Memories of Saturday morning cartoons are the strongholds of nostalgia and pop culture for us children of the 80s. Sure, they were thinly veiled, half hour long commercials, but they also gave us at least thirty seconds of life lessons per episode. Now that I’m all growned up, I find that many of those lessons are applicable to starting and running a small business. Here are some of my favorite cartoons, and what they taught me about being an entrepreneur.
Five different robot lions, each one unique in its ability, defending against evil. And when things get really tough, they join together to form one big, bad ass robot, and the highlight of every episode. A diverse team of designers, developers, writers, and managers is essential to running an exceptional business. And when faced with a creative challenge or mind-bending project, we put out heads together and go Voltron on it. Build your business using intelligent and creative people who thrive on collaboration and you will thrive.
The GI Joe cartoons can be blamed for almost every neighborhood brawl, which began with us arguing over who got to be Snake Eyes when we played war. Not that being any of the other guys was bad, but who remembers their names? Anyways, the end of each GI Joe episode ended with a character-improvement lesson, which always ended with the message that “knowing was half the battle.” Knowledge is a powerful ally in running a small business. The more you know—using web metrics, customer surveys, market validation—the better chance you stand at being successful.
The original Transformers (don’t get me started on the movie) were the coolest cartoon at the time. The idea of cars, trucks and planes transforming into robots and back again was brilliance and it sucked us all in. Aside from the financial lesson of hoarding my allowance to hopefully one day buy my own Optimus Prime (I never did get one, but that spoiled punk down the street did), the Transformers showed us that you could be more than one thing. When you run a small business, you wear many hats. Each day requires of you a different personae.
Known as Transformers knock-offs to some, I especially like the Go Bots. They weren’t as complicated as Transformers and sometimes more practical. My GoBot jeep had that Tonka quality to it and outlasted many Transformers that started losing arms and legs in fierce backyard battles. Even though GoBots weren’t as cool as Transformers, they were still a success. In business there is too much focus on cool ideas and sex appeal, while little credit is given to the small businesses who are actually making money. The point is, you don’t need a completely unique idea, the coolest product or rockstar status to start a successful small business. There is plenty of room in the lineup for lesser-known alternatives, and a big market ready to accept them.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Perhaps the most memorable aspect about the He-Man cartoons is Prince Adams cat, Cringer. Scared of his own shadow, he was transformed into a fearless battle cat whenever He-Man invoked the powers of Greyskull. Being an entrepreneur can be a scary experience. There are many times in the life of a business when you don’t know what tomorrow holds. It’s important to have the support of others—friends, family, or some higher power—who can be your own personal Greyskull, who can be that power in your life that gets you through the next challenge.
I am both extremely curious about the lessons Thundercats provided, and deeply disappointed by its absence.