Starting and managing a successful small business can feel a lot like the Hunger Games movies and books. It seems that, like in the movie, the odds are ever in your favor – in other words, not in your favor since most small businesses fail within the first two years of operation.
Having just seen the most recent Mockingjay movie installment of the franchise, it occurred to me that there are plenty of small business lessons to be learned from the movie. Everything from the gruesome battles to the ridiculously stacked odds closely parallel the life of a small business owner, and there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from those parallels.
Below are just a few of the key lessons from the movie and storyline that can be applied to help us achieve small business success:
Small business owners aren’t afraid to go big and take chances. From the opening scenes of the first movie, it became obvious that the main character Katniss was a risk-taker. Very few are comfortable with the big gambles she takes throughout the movie, even though most of them pay off in the end. The same thing goes for entrepreneurs: small-scale change and incremental risks typically don’t pay the dividends that we all look for as small business owners, but the big ones do. When defining your startup business model or small business growth plan, look for ways to break the mold with innovative solutions and operational execution that will help propel your enterprise to new heights.
Entrepreneurs show strong leadership and resilience. Despite the odds being stacked against her (or perhaps because of those odds), Katniss knew that she would need to demonstrate strong leadership and resilience if she were to have any chance of survival to fight for the bigger cause. Whether introducing a disruptive product or service to the marketplace, managing employees through tough times, or selling your concept to potential lenders, entrepreneurs have to have strong leadership. They also have to be comfortable with phrases like “no” and “that’s not how things work in our industry,” since they are likely to encounter more than their fair share of resistance and obstacles along the way.
The most successful small businesses fight for a cause. Just as the protagonists of Hunger Games were fighting for something much bigger than mere survival, the most successful small businesses are those that strive for a vision greater than their product or service. For example, when I started my first successful small business, my goal was to simply fill a business-to-business IT services niche that I thought would be a good opportunity. It wasn’t until I shifted to my even more passionate cause of “helping businesses across the globe become more profitable” that the business really took off. There are plenty of opportunities for successful small businesses out there, so you might as well pick one that you are passionate about.
Small business owners are as much about execution as they are vision. Katniss doesn’t succeed as the movie’s protagonist simply because of luck or a grand vision – she also defies the odds because of her ability to execute. For example, her sharpshooter bow hunting skills saved many lives on many occasions throughout the movie, and that skill came with a lot of practice and hard work. Similarly, small business owners need to ensure that they, their teams, and their business processes are all flawlessly executed to ensure success. It may not be the sexist part of running a business, but building a well-oiled machine that can grow and someday run without you requires you to execute very well and very consistently.
Small business owners need to score high on the “likeability” scale. In a perfect world, everyone would always like you as the business owner. Getting caught in the line of fire with difficult customers, underperforming employees, and cutthroat competitors, however, probably means that this isn’t likely to happen for most of us all the time. However, we can strive to position ourselves in a positive light as much as possible by making the right business decisions, leveraging ethical business practices, and creating a customer-focused organization. Just as Katniss’ likeability proved to be the tipping point in more than one precarious situation in Hunger Games, entrepreneurs need to ensure they can connect with customers, employees, investors, and even competitors on a personal level.
Small business success is about survival of the fittest. I don’t think I’m giving much away by saying that Katniss is one of the few characters that survives the various games she was forced to compete in. By the same token, only the best entrepreneurs will survive the 80% failure rate of small businesses – let alone be one of the even fewer that achieves great success and small business growth. Improve your odds by taking as many small business training courses to prepare yourself for the challenges and to learn from others’ mistakes.
While it may be good news that most small business owners don’t have to worry about literally fighting until death, the bad news is that the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship can often feel that way. You’re not alone as an entrepreneur and it’s quite possible to be successful with the right skill set and approach.
Join one of our upcoming free small business webinars to learn some of the ways you can increase your odds for success.