5 Terrible Business Tips From Hollywood Films

Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Business Start Up Advice [ 1 Comment ]

The other day I was speaking to a friend who was speaking about serial killers with a surprise amount of expertise for someone who had no criminal justice training. She seemed completely sure of her facts as she listed off the precursors for serial murderers and the psychological reasons. She came up with an entire profile. I was amazed and asked her how she knew so much. Her answer? She watched a ton of Criminal Minds.

I am dead serious, she got her extensive experience from a fictional show about criminal profilers working for the FBI. While the program might have a decent amount of fact thrown in, and they probably do a lot of research to get stuff right, it is still not an educational format for people to learn to catch their own serial killers. It is a venue for entertainment.

This got me wondering about what other ways people might use Hollywood to get advice. With the mass amount of movies out that feature businesses as a heavy emphasis, could people really be foolish enough to take them for their word?

If so, here are five tips you should never use in your own business. Though, hopefully you weren’t planning to anyway.

1. Wall Street (1987)

The Lesson: Greed is good.

Wall Street

Michael Douglas delivered a speech directed at his subordinates in the classic movie about corporate corruption, Wall Street. In it, he explains that greed is a positive thing, one that keeps the business going and will give a chance to everyone involved to make a greater profit and keep things moving forward. He compared the business itself to the USA, and states that greed will also be what turned the wheels for the country, the ultimate corporation.

I don’t think we need to look far to see the problem with this analogy. We are currently recovering from a major financial crisis that has effected the entire world. Large banks and investing firms were lending money to high-risk citizens at enormously ridiculous interest rates in order to get more quick cash. The CEO’s and employees who generated greater profits using these methods ended up with huge bonuses, even as the institutions that enacted them had to be bailed out following the crash by the government.

The people behind it more or less got away with it; bonuses were kept, people remained in their jobs and next to nothing has changed. Legislation has been fought by politicians greedily holding on to lobbyist dollars, and looking back through history these financial troubles have happened before and will happen again.

The Reality: Greed in a large business is only to be expected, but too much can have serious consequences. That is just as true for the little guys who fall into its trap.

2. Office Space (1999)

The Lesson: Take from the company that takes from you.

Office Space

Ron Livingston gives a rather passionate monologue that speaks to anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle. According to him, we are not meant to spend all our time staring at a computer screen, acting like drones as life goes on outside those three-wall spaces that entrap us. This is something that everyone can probably give a hearty “Hell yeah!” to.

But his solution was to use a program to embezzle $300,000 from the business, as well as one of the most memorable parts of the film where he and his two buddies steal a copier and beat it to pieces with baseball bats. Later, another employee sets the building on fire over office supplies.

The Reality: In a movie, such antics are hilarious. In real life, stealing that much money from a company probably isn’t something you can get away with. Oh, and replacing a copier is

3. The Godfather (1972)

The Lesson: Business is business.

The Godfather

Ah, Al Pacino. He was one of a handful of men who have truly managed to make the gangter film industry what it is today. In The Godfather, I don’t think anyone can forget his statement to the doomed Sonny, that business is business, and it is nothing personal.

The phrase “business is business” is usually used as a justification for doing anything for a profit. People are regularly stepped on under this banner, and it doesn’t matter what you do to the individual because it’s “nothing personal”. But this just isn’t how it works, or at least it isn’t how it should work. All actions have consequences, and if you forget that people are affected by your business you might end up making some mistakes that are impossible to recover from.

The Reality: If you have ever watched the Godfather movies in entirety, you know how that motto ends up.

4. Working Girl (1988)

The Lesson: Playing it safe is a necessity when you are working your way to the top.

Working Girl

Melanie Griffith stated that when you are trying to get into the top ranks of the business world you have no choice but to play by the rules. Once you have made it, she said, you can bend those rules as much and as often as you like.

Think of some of the major names in business today: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates…these are only a few massive innovators who did what they did best by stepping out of tradition and doing their own thing. They bent the rules; in fact, they demolished them and wrote their own.

The Reality: Taking a risk and stepping out of convention can pay off and help launch you to the top.

5. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)

The Lesson: It wasn’t me!

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Rudy Vallee cowardly stepped away from taking any responsibility if something went wrong with his business, despite being at the very top of it all. Instead, he chose to allow those beneath him, who had less responsibility to the company than himself, take the fall for any mistake.

If you are a CEO, if you lie to your shareholders then the whole company will suffer. Not trusting you, those who once backed you will instead back out to deal with a lower risk prospect. If you lie to your customers you will also lose them, as anger and paranoia lead them on to different pastures. This is just the way it works in the world of business.

The Reality: Running an honest company will give people faith in that company.

Kate is a home-based entrepreneur and social media strategist for Sell My Timeshare blog.

One thought on “5 Terrible Business Tips From Hollywood Films

  1. avatarAl Pittampalli

    We now live in an age of transparency…one where the consumer has so much more power than they did years ago when many of these films are made. Doing business ethically isn’t just a should…but it’s a must in our new internet driven world.

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