With all the talk about learning business lessons from movies, I decided to do one just for fun on the movie "300"
*In the following lessons from Frank Miller’s “300”, think of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) as an entrepreneur and Sparta as his small business.
1. Draw up a plan
Before you run out and start your own business (or war in Leonidas’ case), make sure to formulate a business and marketing plan to improve your chances of success. At the Ephor Temple, Leonidas shares his war plan with the priests and says “We will use our superior fighting skills and the terrain of Greece herself to destroy them…we will block the Persian costal assault by rebuilding the great…wall. From there we will funnel them into the mountain pass we call the Hot Gates. Now, in that narrow corridor, their numbers will count for nothing and wave after wave of Persian attack will smash against Spartan shields. Xerxes losses will be so great, his men so demoralized, he will have no choice but to abandon his campaign.” As a startup, you cannot possibly expect to take on the challenges and hardships of entrepreneurship without a sound strategy. It would be like trying to defeat a million soldiers head on with only an army of three hundred!
2. Take action everyday
If you don’t have the self-discipline or organizational skills to work on your business everyday as if it was your last, you will run the risk of business failure. The Ephor priests and oracle tell Leonidas that Sparta will “wage no war at the time of Carnia.” However, as a great leader, Leonidas recognizes that simply honoring the gods with an impending invasion will result in Sparta’s destruction and says “Sparta will burn! Her men will die, her women and children will be slaves or worse!” If your business fails, you may not die or burn, but you will become a slave to the 9-5 for sure!
3. Recruit the right staff
Having passion alone isn’t a sufficient reason to hire a potential employee. Look to see if the applicant’s skill set will fit into your organization or compliment your existing staff. When Ephialtes (i.e. the misshapen hunchback) requests to join the Spartan army, Leonidas is forced to explain that the Spartan phalanx requires that “We fight as a single impenetrable unit. That is the source of our strength. Each Spartan protects the man to his left, thigh to neck with a shield. A single weak point and the phalanx shatters”. As a good hiring manager, Leonidas recognizes that Ephialtes’ inability to raise his left arm above his shoulder would jeopardize his entire organization and the effectiveness of their strategy. Sometimes doing what’s best for your company means having the ability to say “no”.
4. Believe in yourself and your product or service
Visualize success and it will inspire you and your staff to do great things. Right before the first wave of attack at the Hot Gates, Leonidas says “This is where we hold them. This is where we fight. This is where they die…Today no Spartan dies”, and as a result, him and his men were able to execute their phalanx perfectly, defeat their enemy and limit their losses. Without the power of positive thinking, many small businesses would’ve fallen at the first sight of any major obstacles or competition.
5. Don’t allow hubris to blind you
Overconfidence can lead to costly entrepreneurial mistakes such as overestimating revenues and underestimating expenses or the strength of competitors. The narrator in “300” says “The God King (Xerxes) has betrayed a fatal flaw: hubris. Easy to taunt, easy to trick…the mad king throws the best he has at us. Xerxes has taken the bait.” Xerxes’ hubris blinds him into sending his best soldiers (i.e. the Immortals) into a Spartan trap, where a wall of corpses is dropped onto his force. Learn to control your ego, understand how to listen to others, and absorb advice and information from all possible sources.
6. Maximize your employee’s talents and strengths
Utilize your staff to their utmost ability by recognizing the unique talents and skills they have to offer. For instance, rather than keeping one additional soldier, Leonidas says “You (Dilios) have a talent unlike any other Spartan. You will deliver my final orders to the council…tell them my story. Make every Greek know what happened here. Tell of victory.” Leonidas relies on Dilios’ oratory skills to inspire and unite the rest of Greece against the invasion threat. Do you have too many members of your staff doing the same thing and is someone on your team being under utilized?