Vail Daily column: Business lessons from ‘Star Wars’
If you haven’t watched “Star Wars,” then this column isn’t for you and you’ve probably stopped reading at the title. For the rest of you, you already know that the “Star Wars” saga, at its core, is really just a large-scale soap opera — set in space, with characters we love, a huge business franchise, etc. — but a soap opera nonetheless. It’s also one of the best things ever, and it has applicable lessons to business.
It’s almost as if Christmas has arrived a week early, because “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens today. The movie is expected to gross over $1 billion and to be the most successful film of all time (no pressure on the filmmakers). For those living under a rock who may have missed the marketing campaign, “The Force Awakens” is set approximately 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” where the Rebel Alliance and the Empire from the original trilogy have become the Resistance and the First Order, respectively, and the story follows new lead characters alongside characters returning from the previous Star Wars films.
“Star Wars” is something that businesses of any size and from any industry can learn from. In the spirit of celebrating “The Force Awakens,” I present some business lessons based on famous quotes from the “Star Wars” movies (including one from the prequels — my apologies in advance to the purists):
• Yoda, “The Phantom Menace”: “Fear is the path to the dark side.”
You can’t lead a team based on fear. In business, managing a team or leading a business from a base of fear, rather than a focus on the positive impacts you can make, is a sure road to failure. Focus on the positive, provide positive reinforcement, and avoid the pitfalls of negativity.
• Han Solo, “A New Hope”: “Don’t get cocky, kid.”
If there’s one thing both Han Solo and entrepreneurs know, then it’s that things don’t always go according to plan — even when things are going well and all indicators remain positive. Issues such as a lack of employee housing, rising health care costs or poor customer service can derail a business even when customers are plentiful.
• Han Solo, “A New Hope”: “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.”
Young professionals starting their careers, much like Luke Skywalker, need to put their time in and need to learn how things work before they can be high achieving team members. Be humble, learn from those around you and apply what you’ve learned to be a valuable teammate. You can become a leader, but you’re never a leader on day one.
• Obi Wan Kenobi, “A New Hope”: “You can’t win, Darth. Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
Old grudges and old enemies can cause you to lose focus of what’s really important. In hindsight, Darth Vader should have focused less energy on his old nemesis Obi Wan and more energy on his new problem: Luke Skywalker and gang.
• Admiral Ackbar, “Return of the Jedi”: “It’s a trap!”
If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Don’t get sucked into thinking business is easy, for it rarely is. Even when things are going well it is important to be aware of your surroundings and be diligent and focused on everything taking place around you.
• Obi Wan Kenobi, “A New Hope”: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for …”
The ol’ Jedi mind trick can be utilized in business to introduce new products or services. Consider Steve Jobs and the iPhone as an example of a product that no one knew they needed until it was introduced, and Apple convinced us we couldn’t live without it.
• Darth Vader, “A New Hope”: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
It’s important for everyone on a team to have faith (confidence) in the product or service your business offers. Without faith in your mission, it’s difficult to achieve the goals of the organization. Any organization is only as strong as our weakest link.
• Han Solo, “The Empire Strikes Back”: “Never tell me the odds”
Business leaders are often told why things won’t work, instead of why things will. Work hard to achieve your goals and you can overcome even the longest odds.
• Yoda, “The Empire Strikes Back”: “Try not. Do … or do not. There is no try.”
This speaks to the importance of perseverance and commitment, two traits that most successful people have in abundance. Plus it may just be the best Star Wars quote of all time.
There you have it. “Star Wars” as applied to business. May the force be with you, and enjoy “The Force Awakens” when you inevitably see it.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership