Business Lessons From "The Boss:" Growing Your Business Is No Joke

By Business.com Editorial Staff
Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Melissa McCarthy's new role as "The Boss" is a box office success. Here's how you can follow in her character's footsteps.

"The Boss" is the latest Melissa McCarthy vehicle, this time featuring the comedic actress as Michelle Darnell, a high-powered, self-centered business person with an enormous ego and matching over-the-top promotional sense (she makes an entrance at a marketing event astride a golden phoenix with pyrotechnics and backup dancers that Beyonce would envy).

The plot involves a Martha Stewart-like comeuppance for insider trading that results in jail time and loss of her business assets and her fortune.

Looking to start over from scratch, Darnell chances upon a Girl Scout-styled meeting about how pre-teenaged girls can sell cookies for fundraising, which becomes the inspiration for a much more highly aggressive model to sell brownies and create a new business empire.

The Orange County Registerreview notes, "There are some pseudo girl-power messages about taking a leadership role in the business world, going after your dreams and empowering young women through financial means. These ideas are interesting, especially when Michelle barges in on a boys country club lunch... Similarly, the concept of a convicted felon/business shark bringing her skills to a girls troop is a great one."

All jokes aside, there are some lessons here for small-business operators looking to start and grow a business.

Related Article:Staffing Your Start-Up: How and Where to Find Top Talent

The Power of the Brand

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons has nothing to do with plot details or the main character, but the power of establishing the brand. Despite lukewarm reviews (at best) "The Boss" opened to an estimated $23.5 million in weekend ticket sales, narrowly beating out the superhero blockbuster "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice".

Which just goes to show the power of what The Wrap terms as McCarthy's "consistent, five-year track record of bankability... [T]he star has a built-in fan base that is as broad as it is devoted."

The lesson here is that a powerful brand is paramount to business success. If you're just starting out, or course, you don't yet have an established brand identity, but one of your primary objectives is to do just that. If you aren't making a direct emotional connection to your target market, you're missing the target.

Why do you think all those people are waiting in line when the next Apple gizmo becomes available in stores? Is it because they really need it? Or because they really, really like whatever Apple has to offer?

Related Article: Learn from the Past: How to Turn Business Failures Into Future Successes

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Many "rags to riches" stories go on to plot a fall from those riches, with the hero learning important lessons that lead to a return not only to a former glory, but a better one. McCarthy's character picks up the pieces after disaster hits by finding a new opportunity to channel her talents.

The trajectory follows the conclusions. In a Harvard Business Review article based on 22 interviews with 300 fired CEOs Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward observe: "In every culture, the ability to transcend life's adversity is an essential feature of becoming a great leader... [L]eaders can triumph over tragedy, provided they take conscious steps to do so.

For a start, they must carefully decide how to fight back. Once this crucial decision has been taken, they must recruit others into battle. They must then take steps to recover their heroic status, in the process proving to themselves and others that they have the mettle necessary to rediscover their heroic mission."

Or, as Madeline Potts maintains, "Even if you go bankrupt, go to jail and have no place to stay there is still something for you. Michelle [McCarthy's character] may feel like she's hit rock bottom, but she will find a way to recreate herself. If you're feeling like you can't do something just remember that there's always a Plan B and there's always a way out of even the darkest of holes."

Related Article: Are You Running Your Business Like a Rich Person?

Be Aggressive

Well, maybe not as aggressive as McCarthy's character, when she tells a potential customer, "Buy my brownie or I'll kill you." And by aggressive we don't mean that you should become another descriptive term that begins with an "A", you can be aggressive and need not be a jerk (even though the continuing joke in "The Boss" is how McCarthy's character is such a jerk).

As HR Advisor Dayanand Guddin puts it, being aggressive is understanding where you need to be and where you need not to be. He writes, "In pushing sale figures, in turning around an organization from a deep red position, in making the lazy staff to contribute, in cutting off the office politics, in weeding out the unhealthy competition you need to be aggressive."

Go With the Flow

The fighter who "rolls with the punches" eventually finds the opportunity to deliver a knockout. Don't let every little defeat get to you.

Do Good

People respond to people who try to do good, even if they haven't always done good in the past. This is what Michelle Darnell does in "The Boss". As Maggie Parker writes for Business on Tapp, when Michele "convinced her former assistant to help her with a new business by assuring her they'd be helping young girls save money for college" there was a lesson there.

"Weave a humanitarian aspect into your business and be sure to highlight that when trying to win over customers, investors, and partners," she writes.

Related Article: From Flop to Fruition: Your Mistakes Can Fuel Your Next Success

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