Entrepreneurs are constantly learning on the go: From their peers to their idols, and, most definitely, from their own mistakes—the course of running your own business is full of lessons learned.
However, when you can learn some of these lessons before embarking on your own journey—it only makes the process that much easier.
I feel that there are a number of valuable lessons for the aspiring entrepreneur in films—which is an incredibly important medium for transferring information.
A good business movie is informative and educational without skimping on the entertainment value.
So, are you looking to kill some free time and to be inspired at the same time?
Hollywood loves a good story, and what better story is there than a story about someone facing the struggles of trying to succeed in business?
From scrappy underdogs trying to succeed against powerful, established competitors to simple explorations of the daily struggles faced by business, there are dozens of classic business movies about the business of doing business.
There are a number of important lessons any budding new entrepreneur can learn from Hollywood’s version of business as depicted in these business movies.
Whether you’re looking to relax and decompress, or you want to boost your motivation and enrich your business knowledge, these are my favorite business movies that you’ll actually learn something from.
Having said these little things, enjoy the show!
noteIn a further post I will cover the following movies:
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
This business movie is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
Jordan is an author, motivational speaker and former stockbroker who is renowned for his aggressive sales style. Although Jordan was eventually charged with financial fraud and stock market manipulation — he was a masterful salesperson.
You can think whatever you want about Jordan Belfort’s lifestyle of debauchery. But he knew a thing or two about selling — especially during his time.
I'm not fucking leaving! The show goes on! – Jordan Belfort Click To Tweet
He’s a controversial figure, but his techniques work. He knows how to power sales teams to generate more sales and blast through their limitations.
His company, Stratton Oakmont Inc. employed 1,000 brokers and managed $1 billion in assets.
Sell Me This Pen
The “Sell me this pen” scene in the movie illustrates a fundamental selling point; one that is often rushed past in our enthusiasm to present product features and benefits.
rule of thumbUntil a need is recognized, it simply doesn’t matter how great your product or service is.
I would add to that: until that need has a higher priority than your prospect’s other needs, it doesn’t matter either. A sales presentation or conversation that doesn’t uncover or address an urgent need is usually a waste of time.
So how do you identify a need and create the urgency to act on it?
Often the need is not readily apparent to the prospect, or buried under a lot of other wants and needs.
People can lose sight of their needs when overwhelmed with too many responsibilities and decisions. This is where salespeople can serve an important role.
We are in a unique position to help our customers step back and take a more objective view of their needs through a discovery session or needs analysis. This is the basis of consultative selling, to ask probing questions that reveal pain and discover underlying buyer motivation.
We have to establish the need and a buyer’s desire to change by highlighting the discrepancy between what they currently have – and what they can potentially have by delivering a compelling value proposition.
Hold The Line
Let’s take a look at a scene from the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio is cold calling a potential buyer of the penny stocks that he is selling.
He is selling a product that is close to worthless, but he manages to convince the buyer of the item’s immense value.
Let me tell you something. There's no nobility in poverty. – Jordan Belfort Click To Tweet
Below is a quick summary of what you can learn from this pitch:
The Wolf of Wall Street Cold Call
He immediately uses the prospects first name, using language that is very casual. This conveys a sense of familiarity and friendship with the prospect, improving the salesperson’s chances of keeping them on the line.
He immediately explains the reason for the call. This is critical when cold calling — prospects want to know the purpose for the call within the first 10 seconds.
The most interesting part of this line is that he is already making the offer more enticing to the prospect. It isn’t just a call about stocks, it is an exclusive call and excellent opportunity to make money.
In this section, he provides more information on the purpose of the call. He explains that he has an exciting and unique offer available. He also uses the prospect’s name multiple times. This technique is useful for grabbing the prospect’s attention and ensuring they are listening to each word.
He then tells the prospect exactly how long the call will take. By informing the prospect that the call is short, he tells them that they won’t be spending much time talking on the phone. Since it’s a short call — why not play along and listen to the entire pitch?
He jumps into a quick explanation of the product that he is promoting. Note the use of words like cutting edge, high-tech, and next generation, which are used to promote a sense of excitement and uniqueness.
Making the deal seem exclusive in this way can trigger the fear of missing out (FOMO) in the prospect.
He now provides a “very” exciting value proposition. Jordan also indicates what kind of investment would be required to achieve this return, which gives the prospect a sense of what is required of them. There are plenty of emotions being triggered in the prospect at this point, with the most prominent being excitement and greed.
At this point, Jordan adds the final touches. He indicates that he has a track record of success and the proven ability to pick winners. He also confirms that detailed analysis has been done on the product in question. This isn’t just a random product, the research indicates that it is guaranteed to be a success.
American Hustle (2013)
American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).
This business movie is loosely based on the ABSCAM investigation (short for “Abdul scam”) of the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which the FBI got several members of Congress on videotape agreeing to accept bribes from a man they thought was a wealthy Arab sheik.
When you are offered a favor or money, take the favor, not the money. Jesus said that, didn't he? – Irving Rosenfeld Click To Tweet
Throughout the film, the characters played by Bale, Adams, and others have to convince, sell, trust, and entrap one mark after the next. Although they don’t use the jargon you’ve probably heard in a sales seminar, they employ one smart technique after another to close the deals.
Closing Is My Cocaine
American Hustle, which won a Golden Globe for Best Picture and picked up 10 Academy Award nominations, is a must watch movie.
