The summer movie season got an early start this year with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War. The latest in the Marvel franchise has already cleared more than $450 million in less than two weeks.
Summer movies are big business. According to boxofficemojo.com, 12 films last summer passed the $100 million mark, led by Wonder Woman’s $412 million.
There can be more to these blockbusters than gee-whiz special effects and a constant barrage of explosions. Movies can often connect to the real world, to aspects of business and leadership — all you have to do is look hard enough.
Here’s a flashback of how some of the biggest summer movies over the years can tie into a small business owner’s efforts.
The Avengers series (three films since 2012)
Marvel patiently laid the groundwork for the superhero series by first releasing films about Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America. Putting them all together led to a big Avengers debut in 2012. The Marvel films kept going — Captain America: Civil War in 2016 added Spider-Man into the mix, along with Black Panther, which served as a precursor to that character’s massive hit film earlier this year. And the newest Avengers film incorporates the crew from Guardians of the Galaxy.
Business lesson: Hiring is a critical aspect of running a small business, and entrepreneurs may daydream of having an all-star team of talent around them. How that talent fits together in the business is equally crucial. In a story for Entrepreneur, Joanna Lord advised focusing on how a new marketing hire can blend into the work environment.
“You might be tempted to hire that hotshot with the cocky attitude,” she writes. “And on the flip side, you might want to hang on to the legacy hire who is no longer committed to the company’s future. You have to let culture fit trump expertise. Always. There is no candidate worth losing your culture over. Similarly, no marketing team can reach its full potential if there’s a culture mismatch. Culture clashes can lead to negativity, lack of respect for processes, turf wars, silos and friction about the current plan. All these things can tear a marketing team apart — and stunt the company’s success.”
The epic adventure film is a good example of people joining forces with one goal in mind. In this case, it’s taking out the shark that was terrorizing a beach town. The main characters attempt a variety of ways to defeat the mighty beast. Sure, the ending is an unlikely one — Roy Scheider’s Chief Brody character, on a sinking boat, landing a rifle shot that makes the shark explode — but it’s a tense and thrilling example of a never-say-die attitude.
Business lesson: Put a premium on having a clearly-defined focus. Small business owners that can make smart decisions based on their goals are on the right track. As David Finkel writes in a story for Inc.com, “Too many companies have great goals on paper, but simply don’t act in alignment with those goals, or their stated priorities and values. Instead, these underperforming companies allow their efforts to become fractured and scattered, often working at counterpoint to each other. The most successful companies get all their moving parts working in alignment with each other to achieve their top objectives in a manner consistent with their core values and priorities.”
Star Wars (1977)
Like so many prospective small business owners in search of funding, director George Lucas had a hard time selling his space fantasy to movie studios. This seems preposterous now, but as this story on starwars.com notes, the first film started after “a difficult pre-production phase of nearly three years, in which it was difficult to even find a studio willing to invest in the movie.” Lucas persevered and eventually made the film he wanted to make. Imagine the studio executives who were kicking themselves when it became a worldwide phenomenon.
Business lesson: Follow your passion. Though it does not guarantee success by any stretch, the passion we have for projects we truly care about will always mean a bit more. Joao Alhanati explores how this kind of enthusiasm can make a difference in a story for Investopedia.
“We are all enthusiastic and passionate about something, whether it’s finance, food or a favorite sport,” Alhanati writes. “That enthusiasm is very powerful. When we can combine it with our work, we are setting ourselves up well for achieving true success. … When we are enthusiastic and proud of the work we do, the better equipped we’ll be to overcome the many obstacles that will surely arise in the process of starting a business or moving up in a career.”
In one of the funniest summer movies of the 1980s, a ragtag quartet — led by three off-kilter scientists — manages to battle supernatural forces emerging in New York City. This unlikely group of heroes somehow saves the city from destruction with a combination of brains, daring and highly-dangerous nuclear-powered proton packs.
Business lesson: Being scrappy can go a long way in business. Entrepreneurs getting a company off the ground can benefit from having the drive to succeed at all costs, and making all efforts to develop great products, build a customer base and earn a profit. Jason Nazar describes taking a unique path in a story for Forbes.
“You can’t do what everybody else does and expect different meaningful results,” Nazar says. “The people that break out of the pack are those that are willing to do something meaningfully different than everyone else. If all the cars are coming one way and you are going the other way, you will get dramatically different results.”
Wonder Woman (2017)
The box office champ was DC Comics’ best attempt so far to compete with Marvel’s superhero universe. Almost from the start of the film, it’s clear that the character is a compelling leader. And an interesting element is her helpful tool generally regarded as the “lasso of truth.” By tying it around someone, he or she is forced to tell the truth.
Business lesson: Honesty is imperative in running a business. It’s not worth the trouble and damage that can be caused by weaving a web of lies for employees and clients. As Alyson Paige writes for the Houston Chronicle, “Honest business practices inspire staff and customers with respect for your mission. Honest business practices build foundations of trust with colleagues, competitors, staff, customers and every other individual and entity. When employers deal honestly with their staff, employees are motivated to drive the business forward.”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The wisecracks of the teenage character and his friends are perhaps the most memorable things about this classic summer comedy. But Bueller also manages to outsmart almost everyone he faces: his well-meaning-but-clueless parents, a snooty restaurant host and the overly-aggressive high school principal. Granted, he could use a heavy dose of the aforementioned honesty, but that wouldn’t have made for a fun movie. Bueller’s creativity and intelligence in dealing with people — including authority figures — leads to his ultimate success.
Business lesson: A small business may have a hard time competing with larger and well-established competitors. But being smaller can also mean being more nimble, and that includes communication. Pius Boachie examines this in a story for Entrepreneur.
“One huge advantage of being a small business is the ability to interact with customers directly, removing the bottlenecks and bureaucracy of larger businesses,” Boachie states. “… Your ability to respond to emails, inquiries, send handwritten ‘thank you’ notes and solve complaints results in amazing customer experiences which yield more customers through word of mouth marketing, online reviews and social media channels.”
This article originally appeared in David Kiger.