The Greatest Showman: Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Feb 22nd, 2018 Business Development

The Greatest Showman is riddled with teachable moments for entrepreneurs at all stages.

We confess. We’re obsessed with The Greatest Showman. It’s musical theater brought to the big screen in its purest form and we cannot get enough. At any point in the day, you’ll find one of us humming (or belting out) songs from the major motion picture soundtrack that we haven’t given a rest. This is the first ‘feel good’ film of its kind in a long time and as such, we’re savoring every last lesson.

The script and score are both relatable and inspiring. Here were some of our most memorable takeaways:

It's the thrill of the chase.

A common thread among people who start businesses is their unique ability to hustle. They aren’t moved by extrinsic motivators but are driven by an intrinsic, unwavering flame. Let’s face it- not everyone burns so brightly. These are the people who have the mental fortitude and vision to persevere when most people justifiably bow out. Entrepreneurs embrace risk, not because they are thrill seekers, but because the chase is part of the journey.

In the movie, P.T. Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, had a bleak childhood. He spent his days dreaming of the life he could create for himself. Every day he made conscious choice to do something to improve his circumstance. This included convincing himself and those around him that it was possible.

Entrepreneurs embrace risk, not because they are thrill seekers, but because the chase is part of the journey."


Ye will fall short.

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. There will be moments where everything is stacked against you and to quit seems like a logical choice. The Greatest Showman demonstrated the personal side of entrepreneurship. There are choices to make every day. In the early stages of building a business your personal finances (and your family’s) financial well-being is tied to the business’ feast or famine. This is incredibly hard to work through and can make the low points seem never-ending.


Go against the grain.

P.T. Barnum was a visionary. He saw something in the ordinary that others didn’t see. Like artists, entrepreneurs create something from nothing. As with all new ideas it took a risk. He had to use the power of persuasion to inspire others to take the risk to start something with him. Scouting and recruiting talent early on in a business is incredibly difficult. You’re asking people to take a leap with you. It’s a specific type of person who chooses to work in a startup operation. Once the talent is in place, you’ve got to convince a marketplace that what you’re doing is worth early adopting.

How do you market something that’s never been done? You form a brand story. You manufacture buzz. You hustle. You make unlikely friends and allies, and you recommit to that brand through every extension of your business.


All that glitters is not gold.

Once a business has proven its value, opportunities will present themselves. In the case of The Greatest Showman, P.T. Barnum saw an opportunity to align himself with an act that would appeal to an elite target audience. He desperately wanted to break into a new marketplace to prove that he could, even though it was off-brand. It proved to be too big of a leap. As the business relationship unfolded his personal brand was called into question. Remember that there is always an opportunity cost. When you’re working one angle, there is something else not being addressed. What gets your time has your attention, and if you’re not focusing on the largest profit center of the business, you need to make certain that you’ve thought through the implications of that decision.


Be Rooted.

As amazing as P.T. Barnum was, he fell short on a number of fronts. He failed to financially prepare. He failed to properly plan. He failed to communicate and he failed to recognize things that were chiefly important because of his blind love for the pursuit of “success”. To err is to be human. P.T. was just that. He was human. In his missteps, he had people in place to help him overcome. When things seemed impossible, his wife was his greatest cheerleader. She believed he could, so they did. Early on, he aligned himself with a business partner who was similar enough to him, but very different. Your business counterpart shouldn’t be a replication of you. That person should be the yin to your yang. A successful business partnership should be the personification of a Venn diagram. You have polar opposite approaches, question and think through decisions and ultimately land somewhere in the middle.

Go see The Greatest Showman. It really was The Greatest Show.


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