Especially if you want to explain how really great salespeople find leads, draw customers, and make deals.
Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad but you had to survive? – Irving Rosenfeld Click To Tweet
With that in mind, I watched it over and over to find the sales advice portrayed in the movie.
Much to the chagrin of the FBI agent, Rosenfeld insists on reeling in the marks slowly, to the point of making it seem as if the plan was their idea.
For example, Rosenfeld recruits a friend to dress up as an Arab sheik and walk around with him so targets will beg him to let them do business with his wealthy friend.
Customers are apprehensive of salespeople. Instead of turning your customer’s attention toward a specific product, you can say, “I like looking at nice things, too.” That kind of comment can turn an encounter into a conversation, rather than a situation that puts a customer on edge.
Stay the course!
Forced by the FBI into an elaborate sting operation they can’t control, the characters reveal some instructive lessons for businesses.
The problem of capturing data arises when Irving, Sydney and Richie meet Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro), notorious mob leader. While they know that he will be involved in the deal to build Atlantic City, the FBI has no proof to take to court. They need independent data from their own team’s testimony. This required them to try and get people on tape providing visual and audio records.
As a business, you may not need the high standard of court cases for your data, but you still need it. Mobile apps can provide you great accurate data. With GPS location capture, automatic time and date stamps, photos and e-signatures, you can provide great data for even the most doubtful audience.
A major issue the operation faces is controlling the flow of information. At one point, Richie calls Irving at home. Rosslyn (Jennifer Lawrence) picks up the phone, and overhears their conversation. Rosalyn thus learns that Richie is somehow involved with the government, not just on a bigger con scheme than usual.
This creates a leak in the operation. Not only does she put the operation in jeopardy, but also the lives of Irving, Sydney, Richie and her own.
A data leak in business may not threaten people’s lives, but it can be a huge security issue. Even major companies like Target are struggling to keep their data secure.
Ultimately, Richie leaves the FBI in disgrace because Irving and Sydney are able to fool him. They do this by making him think he’s got his evidence. Richie, Irving and Sydney all go to a meeting with Tellegio’s attorney, bringing him a check and to gather evidence that the mob will be behind the Atlantic City casinos. They leave the meeting with Richie getting exactly what he thinks he needs, Tellegio’s attorney recorded taking the bribe.
Collecting accurate data is crucial in both law cases and business. In order to make the right decisions for your business, you need to know you are working with the most accurate data possible.
Throughout American Hustle, Irving faces a series of choices. Each time, he lets himself be convinced that he has but one choice. Only when his life is being threatened by Tellegio’s men does he take a stand and realize he has a choice in how to survive.
Great businesses, like these characters, have to take their choices into their own hands. Today as a business, you have multiple options in how you collect data.
Whatever you do, take a good look at your business, what hurts you about your data collection today, and what you think you’ll need tomorrow.
War Dogs (2016)
War Dogs is an American biographical crime war comedy film based on a true story.
Previously titled Arms and the Dudes, the film stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as two ambitious young men who supplied weapons for the US’ allies in Afghanistan.
All the money is made between the lines – Efraim Diveroli Click To Tweet
This business movie is based on a Rolling Stone article by Guy Lawson about the true exploits of David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill). War Dogs follows two friends in their early 20s living in Miami during the first Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts.
Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life.
But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military—a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.
Don't Be Cheap
In the movie, they underpaid or didn’t pay a lot of the people they worked with along the way.
No one stood up for them in the end because everyone had a bad taste in their mouth from working from them. The people they underpaid, paid late or didn’t pay at all were central in making sure these dudes failed.
There are plenty of viable cost-cutting measures and businesses should take advantage of every one of them.
Unfortunately, cost-cutting does not always make sense and can cost your business more than it saves over time.
While entrepreneurs know that every penny counts when running your own business, sometimes your efforts to save money can backfire, costing you more in the long run.
Track Records Speak Louder Than Words
Older individuals trust people that have spent a lot of time in one chair at one company. People are always suspicious of young successful people.
The two dudes in the movie always had to fight against the stereotype that they were young and didn’t know anything.
They called guys like us war dogs, bottom feeders who make money off of war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield – David Packouz Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, they delivered functioning guns and munitions to the Afghan army.They deserved some credit but never received it.
Being a young entrepreneur can definitely have its advantages, but it can also cause you to be viewed in a negative light by some potential business partners and media publications.
In order to prove that you are not immature or unqualified to properly manage your business, you need to take steps to set yourself apart from your age and showcase your skills.
There is a huge style crisis in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg have become famous for wearing t-shirts, jeans, and hoodies, but this is not a good way to get people to take you seriously.
You need to consider the fact that if even people who are as successful as Zuckerberg are being looked down at for their wardrobe, that means you need to dress impeccably whenever you are meeting investors, being interviewed by the press or hosting a press conference.
Sometimes art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art.
But a good business movie has the ability to do both. Such movies have the power to change someone’s life instantly. While, in many cases, some of the information expressed through film may be veiled or hidden under an extravagant plot—if you keep your eyes (and ears) open to them, you can take away a lot of valuable advice from good movies.
Even if you aren’t running your own business, but want to be one day, it is a good idea to watch business themed movies rather wasting time on useless tv shows.
Who knows, you might be able to learn something new or get inspired with new ideas!
If you enjoyed the article or have any comments, recommendations, or tips for improvement please do comment below.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.