2012 Oscars: The Artist Succeeds Without Special Effects


The Artist

In a world where high-budget special effects rule, where teen superheroes throw cars around and a movie about plane crash survivors in Alaska can’t get by without a bunch of CG wolves, a return to the silent movies of the 1920’s is a refreshing change. Obviously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed, giving The Artist(1) Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Directing, along with Best Costume and Original Score.

It’s worth thinking about the impact of a silent film in a world that embraced the “talkies” (movies with sound) over eighty years ago. Viewers who were accustomed to the loud noises, fast motion and bright colors of current movies embraced the graceful black-and-white, wordless portrayal of a love story accompanied only by music. Sometimes old-school is just as good (or better) than the latest technology.

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Business Lessons From The Hunger Games


The HUnger Game Trilogy Poster
Courtesy of thehungergames.co.uk

If you’ve read The Hunger Games* you know that it’s a story about a young girl, Katniss Everdeen and her fellow competitor, Peeta Mellark. They’re forced to participate in a brutal competition with 22 other young citizens from different districts in their country, in which the winner is the last person alive.

One could draw the comparison between The Hunger Games and the dog-eat-dog world of small business, but there are other (less violent) lessons to be learned as well.
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the book there are a few plot details revealed here. But nothing that will spoil it for you overall. Read the book. Or go see the movie. Really – it’s well worth your time. In the meantime, here are 4 business lessons that we learned from the book and upcoming movie.

Know your odds and develop a strategy to beat them

In The Hunger Games, Effie Trinket, the escort for the combatants, tells them, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” This is particularly ironic since the odds aren’t ever in their favor: only one person in twenty-four will finish the games alive.

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Retail Insights from Harper Grey


The Savvy Shopper - Harper Grey

So, you’re thinking about opening a small business. Or you already have one. Maybe you have a fast-food restaurant, or a dry cleaning business. Or you sell women’s clothing, skateboards, office supplies or the latest, greatest widgets. No matter what kind of business you have there’s one thing that matters most when it comes to your ultimate success: whether or not customers show up and buy your stuff (or services). Oh, it might be really great stuff. At a really great price. And your store might be really, really fancy. But maybe you’re missing out on some business. And you can’t figure out why.

I’ll tell you why: you’re too close. You can’t see your business with the eyes of your customers. This happens with writers all the time (which is why we have editors–to read our words with the eyes of readers). William Faulkner is rumored to have said, “kill your darlings,” meaning that writers must axe some of their words (even if they’re fantastic) if they don’t work well. Stephen King claims that, “It’s always easier to kill someone elses darlings than it is to kill your own.” Why? Because you’re invested in those words. You wrote them with love and it took you a long time and your house was messy and your kids were neglected the whole time you were crafting them. So once you finish writing the last thing you want to hear is that some of it isn’t any good. To a writer, all of her words look fabulous. Even when they’re not (which is more often for some of us than others, but that’s a different blog).

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Happy Presidents Day – Business Lessons Learned From Past Presidents


Surprisingly few U.S. presidents owned small businesses prior to their political careers. It’s not hard to figure out why: most small business owners are too exhausted trying to keep their business afloat to get involved in politics, or they’re still waiting to sell enough “widgets” to fund a multi-million dollar campaign. The majority of our past leaders were trust-fund babies, lawyers or military men (or some combination of the three). However, we can learn some valuable lessons from three past presidents who started small businesses before becoming Commander-in-Chiefs.

Abraham Lincoln

Two important lessons come from Abraham Lincoln’s small business experience. First, location matters. Second, booze won’t save you when your location stinks.

When you look for that first retail space, it might be tempting to go with a super-cheap, sort of dingy shop in a neglected strip mall. You figure you can always upgrade location later, once you’re making better money, right? The problem with this strategy is that you might not ever have the opportunity to make decent money if you’re in a bad location.

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3 Essential Valentine’s Day Lessons for Your Business


Valentine’s Day is a tricky holiday. You can either make your loved one very, very happy or make her very, very angry. It’s a holiday that can make or break a relationship that is still in its budding stages, or cause husbands to spend countless nights on the couch. But, if done correctly, a Valentine’s Day celebration can strengthen your relationship and let her know just how much you love her (and can’t live without her), which makes your daily life better in every way.

For business owners, there are some lessons to be learned from this holiday. You really can’t live without your customers–the last thing you want is for them to break up with you. Think about the following truisms about Valentine’s Day, and apply them year-round to your business.

Remember to Acknowledge the Important People in Your Life

There are husbands out there (and probably wives, too) who completely forget Valentine’s Day. This is disastrous. When she first wakes up, a wife hopes for an acknowledgement of the holiday. When that doesn’t come, she thinks perhaps he will surprise her. Then she sits at work and notices the flower delivery guy dropping off roses at her colleagues’ desks all day, but not at hers. She gets home, hoping to open the door to a trail of rose petals, or a dressed-up husband with a dinner reservation. Instead, she opens the door to find that the kids are starving and her husband is watching sports on TV. Still, she hopes that perhaps he’ll whip out a small velvet box from the jewelry store, or at least a box of crappy grocery store chocolates. When he kisses her forehead and goes to bed at 10:00, she finally understands. He forgot. In her mind, it follows that he must not care at all about her and doesn’t love her at all. Of course, this is not true in most cases–the guy just forgot. But you’d better believe that he’ll be paying for this error for the next year.

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