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7 Vital Business Lessons You Can Learn From The Hunger Games

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hunger games business lessons

Katniss Everdeen is in business—the business of staying alive. This is not an easy gig. You thought retaining clients or finding new customers was difficult, but at least it’s just your livelihood on the line instead of your life.

Yet, being a small business owner can feel like a life or death situation at times. When sales are slow and clients are sparse, it can feel like you’ve been thrown in with the wolves with a flimsy marketing book as your only weapon for defense. And who knows better about fighting your way back out of these types of sticky situations than our latest post-apocalyptic hero Katniss?

No matter how you slice it, the Girl on Fire has quite a few lesson’s she can teach us about staying alive in business when the going gets tough.

Here are 7 killer business lessons you can sink your teeth into from the Hunger Games…

 

Hunger Games Lesson #1: Team up with your competitors

In the dog-eat-dog arena that Katniss gets flung into, it would be understandable for her to go it alone. It would make perfect sense for her to have an every-woman-for-herself attitude and kill all her competitors on sight. Who can trust the competition when they’re sole intention is to see you lying dead in the water anyway?

As a business owner, it’s tempting to think that for you to succeed, that your competition has to fail. Yet, that’s not how it works. What did Katniss do to stay alive? She teamed up with her competition. She turned her enemies into allies and worked together with the other “tributes” in an effort to keep herself alive.

The most successful business owners work together to stay alive. A great example of this is when Bill Gates of Microsoft invested $150 million in his competition—Steve Jobs—to rebuild the Apple brand. Gates and Jobs were seen as “frenemies” at best, but instead of watching his competition fade away, Gates teamed up with him. Today, they are both thriving companies. Who can you team up with to skyrocket your success?

 

Hunger Games Lesson #2: Constantly be cultivating useful skills

When Katniss first learned how to hunt with a bow and arrow, she didn’t foresee that this skill would keep her alive in the Hunger Games arena years later. Instead, she was merely cultivating skills that helped her better her life in the moment. Yet, fast-forward in time and these everyday skills ended up being the difference between life and death for her.

As a business owner, if you wait to learn new skills until the time you need them, it’s too late. You need to be constantly cultivating useful skills on a daily basis. Seek out opportunities to learn new things and make an effort to broaden your knowledge and capabilities. Don’t take for granted any of your skills, no matter how insignificant they might seem in the moment. No skill is too minor that it can’t pay off in a major way down the road.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #3: Get a mentor

Chances are slim that Katniss would have made it out of the first movie alive if she didn’t have a mentor. Despite the fact that her mentor was a raging alcoholic (a quality that I wouldn’t recommend for a good mentor), the lessons and teachings that he imparted to her were invaluable. While she was in the middle of fighting for survival, he was able to see the entire situation from an outside perspective, which allowed him to give her the precise advice she needed to survive the Game.

Don’t try to go it alone. As a business owner, you are too close to your business to always see what needs to be done to ensure long-term success. Getting an outside, impartial perspective about your business from a qualified mentor—someone who’s been in business for a while—is extremely beneficial. Mentors can help fast-track your business by saving you from mistakes and providing useful insight based on past experiences.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #4: Know your “why”

As a business owner, you always have to know your “why” in order to make it through tough times. To ultimately succeed, you have to have a distinct purpose relentlessly pulling you forward and keeping you motivated. Without a purpose, chances are you will quit before you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

Katniss’s “why” wasn’t just staying alive, it was keeping her loved-ones safe. That’s her sole motivator from the get-go. She originally volunteered for the Games to save her sister. She put her life on the line to help Peeta and Gale. She complied with the President’s wishes to protect her family. Without a clear purpose, she wouldn’t have made it very far.

Everyone’s “why” is going to be different, but it’s critical that you define yours. Why are you running your business? Why do you want to succeed? The answers to these questions are going to take you the distance when the going gets tough.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #5: Learn as you go

Successful business owners don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. As an entrepreneur, you have to jump in and start playing the game now if you want to end up victorious. And because you can’t keep delaying until you “know enough”, you have to learn as you go every step of the way.

For Katniss, each time she is thrown into the arena, she has no clue what to expect or what to do. The moment the game begins, she has two options: freeze up or figure it out. No amount of time spent strategizing or training in advance is going to help her negotiate all the curve balls thrown at her. She learns everything step-by-step as she goes along, and sometimes being naïve is one of her biggest assets because she’s able to make decisions without second-guessing herself.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is getting stuck in various planning phases of their businesses. If you’re trying to learn everything you need to know before you start taking action, you’re wasting valuable time. Take the plunge, be willing to make mistakes and learn as you go.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #6: Win today

Katniss Everdeen’s ability to live in the moment is one of the major keys to her survival. She doesn’t get caught up in worrying about the future—her primary goal in the arena is to stay alive today. In the end, when she focuses on the doing the best she can to survive each and every day, then the future will take care of itself.

