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Follow Iron Man to Get Small Business Success – The 5 Steps

May 7th, 2010 | Small Business,Small Business Tips | 3 Comments »

Probably my favorite of the super hero movie characters, Iron Man, makes his much anticipated return today in Iron Man 2.  I remember when the first Iron Man came out – about at the same time when The Dark Knight was out – and thinking this movie and the character are just going to be another lame super hero movie.  But I was soooo wrong.  The movie, Iron Man, had an awesome story, great visuals, it was really funny and a great cast.  It truly was so different, at least in my eyes, than the typical comic magazine turned big budget movie.

So can small businesses (and even startups) learn a few things from the movie and Tony Stark who is Iron Man? Absolutely and it would be fitting that we do because after all Tony Stark is the entrepreneur and the head of the fictional Stark Industries.  So here are a few learnings we small businesses can all learn from Iron Man:

1. Be Innovative:  At the beginning of the first Iron Man, Stark was not only holed up in a cave-prison in Afghanistan, but also surrounded by a massively armed set of guards called the Ten Rings.  What did he do, he improvised and out of basically scrap Stark created the Iron Man suit (v1.0) in that cave to take on his guards.  Here is where small businesses may really identify with this parallel of being surrounded and having to break out in order to get customers to recognize that you exist.  By being innovative in a way that helps your customers and solves a problem for them, you can break your business out and get more exposure.  Lesson Learned: Continually look to innovate and improve not only your product, but also your business processes to make yourself more efficient, nimble and flexible in the marketplace.   That way you can break out of that cave and get your customers attention. By the way, here are 4 Tips to Spark Innovation in Your Small Business by Prasad Thammineni, the CEO of OfficeDrop.  It is an excellent post.

2. Avoid Distractions & Stay Focused:  The man underneath the Iron Man suit, Tony Stark, is a serious playboy who likes the wine, women and parties (kinda like that joker QB from Pittsburgh!).  What’s wrong with a few martinis before a big fight, Tony probably thinks?  So he has ample distractions to take him away from his efforts to protect the world against the “bad guys.”  But, Tony does ultimately succeed and actually innovates by building a new Iron Man suit and some seriously awesome weaponry. He does this by putting those distractions aside and staying focused on the tasks at hand.  Small businesses and startups suffer from the same issue of being bombarded by near constant distractions from achieving our goals.  We have to learn to channel our inner Tony Stark and put aside the distractions so we can always remember to focus on our core business goals.  Lesson Learned:  Know your weaknesses that can lead to your business being distracted and set up a method for steering clear of those distractions so you can remain focused on your goals. Here is a good post that has tips for small businesses on Staying Focused on the Tasks that Matter by Ali Hale.

3. Have a Great Advisors and Business Partners:  Pepper Potts is Stark’s assistant and James Rhodes is Stark’s military advisor.  Potts continually works to keep Stark on the straight and narrow away from his numerous vices.  Rhodes, on the other hand, bails out Starks and also gives him continual guidance on all things military and weapons capabilities.  Both Potts and Rhodes play a pivotal role in helping Stark live up to all of the Iron Man hype and deliver on his important promises.  Small businesses and especially startups are just like Tony Stark in need of that guidance.  With all of the distractions, endless choices that small businesses have to make and the pressures to stay ahead of the competition by being innovative, having strong business advisors and partners is critical for success.  Without their guidance and direction, being successful in your business is that much harder.  Lesson Learned:  It really is worthwhile to take the time to run ideas by mentors and seek out advisors that have been there before!  Getting guidance from others, especially successful entrepreneurs, on key business decisions and strategic goals may really pay off in the long run for your business. Here is a post about how we have found advisors to be helpful at KikScore called, Why Didn’t We Think of That.

4. Take risks:  Stark’s original Iron Man suit was not only innovative, but it was a huge risk.  But with the help of his cellmate, he measured his risks and builds that suit of armor.  Stark was surrounded by risks before he created his new invention – having limited time to build it, creating it in hiding while being watched by his guards and all of the while being severely injured and getting no treatment.  But Stark believed in his invention and had laser-like focus to quickly build the suit with the help of his cellmate partner, Dr. Yinsen.  His risk paid off in that he was able to escape from the Ten Rings.  Being risk-adverse, is simply not an option for small businesses especially in our hyper-competitive marketplace.  Therefore small businesses need to be prepared to take acceptable levels of risk after understanding and appreciating the consequences of the risk and taking steps to mitigate those risks.  Lesson Learned:  Instead of running away from risk, sometimes small businesses need to accept and take the risks in implementing (or even changing) your business strategy and tactics to create major success.

5. Be Resilient:  In the movie, Stark’s spirit and will are continually tested either by himself or by the villains.  During his slugfest with the Ten Rings and later in the movie with Obadiah Stane’s much bigger suit, Spark in his own Iron Man suit keeps taking vicious hit after hit.  But Stark  continually gets back up time and time again after these multiple and brutal hits.  Then at the very end, in the heat of battle Stark enlists Potts to help him out.  After all of the hits Iron Man has taken, he and Potts creatively lure Stane to his doom and Iron Man finally prevails.  Small businesses and startups should remember that need for resiliency and the ability to get back on your feet again after falling or even taking a hit from a competitor.  That ability to repeatedly get back up, learn from your mistakes and take those hits, can really pay off in the long run by making your business stronger.   Lesson Learned: Your small business may make mistake or take hits, the key is to keep fighting.  If you adjust, stay flexible and keep fighting back, your business can eventually prevail. Remember, as the management and business guru Jim Collins and author of Good to Great has said, “Resiliency (not perfection) is the signature of greatness, be it in a person, an organization, or a nation!”

Small business and Iron Man really do have a lot in common.  So try to keep your small business  focused, resilient and take those risks while being innovative and seeking out guidance from partners and key advisors.

How do you think a small business can be like Iron Man?

Enjoy Iron Man 2!

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3 Responses

  1. BizSugar.com says:

    Follow Iron Man to Get Small Business Success – The 5 Steps…

    5 Steps to be Like Iron Man & Create Small Business Success – Here are a few learnings small businesses and startups can all learn from Iron Man to create more successful businesses….

  2. Steven says:

    Great article Raj. As an entrepreneur and filmmaker I can appreciate this parallel and this is so true.

  3. Ali Hale says:

    Thanks for the link, Raj, and what a fun post! (It was a fun movie, too.) Some great tips here, I’m with you on all five.

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