In addition to being outrageously entertained, small business owners can learn valuable business lessons from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Here’s two takeaways I discovered.
1. Form Strategic Alliances
If you want to be the best, choose the best companions.
The Empire Strikes Back begins on the ice planet of Hoth, where the Rebellion has a secret base far from the prying eyes of the Empire. In one early scene, an enemy probe droid smashes into a snowbank and we see Chewbacca and Han Solo team up to destroy it.
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But why are Han and his hairy confederate working for the Rebellion in the first place? Because it’s in their best interest to do so. Han provides the Alliance with out-of-the-box thinking and raw leadership skills, while the Alliance offers Han a meaningful place in a movement that will stabilize the galaxy if it succeeds.
Strategic alliances occur when two or more businesses partner up in order to reach goals that strengthen them both. Pooling resources, risks, capabilities and information lets each partner benefits from the other’s strengths.
This is not only cost-effective; strategic alliances renew energy, encourage innovation, and strengthen the business community.
I caught a glimpse of strategic partnerships in action when I interviewed a small business owner in California. Using Instagram as her primary means of advertising, Rachel of Rachel Makes It built a following of over 5000 people who rave about her custom cakes and desserts. Instagram entrepreneurs who want to reach her amazing customer base frequently offer her their own products as giveaways. When Rachel announces the giveaway, she tags the entrepreneur who provided the product, and presto—they are now being viewed by 5000 plus potential customers who might never had known they existed otherwise.
Like the Rebellion, small business owners are fighting long odds to win independence for themselves and contribute to the betterment of the world by providing employment, goods and services which strengthen the economy and their local communities. Forming strategic alliances with businesses who share your vision will increase your chance of beating the odds.
2. Forget About Perfection
If you want to compete, get there ahead of schedule.
Following the Battle of Hoth, Luke Skywalker crash-lands on the swamp planet of Dagobah, where he is to meet a mysterious Jedi master named Yoda. Yoda turns out to be a tiny green creature who subjects Luke to all manner of seemingly mundane exercises meant to bring out Luke’s latent Jedi powers.
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Luke is at a disadvantage from the get-go; he’s begun his training late, he’s temperamental. He postpones his apprenticeship indefinitely while he flies to a faraway Cloud City to assist his companions. Yoda objects; Luke doesn’t listen.
We’ve all had perfectionist bosses, and we’ve all been paralyzed by that little inner voice that insists it’s safer to perpetually revise a project than to just present it to our colleagues or customers and leave ourselves vulnerable to criticism or failure.
For small business owners, perfection is a luxury too expensive to afford. The slower you move, the slower your business moves, and in the world of startups, slow movement is no movement. Perfectionism can become a form of procrastination that leaves you timid about risk-taking and blind to opportunities for innovation and experimentation.
In the early stages of its development, Facebook’s motto was “Done is better than perfect.” Let this be your motto, too, as you grow your small business. Prioritize your responsibilities and put the bulk of your efforts behind the top two or three. For everything else, be satisfied with simply finishing it and moving onto the next task.
Luke arrived on Cloud City too late to save his friends, but his confrontation with Darth Vader provided an invaluable crash course in Jedi combat, and he learned a crucial fact about his life that strengthened his commitment to the Rebellion and to using his powers for good.
In the hypercompetitive world of small business, relentless forward movement is key. Press on courageously, learn through trial and error, and even your shortcomings and mistakes will prove beneficial while your confidence expands with your enterprise.