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What Does It Take To Run A Successful Business? Lessons From The Movies

If you’re a fan of TV and film, you may have an impression of entrepreneurship based on the series or movies you’ve seen.

Running a business may not be exactly like it seems on the screen, but there are lessons to learn.

In this article, we’ll discuss what it takes to make a company successful.


Movies sometimes present a rose-tinted vision of setting up a new business. In reality, it’s not as easy as having an ingenious idea one day and selling millions of products the next. It takes a lot of energy and hard work to launch a start-up. Ambition is key to forging a path and achieving objectives. You don’t have to set yourself targets of making billions of dollars like Mark Zuckerburg in ‘The Social Network’, but it’s always beneficial to set realistic goals and work towards them. This movie, which charts the journey of Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, shows the stresses and strains involved in getting a company off the ground, but it also demonstrates the power of determination and ambition. Over a decade after the film was released, Facebook has around 3 billion active users. 


One of the best ways to decide what kind of business to launch is to consider your passions and interests. If you’re passionate about your company and the products or services you sell, it becomes a lot easier to persuade others to jump on board. ‘Jerry Maguire’ is a brilliant example of this. Maguire may be a sports agent, rather than an entrepreneur per se, but he’s out there trying to make money by championing the players and athletes he represents. Even when times are tough, and people are leaving him for rivals, he hangs in there, devoting every day to creating opportunities for his clients. Passion is a driving force, which is incredibly powerful for aspiring business owners and people who want to work for themselves. Having a hobby or an interest can help you to carve out a successful career and make money by doing something that you love. 

Strength in adversity

If you read articles or books by business moguls, or you’re a fan of podcasts, it’s highly likely that you’ve come across interviews that talk about rejection, failure, financial hurdles and fear. Getting to the top often involves overcoming obstacles and dealing with rejection, negative press and adversity. The key to turning fortunes around lies in having strength, character and hope when things get tough. ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ documents this struggle perfectly. Will Smith’s character, Chris Gardener, finds himself in a situation where he’s struggling to make ends meet while trying to raise his son. He is determined to pull through and find ways to make money. Despite all the curveballs and hurdles, he never gives up. 

Positive relationships

Movies often focus on tense relationships between company bosses and their employees. There are endless references to bosses from hell and domineering CEOs who treat their teams like dirt, but in most cases, the moral of the story is that this approach backfires. Building positive relationships is much more beneficial. Creating a strong team involves outlining company culture and values and identifying prospective employees who fit with the ethos as well as possessing the relevant skills, experience and qualifications. This is partly about effective recruitment and using services like executive search and partly about focusing on group dynamics and personality traits.  It’s also beneficial to understand the value of integrity and respect. ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is a lesson in how not to climb the ladder, but it also shows the importance of trusting your instincts and staying true to yourself. 

Realistic goals

There are lots of movies and TV series that make running a business look pretty cool, but there’s nothing easy about keeping a company afloat, managing employees and keeping customers happy. Being a director or a boss is incredibly hard work. Setting goals is beneficial and it can motivate you, but it’s crucial to ensure that targets are realistic and achievable. If you aim too high or you expect too much, too soon, there’s a risk of falling short and losing confidence. 


Communication is the cornerstone for effective, cohesive working relationships. Working together is about talking and being open when sharing thoughts and ideas, but it’s also critical to listen. Entrepreneurs can often achieve more if they’re willing to listen to people around them, rather than taking every decision or prioritizing their own ideas over everybody else’s. ‘Moneyball’ highlights the potential value of constructive criticism and feedback. To run a successful business, bosses must be willing to listen to employees and customers and make adjustments. Business is an ever-changing landscape. Being agile and understanding when you’re wrong or when others have more experience or knowledge is invaluable.


If ever there was a film that underlined the importance and power of drive, it’s ‘Joy’. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, the movie tells the story of Joy Mangano, an entrepreneur who establishes a multi-million dollar business despite a series of challenges in her personal life. She believes in her product, the ‘Miracle Mop’ and she manages to persuade customers all over the country to do the same. Her passion for the business, along with unwavering drive and determination, enables her to build an empire from a starting point of struggling to pay bills while navigating life after a break-up and sharing a small house with her divorced parents, children and ex-partner. 

Running a business in the movies may seem like a wild ride or a voyage into the world of wealth and fame, but it can also teach entrepreneurs valuable lessons. Being a business owner isn’t a walk in the park and the journey to success is often fraught with obstacles and metaphorical icebergs. To navigate choppy waters, it’s essential to understand the reality of being the boss and to ensure that you have the passion, dedication, drive and ambition to keep going, even if times get tough or things don’t go to plan. 

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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