Exploring Family Business Insights through Movies this Summer

Exploring Family Business Insights through Movies

Summer is a season that invites everyone to slow down a bit, enjoy the longer hours of daylight each day, embrace the beauty of nature, and spend quality time with those we love most. It’s a time filled with much needed vacations and memorable family getaways… well-deserved relaxation and exciting adventures. 

For some family businesses, this means creating flexible schedules so the members of the family can savor this time. For others, it requires creating new working environments, allowing families to find new places and spaces to finish the to-do lists. Either way, it’s a season of rejuvenation and one where lasting memories are formed. 

Don’t let summer speed by without having fun, spending time with your family and creating unforgettable experiences together. From picnics to beach days… evening hikes to movie nights, these shared adventures will not only create cherished memories but also strengthen your family bond. 

Speaking of movie nights, I’d love to share with you three movies to consider as you pop that buttery popcorn and collect on the living room couch. And, it just so happens these movies have some family business insights to impart. 

Have a personal plan and a business plan. 

As a fan of classic films, I am always elated when I find one that not just is enjoyable to watch, but one that applies to family businesses and the 1936 film, Dodsworth, does. The movie, which follows an automotive manufacturing entrepreneur, stars Walter Houston, Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor. Dodsworth, an entrepreneur in the flick, sells his company and retires without a plan for his future—not unlike many real-life entrepreneurs.

As soon as Dodsworth retires, his wife begins to plan their extensive trip to Europe and throughout the process both Dodsworth and Fran encounter differences in their expectations for the trip as you can expect. Dodsworth had a plan for his business, but Fran and him never planned collectively for how to function post-retirement. Communication is pivotal in all relationships: business and familial included. As couples inch closer to retirement, many have not considered a plan for the future. They have no resources, no practice, no roadmap, and when they look ahead, they feel adrift.

As you watch this film, consider how you can plan your life plan alongside career planning. I use Career Life Planning techniques to help family business owners realize a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Both the entrepreneur and spouse turn their dreams into reality.  The couple enjoys peace of mind about their future. Most importantly, the process helps them devise a common perspective of their values. They can effectively share their goals and dreams with each other in a manner that honors and engages both. They redirect their wisdom and their knowledge of life to produce a realistic, engaging plan for meaningful work and leisure time. They look ahead by looking back.

In the case of Dodsworth and Fran, their vastly different expectations were highlighted during their European travel. Without sharing the outcome, had the two of them realized that entrepreneurs are driven by their dreams they could have anticipated their differences and avoided challenges they faced. Learn from their situation to position your own differently.  

Win-win solutions are possible.

In the classic film Sabrina, we are introduced to Sabrina Fairchild, a young woman who grew up as the chauffeur’s daughter in a wealthy family. Throughout her life, she felt unreciprocated feelings for David, the family’s younger son. However, after spending time in Paris, she returns as a glamorous woman who catches David’s eye and heart. Little did she know though, she also attracted the interest of David’s older and more serious-minded brother, Linus.

The brothers play significant roles in their family business, taking charge of their father’s legacy. However, each has a distinct approach when it comes to managing the company, which sets the stage for challenges. Linus, driven by a strong work ethic, believes that the blossoming relationship between David and Sabrina could be detrimental to the family business. Concerned, he takes matters into his own hands. 

Family businesses are built on relationships, and it’s not uncommon to see this unique dynamic play out. When multiple individuals are involved, each with their own goals and dreams, conflicts arise. Differences in approach and goals can test a family bond and the business itself. The good news, though, is that challenges can strengthen. Win-win solutions are possible despite differing opinions. 

Differences should be embraced.

The final movie to explore is Zorba the Greek, a film adapted from a novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis. The story revolves around Alexis Zorba and his relationship with the narrator, a reserved and introspective individual. Several themes are integrated into the movie, including the challenge between tradition and innovation in a family business. Zorba, full of vitality and passion, challenges the narrator’s mindset, encouraging him to embrace life. As the two dive into business efforts, their differing approaches come to the surface. 

Zorba isn’t afraid to take a risk. He’s open to new ideas and prepared to pounce on opportunities. He’s resourceful, adaptive and a strong connector, which is pivotal in business. He experiments, jumps to conclusions and learns whether he wins or loses. On the other hand, the narrator is cautious and analytical. He tends to overanalyze and is immobilized by the worry of failing. He has rigid beliefs, but over time, Zorba helps him work outside of his comfort zone. Each person becomes a better business person because of the other.  

This theme is true in family business too. We all come to business with our unique way of tackling work, seeing the world, exploring ideas and building relationships. One is not better than the other, but we can learn from everyone we meet and become stronger in our leadership, business skills and business success if we are open-minded to learning. 

Movies aren’t just for pleasure; they can be learning opportunities too. Use this time to expand your knowledge and gain valuable insights in family business while building memories that last a lifetime. While these three are some of my favorite movies, what movies have you watched that teach meaningful family business messages?