.
When you’re new to small business, you wear a lot of hats. The fewer the hats, the more hours you’ll have to focus on crucial responsibilities. Don’t waste time on work that someone else could do better. As much as you can, outsource tasks such as website management, payroll, accounting, etc., to contractors. Don’t be a “jack of all trades, master of none”; be a master of finding customers and growing your business, while delegating the duties listed above to masters in their respective fields. Veronica’s skills actually added to Ron’s, increasing his longevity and relieving him of pressure. Seek out and hire the services that will allow you to concentrate on what matters most.
‘Jurassic Park’ and Niche Markets
Eccentric billionaire John Hammond imagines a dinosaur theme park, and lavishes his considerable resources on research regarding the resurrection of extinct monsters. He eventually succeeds, but all hell breaks loose when he invites his grandchildren and a small group of academics to preview the exhibits.
When you’re new to small business, you have to define who you are. There are billions of people in the world; only some of them will want your product or service. Figure out exactly who they are, their likes and dislikes, their income, their shopping habits, etc., and tailor your business to them and them only. Not everyone likes dinosaurs, but enough do that Hammond had a solid bet—well, pretty solid—when he staked his fortune and dignity on a carnivorous theme park. You must be as sure of your audience as he was, only take more care than he did (one security guard, really?) to also ensure that none of them get eaten.
‘Aliens’ and the Mindset of Success
Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley survives the outbreak of a lethal alien aboard the spaceship Nostromo, only to awaken from stasis 57 years later and be convinced by her employers to accompany a squadron of marines sent to fight the same vicious species on a distant planet. After many harrowing adventures, she saves a child from the Alien Queen—“Get away from her, you b***!”—and vents the latter into outer space.
When you’re new to small business, your mindset is all. Ripley wasn’t born wanting to be a hardcore alien killer; grit and experience turned her into one. Ripley didn’t ask not to be a trained marine; she survived because she wasn’t. Her independence and familiarity with the enemy gave her a unique advantage. As an entrepreneur, you’re independent by definition. You know what to prioritize, how to expand and improve that knowledge, and how to avoid distractions. Some of your adventures will be harrowing. You’re going to lose and you’re going to suffer. Stick to your guns like Ripley did, and your setbacks will cement the foundation of your prosperity.
‘Batman’ and Building a Brand
Young Bruce Wayne witnesses the murder of his beloved parents in a seedy alley behind a movie theater. Out of his trauma, a vigilante alter ego is born. Wayne uses his father’s millions to become a one-man army in a war against crime, disguising himself as a huge black bat in order to strike terror into the hearts of his foes. The greatest of these, the Joker, turns out in a startling coincidence to be the very psychopath who shot Wayne’s parents in cold blood.
When you’re new to small business, you don’t have a brand. In essence, a brand is your business’s persona. The sight of Nike’s swoosh fills us with impressions of heroic effort and relentless athleticism. The sight of the Bat Signal filled Batman’s enemies with impressions of his heavy, heavy fists. Batman boasted the Bat Signal, the Batmobile, the Batplane, the batarang, the bat-cuffs, etc., etc.—everything utilized for the sake of his cause was absorbed and remade in his image. A memorable brand will launch your business toward instant recognition and set you apart from your competitors. You can’t force a brand to happen; it develops over time. But thinking about it, tinkering with it, and constantly refining it will help you direct its development with skill and confidence.
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This article was originally written on July 13, 2016 and updated on February 2, 2021.