The Bootstrapper’s Bible, Total Leadership, anything by Edward De Bono…I’ve got stacks and stacks of books, next to my bed, under my bed...the cruel joke on entrepreneurs is even though they might be in the best position of their life to read, and use, information in classics like these, they have no time to do so. So what’s a time-strapped would-be-Richard-Branson to do? Perhaps it’s time to dust off the DVD player and fire up the finest that entrepreneurial cinema has to offer…while you code your Web site, respond to e-mails and learn to use Quickbooks, naturally.
So you think you are ready to change the world…
This fascinating, mostly-true and ill-fated story of Preston Tucker (and his quest to redesign the American car through his fledgling car factory) is sure to weed out many a lukewarm entrepreneur-to-be. If you are still game to start your own company after watching round after round of Goliath trying to stomp on David like a scurrying bug under an intense and unrelenting boot, you know you’ve got something incurable. Starring Jeff Bridges, the film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who purportedly used the film to mirror some of his own angst from starting his own movie production studio.
So you are choosing a business structure…
The Corporation (2003)
As you might glean from the cover art for this documentary, this Canadian-made film is critical of the modern-day corporation and makes a compelling case for why. However, regardless of your ideology, as an entrepreneur you will need to grapple with not just your business’s legal structure, but also its essence and conscience. Will your American business (assuming it’s not a sole proprietorship) enjoy its legal status as a class of person by behaving as a psychopath might—or take the harder, but higher, road…and how? This film is sure to get you pondering. Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and highly recommended by Brett Hurt, CEO of Bazaarvoice.
So you need some perspective on sacrifice…
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) The word “happyness” is deliberately misspelled in this film’s title, which quickly becomes part of the subtext to the story’s plot. If something doesn’t stir deeply in you after watching Chris Gardner, with his young son in tow, get left by his wife, lose his phone, his apartment, and his car in his effort to become a stockbroker at Dean Witter while trying to take care of himself and his son on the streets…well, I’m not sure what to say. I know I bawled my way through at least a portion of a box of Kleenex. (Probably didn’t help that I was in my third trimester when I watched it.) Stars Will Smith and his real-life son Jayden Smith; directed by Gabriele Muccino.
So you are starting a company with a friend…
I haven’t seen the latter, but Pirates (see video at right) is probably one of my favorite business films of all time. Starring Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates and Noah Wyle as Steve Jobs, if the drama doesn’t get you, the laugh-out-loud parts will. You’ll have new respect for the genius of the men involved, even if you wouldn't want to leave either of them unattended with your trade secrets. The scene where Jobs and Gates have it out over “who had the right to steal the idea” is classic and should be required for anyone to watch with their potential partner.
So you don’t want to think too hard (or just need a laugh)…
Ghostbuters/Baby Boom/Wall Street/Too Many Others to List (1980s, naturally)
Who knew the 80s were such a hotbed of startup movie fare? These biz favorites harken back to times when the ultimate power accessories were speeding tickets, shoulder pads and a severe overdose of hair product. Still, some of the memorable quotes are, even now, pure gold, specifically:
Janine Melnitz (the receptionist for the Ghostbusters while answering the phone): "Hello, Ghostbusters... Yes, of course they're serious... You do?... You have?... No kidding! Just gimme the address... Oh sure, they will be totally discreet. Thank you! [hangs up] WE GOT ONE!"
Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt in Baby Boom: "I can't have a baby; I have a 12:30 lunch appointment."
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street: "Lunch is for wimps."
Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox in Wall Street: "I'm tapped out, Marv. American Express' got a hit man lookin' for me."
So you have an emergency need for affirmation…
Office Space (1999)
Did you somehow forget why you wanted your own company to begin with? Mike Judd’s scathingly-familiar-to-anyone-who’s-ever-worked-in-a-cubefarm mockudrama to the rescue. You’ll never look at a man’s relationship with his stapler the same way again.