When Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit cinemas, fans all over the world binge-watched the first six films in preparation.
Looking back on the original trilogy and prequels, Star Wars seems to have as much to say to business owners as any management consultant.
Star Wars: sci-fi fantasy adventure, pop-culture phenomenon, entrepreneur’s handbook?
- Thanks, but no thanks Jabba: Pick your creditors carefully
While business owners may not be encased in carbonite for owing money to the wrong lender, debt is still a major issue. The right legal structure can protect individuals and their personal property, but small business owners still need to be careful about the type of debt they take on and their ability to service it without racking up high interest rates.
With hindsight, Han Solo realised that doing business with Jabba the Hutt (a vile gangster with penchants for gambling, enslavement, torture and feeding people to monsters) wasn’t his best idea but perhaps if he’d read the terms and conditions before he wound up owing Jabba 14 million credits (at an APR of 143,580%), he might not have risked almost being the Sarlacc’s breakfast.
- Stay clear of Tauntaun guts: Locations need to work on every level
Hoth was a poor choice of location for a rebel base. Echo Base ticked the box of being remote enough to avoid the Empire’s reach (for a while at least), but think about the gas bills! Carving a settlement out of the side of a glacier seems incredibly impractical and resource intensive. Not only that, but the inhospitable ice planet and its abominable inhabitants very nearly killed Luke and Han, while their unfortunate Tauntauns paid the ultimate price for poor locale.
Business owners need to ask the right questions before leasing (or indeed building) new property. This is particularly important for small businesses, which are more dependent on local infrastructure than their corporate counterparts. Check out hidden costs, perennial risks or environmental factors, such as floodplains, poor wifi connections or AT-AT attacks by Galactic Empires.
- Sorry Mr Binks, no vacancies here: Avoid poor hiring decisions
When assassins threatened Senator Amidala’s life, she selects Jar Jar Binks as the best candidate to represent her home planet of Naboo on the Galactic Senate.
Was it because of his lengthy political experience, reputation for tact or articulate communication? …No. It was because Amidala thought he was an OK guy and he happened to be around. But surprise surprise, under his guidance, the Senate fell to pieces and the Galactic Empire was formed (the beginning of the end for the Jedi).
Young firms with small teams can be disproportionately affected by just one bad hire. Take extra care, trust your instincts and lean on organisations like the CIPD to stay on top of everything from interview practice to employer’s rights and responsibilities. Legislation has tipped in favour of employees, to some extent with good reason, but things like probation contracts and fair procedures to work through performance issues can help protect you against poor hires.
- Respect the Jedi code: Stay true to your values
In Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn decided that releasing supposed Chosen One Anakin from slavery by gambling with his master, Watto, was worth breaking the Jedi code for, and used The Force to cheat at a game of dice.
So, should Qui-Gon have compromised his morals? Probably not. Anakin (spoiler alert) grew up to be a tyrannical, planet destroying, baby-Jedi-killer.
Running a small business can be an intensely stressful experience and leaders are often asked to make impossible compromises, with little time and few resources.
There’s a lot to be said for staying true to your values in business. After all most people start a business to do things their way – not to end up making the same compromises as the rest of the market. When faced with tough decisions consider asking yourself whether you’d be happy with your favourite client knowing you made this call. Those who compromise their values often regret it in the long-run (or end up with a lightsabre in the chest).
- Learn from Luke: Respect the value of training and experience
Luke had a whistle-stop experience training to be a Jedi with Yoda on Dagobah, compared to his father’s decade of guidance under the Jedi Order. And yet, the second his training wheels came off, Luke challenged Jabba the Hutt to release his captured friends. Unsurprisingly, he botched the rescue attempt and very nearly got Han killed.
On-the-job training can be valuable but there’s also much to be said for the value of experience and qualifications. There are some fantastic courses and resources available through organisations such as the National Careers Service. Life experience is greatly valuable. Recent research found most people aren’t ready to start their own business until they’re 45.
- Who needs an army of clones: Embrace diversity
When Obi-Wan travelled to investigate a missing entry from the Jedi Archives in Attack of the Clones, he inadvertently discovered an army created for the Galactic Empire on the water-planet of Kamino. With a bit of dodgy impersonation and vaguery, Obi-Wan managed to secure the clone army for the Jedis who shockingly, were eventually turned upon by the clones when their real masters (the Sith) sent through the command.
Though most employees are unlikely to have secret masters or turn a blaster on their boss, diversity is an important issue for small teams. It is all too easy to hire in your own image, but can leave an enterprise vulnerable and blinkered. Avoid clones.
- Be careful with Calrissians: Watch where you place your trust
Han Solo wasn’t entirely sure whether he could trust his former smuggling associate Lando Calrissian in Empire Strikes Back but took a gamble on it for the sake of his friends. As it turned out, the self-proclaimed ‘galactic entrepreneur’ was more concerned with self-preservation and profit, betraying Solo and gang to the Empire.
Small business owners, by their nature, are deeply involved in the day-to-day running of their business, and as such tend to have great relationships with clients, suppliers and partners. But it’s important to remember that these are business relationships with parameters. Though having a friendly relationship can help when it comes to securing the best deals and terms, there are (and should be) limitations.
- Calm your inner Vader: Know when to back down
When Anakin and Obi-Wan battled on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Obi-Wan gained the higher ground and commanded Anakin to surrender. But Anakin’s lack of self-control and arrogance lead him to believe that he could still win – ultimately leading to his mutilation and defeat.
Hopefully most small business owners limbs’ aren’t in peril in their day-to-day work, but they still could be putting their success at risk by ignoring warning signs – particularly when they come from a trusted source such as a mentor or peer.
- “That’s no moon. It’s a space station”: Learn from failure
The thermal exhaust shaft (and Luke’s childhood womp rat bombing experience) was the undoing of the Death Star. It was a major design flaw, so when the Empire decided to rebuild it, they made every possible effort to ensure that the plans were tamper-proof.
Oh, no, wait. They didn’t do that at all.
The second Death Star was taken down by a similarly simple attack – a critical hit to the reactor core from the Millennium Falcon.
No one likes making mistakes especially when running the business you’ve long dreamed of starting, but every failure is a valuable learning experience. With agile structures and no bureaucracy small businesses have an amazing opportunity to innovate faster than the competition.
Do not rebuild the Death Star.
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