If you are looking to take your business to the next level, a trip to the movies can offer the inspiration and practical advice you might be looking for. Whilst learning from business case studies is productive, they are rarely memorable or fun. So, why not sit back, open the popcorn and learn from some of Hollywood’s finest — the good, the bad and the positively ugly.


1. Joy (2015):

‘I don’t know about charts and lines — or business. But I do know this mop’.

Based on the true story of a struggling single mother, Joy Mangano, who invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop, the film has many lessons for budding entrepreneurs. Joy grapples with trial, error and debt, but ultimately succeeds in building a hugely profitable business empire with help of her ex-husband, a mentor at QVC, and investment from her father’s latest girlfriend.

The big lesson to take from Joy is to identify where you need help. You may know your product, but Joy made expensive mistakes in intellectual property rights, manufacturing contracts and inventory management, because she failed to consult the professionals.

Everyone needs help when trying to get a new business off the ground — from the services of a tax accountant to automated shift planning with Planday. Accept the fact that you cannot do everything on your own and look for those with the skills to make a positive impact on your company.

2. Wall Street (1987):

‘What’s worth doing is worth doing for money’.

The mantra of this movie is ‘greed is good‘, as ambitious young stockbroker Bud Fox is pushed to his limit, not to mention a little insider dealing, by ruthless financier Gordon Gekko; so Wall Street is generally seen as a cautionary tale. But along with showing us the dangers of letting our moral integrity be compromised by the pursuit of money, the film also has some great advice in terms of valuing your services and products.

If what you do is worth it, trust that people will pay for it. The internet has generated a culture of ‘free stuff’ and initially it can help to attract customers, but never be afraid to put a price on your time or your products. Along with a lesson in business ethics, Wall Street also provides a glimpse into the realities of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, company valuations, investment law and capital markets.

3. Monsters Inc (2001):

‘You and I are a team’.

The Monsters Inc factory provides the power for the city of Monstropolis which is generated by children’s screams. This involves the monster employees, ‘scarers’, creeping into the human world and collecting the screams of frightened children. What’s interesting for business owners, is that the top team of Sulley and Mike failed university, but were lucky enough to work in a corporate environment which was prepared to give a chance to those with appropriate skills.

Monsters Inc shows us that it’s important as a boss to appreciate that leadership doesn’t always have to come from the top and often it’s those at the bottom of your company who are making their way up through the ranks who have the best understanding of the business, so seek their counsel.

The film also highlights the importance of teamwork, for while Sulley has the charisma to lead, he needs Mike’s strategic skills to be successful. So, when putting together a team, look for those with complementary skills.

4. The Godfather Trilogy (1972):

‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse’.

The Godfather tells the story of the Corleone family, who fight off all competition to become the most powerful and successful organised crime family in postwar New York. Both Vito and his son, Michael Corleone, are shrewd business operators who both understand the importance of building relationships and alliances to get ahead.

While the Corleone business empire operates outside of the law, it still has important lessons for all business students about the role that relationships play in commercial success, the value of networking, mastering the competition and the need for long-term diversification.

5. The Social Network (2010):

‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies’.

Just how did Mark Zuckerberg go from Harvard student to multimillionaire creator and founder of Facebook? The Social Network does a great job of teaching us how to upscale a business developed in a dorm room, to one of the most successful global companies in the world. If you’re looking for inspiration, this film should give you all the entrepreneurial motivation you’ll ever need.

There are many important lessons to be drawn from this film. On the negative side, success can often prompt backstabbing and legal rows, but more positively, it highlights the value of relationships, mentorship, investment and creating an employee culture that turns a great idea into a profitable and successful business.

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