Last weekend, I found myself in a small movie theatre in Pinehurst, North Carolina, attending the new movie “Noah” with my oldest son, Trevor. We were back there playing in the National Golf Scramble Finals sponsored by Liberty Mutual. It was a fantastic event. Our 4-person scramble team was a rather unique one in that it consisted of myself and three of my children. (For results, read to the bottom of the post.)
On Friday evening after our round, Trevor and I took a break and drove to the local cinema. Overall, I was very impressed by the movie and was caught up in its epic nature. Looking back, I recall the determination of Noah – his desire to do the right thing driven and influenced in the end by two powerful and strong women – his wife and daughter-in-law. The film has it all: the battle between good and evil; action scenes; family conflict; romance; and even alien creatures.
As I was enjoying the compelling end to the movie and the credits began to roll, I was really quite surprised to hear some people yelling at the movie screen. They had obviously been offended by the movie. One of them yelled at the screen – “Read the Book – Get the real Story!” Another yelled “Horrible!” They were obviously disappointed that the Hollywood version of Noah did not map identically to the one that is told in the Bible. I think because of their unrealistic expectations they missed some powerful lessons the movie can teach us, if we allow it to do so.
Darren Aronofsky and his co-writer Ari Handel “went off” the Biblical script in dramatic fashion. But note – they never intended to faithfully follow the Biblical account. It was “inspired” by the story of Noah – not meant to be the actual story.
Hollywood productions like this are all about selling tickets. This is how Hollywood makes its money. I am sure the Producers of this film, rather than being bothered by any Evangelical backlash, were overjoyed by the controversy that was created. Over that weekend, Noah grossed over $43 Million in revenue at the box office, nearly doubling the #2 film, Divergent.
The point is that in life and in business, when we enter into a transaction or build a business or go to a new movie with unrealistic expectations, we are due for real disappointment.
So how can we apply this message to our businesses?
In my line of business, I see a deal a day in some way, shape, or form, and I consistently see business leaders and CEOs with unrealistic expectations of how big their company is going to become and how soon that will happen. We hear all the time about the incredible success stories of Instagram, Facebook, Groupon, etc., but the truth is that for every one of those companies there are 999,999 that will not see the same success.
The answer? Be Realistic. Put yourself in the shoes of an outside, independent analyst and ask yourself these questions:
Is my business truly solving a pain point in the market for which someone will write a check to my company for my product or service in order to solve that pain?
Have I found and sold my product or service to a marquee customer- one that can then become a reference point for future sales and marketing?
Are the people I have surrounded myself with equally passionate about my business? Have I hired the best people I can realistically afford and are each of them waking up every morning with a new idea or concept on how to move the business forward?
Do I have the Capital necessary to truly move this forward or am I operating my business on a whim and fancy? Is there more money in my account at the end of every month than the previous month? (That’s probably not going to happen early in your business cycle but this is what you should be striving for).
Is my business in a fast growing market where there is true demand for our products? Who is our competition and what are they doing to address the market? How do we REALLY stack up to them? (There is no such thing as NO competition. If you think there is no competition, it is likely that you are in the wrong market.)
I once read that watching cartoons as a kid gave me unrealistic expectations of how often pianos fall out of the sky onto people. By the same token, listening incessantly to success stories like Google and LinkedIn, we are seduced into believing that it will automatically happen to us. I hate to tell you this, but it won’t succeed unless you can answer the five questions above in a meaningful way.
The Good News is this: Even if your business does not have a realistic chance to succeed today, if you have the perseverance and creativity to morph your business to do the following, you still have a real shot:
A. Address REAL market needs, not just a perceived ones
B. Surround yourself with smart, passionate people
C. Gain access to some capital
D. Acquire some marquee customers
E. Find ways to better the competition
Entrepreneurs – be realistic in thinking through where you are in your business. Avoid the disappointment that inevitably arises when you approach your business (or any endeavor) with unrealistic expectations.
So what do you think? How else can we manage unrealistic expectations in business? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Golf results: By the way, our foursome finished in 7th place (out of 60 teams) in the Nation in the Golf scramble finals at Pinehurst. Perhaps our goal of winning it all was a bit unrealistic but we did finish just three shots out of second. In the end, part of the joy of life is truly in the journey.