Small Business Lessons We Can Learn from Watching Movies

Small Business Lessons from MoviesMovies have a big impact on our everyday life. There is no denying that even with DVRs where we can record everything on cable television, we still take a lot of time to watch movies. The 2009 movie “Avatar” now has become the highest grossing film in history — by a wide margin.

In fact, technology has increased our appetite to watch to entertain ourselves since we can now watch not only on television, but computers and smartphones.

There’s no reason to feel guilty about watching a movie, thinking you should be working instead.

Relax! You can actually learn about business by watching movies!

I asked a few small business leaders what were their favorite movie quotes of all time and then I thought about what I learned from that movie. Grab your popcorn and take a look at what they shared:


Movie:  Goodfellas. “Business is bad? F-you, pay me.  Oh, you had a fire? F-you, pay me.  Place got hit by lightning, huh?  F-you, pay me.” (From Bob London)

  • Lesson: If you are part of the organization, there are no excuses for results. It is also an incentive to keep your company overhead low so you have cash to pay for what you really need.


Movie: Jerry Maguire: Remember the Mission Statement? “We are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business. Every day I can look at a list of phone calls only partially returned. Driving home, I think of what was not accomplished, instead of what was accomplished.”

  • Lesson: Fewer clients, more personal attention makes for a better business. Growth for growth’s sake is a bad business strategy.


Movie: Road House: “Be nice.  Be nice until it is time to not be nice.”  (From Prasann Thakrar)

  • Lesson: Being nice in business does not always get the results you want. Many times, we need to press our point.


Movie: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium: “Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.” (From by Phillip Zannini – @PhillyMac)

  • Lesson: We need to remember that we are responsible for our own success. Never look for that one magic bullet in business or for someone to save you because no one is coming. The magic comes from the hard work you give to your business.


Movie: Glengarry Glen RossGood leads are for closers“.  (From Vicki Donlan)

  • Lesson: You need to know what to do with a lead if you are going to close a sale. There is no substitution for being able to sell. We all need to learn and have skilled sales people on our team.


Movie: A League of Their Own: “There is no crying in Baseball“.  (From Scratch at Boston Baby Dolls).

  • Lesson: No matter how bad it gets, long term, crying does not help us in business.

From the same movieOf course this is ‘hard’:

  • Lesson: People always tell me that their business is especially hard. Guess what, every business is hard.


Movie: Hustle & Flow – You’re in charge of your business and the power of marketing relationships.  (From Elizabeth W. Wilson)

  • Lesson: No matter where you come from, you can become successful.


Movie: Legally Blonde: Elle uses what she has to achieve her goals. (Submitted by Phillip Zannini)

  • Lesson: We all need to make it work from where we are right now


Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life:  The movie shows the principles of leadership. George Bailey puts his customers, employee and family interests first by taking responsibility.  (From Stephen Antisdel of Precept Partners)

  • Lesson: If more financial institutions has operated this way maybe the “Great Recession” would have been avoided.


My favorite movie quotes are from the movie, Jerry Maguire, as said by Jerry’s mentor, Dickie Fox:

Hey, I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.”

Want more? Check out Kevin Coupe and Michael Sansolo, the co-author of The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies interview on my radio show.

What are your favorite quotes or business lessons from movies?  Share them below.


Barry Moltz Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck. With decades of entrepreneurial ventures as well as consulting with countless other entrepreneurs, he has discovered the formula to get business owners marching forward. His newest book, BAM! shows how in a social media world, customer service is the new marketing.

23 Reactions
  1. “I don’t believe in the No Win Scenario.” –Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.

  2. Great list!

    I’d add the Risotto scene from the movie Big Night, where the chef learns that the customers may have no taste, but they pay the bills and need to be kept happy. See

  3. Ken, that is a great scene: “Two starches! She’s a criminal!” But, hey, the customer pays the bills….


  4. Some of the best business lessons I’ve ever learned come from a famous romance novel — “A Woman of Substance.” It’s the tale of a servant girl who goes on to start a department store and becomes one of the richest women in the world. It was turned into a B-grade made-for-TV movie that I remember watching in the 1980s:

    The author, Barbara Taylor Bradford, went on to become a fabulously rich woman due to the success of this novel. For young women, it was an inspiring and powerful story — still is.

