I have spent the past 13 years running two businesses from my home. For most of those years, I've also been a stay-at-home parent. Much of what I've learned in each role is useful in the other. For example, negotiating a contract isn't much different from haggling about bedtimes (minus the tears).
And strangely enough, watching cartoons with my children has provided multiple useful insights and a-ha moments through the years. Here are 7 valuable business tips I got from my kids's favorite cartoons.
- Stick with the bare necessities. Baloo in The Jungle Book sang about looking for the bare necessities. When you're starting out in business, bootstrapping or not, sticking with the bare necessities is a good habit to develop. You may be tempted to head straight for the new furniture, best computers, expensive equipment, and high-priced consultants. Don't. Start with the bare necessities, and stretch them as far as you can. If you're careful with your resources now, you're more likely to be in business a year from now.
- Be the best. In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston was “especially good at expectorating.” That probably won't be your specialty (let's hope, especially not in the spitting sense!), but you must become adept at sharing what you have to offer. Know what you do best, and let it be the focus of your growing business. Take advantage of your niche, play to your strengths, and don't be shy about showing them off, or, as Gaston might do, expectorating them.
- Be yourself. Aladdin thought he could get the girl by pretending to be someone else, but becoming Prince Ali Ababwa didn't work for him. It won't work for you, either. Whatever else you're good at (see #2 above) you're the best at being you. Get comfortable with who you are, share with others on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and in person, and enjoy the success authenticity brings.
- Honesty is the best policy. In the real world, liars don't have growing noses like Pinocchio, but they do have shrinking businesses. Word of mouth and referrals are essential to the growth of your business, and even one negative opinion can be harmful. Remember that your brand is being built on your reputation. Protect your integrity and that of your business by being forthright and honest.
- Maintain healthy skepticism. Snow White learned the hard way that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes, a perfect red apple is just what it seems, but there are also plenty of bad apples in the barrel too. Check references, confirm claims, and obtain input from a trusted advisor before making any big decisions affecting your business.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. In A Bug's Life, Flik couldn't defeat the grasshoppers by himself. It took the creativity and muscle of all of his friends to succeed. The same is true in your business, and in your life as a business leader. You will need help. Whether it's an accountant or a babysitter, swallow your pride and ask for the help you need to move your business forward.
Be persistent. Dory, the chronically forgetful regal tang in Finding Nemo, sang, “Just keep swimming!” That is the best advice for any small business owner. Sometimes you’ll feel like you're drowning. Other times you'll barely be treading water.
Remember that “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” (William Feather) Keep your head above water as well as you can. And whatever else you do, remember to just keep swimming.
Question: What are some of the things your favorite cartoon characters have taught you about being successful in your business?