5 business lessons from 'Ghostbusters'

If you ask someone what’s the best movie about business, chances are they’ll reply with something depicting the life of a rich executive or entrepreneur - such as Wall Street or Citizen Kane.

But here at FreeAgent, we think that there is an overlooked film that’s a great example of the reality of business - and as it’s Halloween, we thought that we’d share it with you today. So here are 5 great business lessons to learn from Ivan Reitman’s spooky - and surprisingly entrepreneurial - 1984 classic Ghostbusters.

Make sure you have the right mix of skills

Our heroes Ray Stantz, Igon Spengler and Peter Venkman are all budding entrepreneurs with great ideas and each with their own set of skills. All three company founders play to their strengths and complement each other perfectly - which is exactly what a good startup needs.

Igon has the creative ideas that will later become integral to the business - such as the proton packs and their HQ’s ghost storage system. Ray is the hands-on CEO who finances the fledgling company and comes up with the iconic business decisions (such as the location of their HQ and the purchase of the Ecto-1 company vehicle). And Peter is the salesman extraordinaire whose sharp-talking skills allow him to become the public face of the company and chief negotiator with clients.

Find your niche

By discovering the library ghost in the film’s opening scene, the heroes prove their ghost-detecting tech works - so when they lose their research jobs, it’s a natural step to adapt their work for the private sector.

Ghostbusters thrives because the business is unique and, despite a difficult initial teething phase where business is slow, once word spreads about their enterprise they soon becomes the go-to service for ghost removals in the whole of the New York area. It’s a tremendous growth story, all brought about by identifying a service that people need and will pay good money for.

Although the Ghostbusters’ first TV advert lacks expert production skills or striking visuals it still ends up catching the attention of their early customers, which demonstrates the power that locally-focused marketing can have for a fledgling business.

From there, strong word-of-mouth recommendations and general buzz about the company allow the Ghostbusters to use every potential medium to get their message across; including a feature on Larry King’s radio show. Coupled with strong branded company clothing, a striking logo and an iconic company vehicle that is regularly seen on the streets of New York, the venture quickly gains an impressive air of credibility and authority with potential clients.

Expand and hire at the right time

Once Ghostbusters becomes successful, it’s clear that the firm has to take on its first official “on the ground” employee. Through a combination of luck and gut instinct Winston Zeddemore gets the job and quickly becomes an integral part of the team, allowing the company to take more jobs and increase their sales.

His appointment also turns out to be a shrewd investment, as he is still loyal to the company by the time the sequel rolls round. He even goes so far as agreeing to be hired for kids parties in costume, just to make money for Ghostbusters when the demand for supernatural services runs dry.

Don’t flout regulations

Although pencil-pushing Environmental Protection Agency inspector Walter Peck is presented as overly officious, he actually has valid concerns about the Ghostbusters’ disregard for environmental laws.

Incorporating unlicensed nuclear reactors in their proton packs, storing ghosts in an unfit-for-purpose containment facility and unleashing supernatural energy onto the city are highly dangerous work practices that, rightly, land the team in jail. And despite saving New York from destruction, their business is ultimately doomed because, by the sequel, they’re being sued for huge amounts of property damage. Being more respectful of important rules and regulations could have helped prolong the life of their venture.

Every business faces challenges during its fledgling startup phase, and Ghostbusters is a great example of some of the ups and downs these businesses may have to deal with. Admittedly, most startups won’t have to tackle giant Stay Puft marshmallow men terrorising their patch, but when it comes to attracting clients, business branding and becoming a stellar business success story, the fearsome foursome show us just how it’s done.

Think there’s a better movie that represents the reality of launching and running a small business? Leave a comment or hit us up on Twitter and let us know!

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