    I’d like to see it turned into a better movie someday.

    But here’s the lesson: set goals for yourself. The heroine decides she’s going to become a “woman of substance” instead of a penniless servant girl … and she does.

  5. Barry,

    What a fantastic way to put some great movie quotes in a post as it relates to business ownership.

    My favorite;

    “It’s A Wonderful Life.” For George, it’s just about doing the right thing. That’s how my Dad did business, and that’s how I choose to do business.

    Sometimes, “doing the right thing,” or suggesting that others should, creates some controversy, and even some ill-will.

    So what?

    Barry, I know you are all about doing the right thing. I see it on your blog, and even on your website.

    Spending some face time with you at BlogWorld last year only cemented my feelings about you, and how you choose to do business.

    The Franchise King

  6. Thanks for the additions and kind comments Joel- will you be at SXSW?

  7. I love Big Night but get so hungry watching it!

  8. Hi Barry,

    I wish I could be there. Maybe next year!


  9. I admit that I am not a movie buff, but I must say that movies could give you great fuel for your soul.

    Barry: I remember that you mentioned, Working Girl in one of your podcasts. I like that movie very much.

    If you are interested in movies, please listen to my interview with freelance writer and journalist, Scott Holleran. The show is focusing mainly on movies and culture. Scott has been involved in the online movie site called Box Office Mojo.

    Click on “Martin Lindeskog” and you could listen to my interview with Scott.

  10. Yes- Working Girl is another great example!

  11. One of my faves: Gladiator. Greatness is not dependent on your circumstances. Maximus was just as good a general at the head of the Felix Legion as he was as a gladiator.

  12. There are many quotes from the movies that help in business, some of which are mentioned in this article.
    However, I do not agree with the quote from Goddfellas:

    Movie: Goodfellas. “Business is bad? F-you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F-you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F-you, pay me.” (From Bob London)

    * Lesson: If you are part of the organization, there are no excuses for results. It is also an incentive to keep your company overhead low so you have cash to pay for what you really need.

    It is true that results are very important. It is also true that ethics are important i.e. one has to empathize with one’s fellow man or woman and try to help him or her when there is a genuine problem. Caring is important because most customers will remember acts of kindness and some may even return the favor so that the medium- and long-term gains to your organization exceed the short-term loss or inconvenience. Money is important but not at the cost of harming a fellow human being, even though his or her problem may not have been caused by your organization.

    Some thoughts on leadership and ethics:

    Leadership is the art of mobilizing others toward shared aspirations. Leaders must take care of all stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, the government, the community, etc. in order to promote overall welfare.

    Ethics is concerned with “doing the right thing” but…

    Moral standards differ between individuals depending upon their upbringing, traditions, religion, social and economic situations, and so on. Hence, the existence of grey areas. Therefore, state the “moral” problem in a simple manner and review feedback so that an acceptable decision can be made with minimal overall harm/loss—i.e., we are concerned with “Pareto optimality,” which is related to the net balance of benefits over harm for society as a whole.

    Economic theory is concerned with the efficient utilization of resources to satisfy consumer wants and to maximize profit and satisfaction. Pareto optimality exists at the point where it is impossible to make any given individual better off without harming another given individual. Although most businessmen believe that profits and cash flow are very important, there has been a move toward the recognition of social responsibility.

    The blind pursuit of profit has resulted in bribes, environmental problems, injured workers, unsafe products, closed plants, and so on—this is unethical. Many business schools emphasize the philosophical, rather than the practical aspect of ethics. We need a practical approach to the solution of ethical problems.

    Ethical leadership calls for morals, fairness, caring, sharing, no false promises or unreasonable demands on others, etc. Is “ethical leadership” an oxymoron?

    Maxwell Pinto, Business Author

  13. “You want to know the best way to go broke – get an increasing share of a shrinking market; DOWN THE TUUUUUUUBES.”

    Danny Devito
    “Other Peoples Money”

  14. WOW-Maxwell thanks for the detail comment!

  15. LW Creative Design

    I haven’t seen a movie that demonstrated raw persistence and determination like The Pursuit of Happyness. Even the special features bring tears and hope. It is a great example of the “never let anyone tell you what you can’t do” lesson:

    “If you want something, go get it. Period.”

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