In your business, focus on winning today. Don’t spend time worrying what slings and arrows the future might bring. You can’t reach your long-term goals unless you successful execute your series of short-term goals starting now. When you consistently focus on winning today—doing your best to accomplish what needs to be done in the next 24 hours—then the future will take care of itself.

 

Hunger Games Lesson #7: Play your game

The people of Panem love Katniss because she’s the heroic rebel that doesn’t play by anyone else’s rules. Even though she can’t escape her fate to participate in the Hunger Games, she intentionally ignores the Game’s guidelines (e.g. honoring dead tributes and snubbing the “one winner” rule) while all the other tributes stick to the rulebook. In turn, she beats the system, becomes a celebrity of sorts and most importantly, manages to stay alive.

In business, you have to play your own game and make your own rules. If you follow the safe, worn path that everyone else has traveled down, there’s little hope that your business will stand out from the crowd and become a giant success. If there’s something unique about yourself or your business, don’t hide it—highlight it. To play your own game—take a stand, choose a side, pave your own trail and for God sake, don’t settle for mediocrity.

If you want to survive in the business arena, follow Katniss’s lead. Despite being a teenager and a fictional character (we won’t hold those things against her), she really knows something about working hard, not giving up, and following her heart even when the going gets tough.

Laurel Staples runs a popular blog & podcast called Go Fire Yourself that gives you the insider secrets to successfully escape your day job, grow your own business and live life on your terms. Connect with Laurel and download her free ebook: Income Switch: How to Replace Your 9-to-5 Income by Building a Profitable (& Unstoppable) Online Platform by visiting her website: www.gofireyourself.com

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Sebastian

    Jan 5, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Knowing your why is HUGE… This what keeps you going. About the teaming up with your competition… What if they don’t want to team up with you?

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:28 am

      Thanks for the comment Sebastian! Of course, not everyone will want to team up with you (some might just want to see your business die), but I think it’s important to find allies in the crowd. Keep in mind that “team up” might just mean you Tweet some of their content and they Tweet yours. It doesn’t have to mean any sort of official business relationship. But if another business doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, move on to find a better one and don’t sweat it. Good luck!

  2. maxwell ivey

    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Joel; What a truly awesome post. You captured the character perfectly. when i first started i kind of hid the fact that i was a blind business owner. Now, I openly mention it and reference how it effects my progress in some blog posts. I tell people on the phone and let them know that it really doesn’t effect my ability to help them sell their amusement equipment. The only time i even notice is when someone sends me lots of photos or videos because i have to get help sorting them out. You are right about knowing your why. for me it was originally to use the commissions to purchase newer equipment for my family’s carnival. after the carnival went out of business it became supporting my family. now the business has become my passion and I do it for love. I would like to touch on your comment about working with other businesses. i am open to it and have done it but you have to be careful and get everything spelled out in writing. Otherwise you may be setting yourself up for disappointment if not financial difficulty. thanks again for the great post and have a blessed new year, max

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Thanks for your comment Max! Knowing your why is vital when you’re a business owner and it sounds like you’ve found yours. Thanks for sharing some of your story. 🙂

  3. Naomi@BusinessBuilding

    Dec 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Laurel,

    Really good post and important to apply if you want to succeed in business.

    My favorite is #7 Play Your Game. Finding the balance between learning from competitors but still being your own brand that stands out as different, is what most new business owners never master.

    I always keep one on my competition but I’m ALWAYS striving to be different and offer something unique!

    Thanks for great read

    Naomi

    • Laurel Staples

      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:21 am

      Hi Naomi! Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you. You have to stand out in this extremely noisy world by playing your game because no one else can do exactly what you do!

  4. JALAL KHAN

    Dec 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    very good article.

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Startups

You Are The Problem With Your Business

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A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.

I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.

Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.

Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?

Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.

The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.


Your company is a reflection of you.

It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.

One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.

The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.

In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.

The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.

The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.


Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.

The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.

Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.

Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.


Change is a must.

Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.

Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”

You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.

Change you.

Not the business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up

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Image Credit: Unsplash

You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.

How to Evaluate Success

As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.

But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Numbers

When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?

The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.

So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.

This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.

In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.

2. Impact

Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).

In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins

3. Freedom

For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.

The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.

Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.

4. Time for Friends and Family

As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.

Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.

A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.

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Startups

The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.

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spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.

I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.

People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.

This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.

I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.

I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.

That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.


Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.

I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.

They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.

All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.


Your clients tell you every day that you suck.

I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.

Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.

The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.

That wasn’t it.


You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.

I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.

Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.

The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.

They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.

“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.

I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.

The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.

It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.

The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.


You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.

A good business solves a problem.

That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.

This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.

Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.

Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.

Solving only your problem will make you poor.

The problem still wasn’t their website or product.


Creating more problems.

Everything this business owner sold created more problems.

They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.

They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.

They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.

Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.

If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.


The heart of the problem.

It’s the business owner.

The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.

The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.

You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.

Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.

Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Entrepreneurs

18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups

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business books

Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)

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