Box Office Business Lessons: Annie

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September 23, 2016 by Karen Que

When you’re an entrepreneur, there are plenty of dark days. Days when you feel unsure that you’re on the right path or that all your hard work will eventually pay off.

Believe me when I say, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.”

That’s right. I went there.

Whether or not you like the song “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie,” you know that it’s true. Being an entrepreneur is never easy, but you can bet on the fact that things will eventually change.

The 2014 remake of “Annie” starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz captures this lesson perfectly. Foxx plays Will Stacks, a cell phone tycoon who is running for mayor of New York City. He thinks his career and his life are on one path, but everything changes when he crosses paths with orphan Annie, played by Quvenzhané Wallis.

Annie lives in a foster home run by the miserable and alcoholic Mrs. H, played by Cameron Diaz. Mrs. H fosters five girls solely for the $157 she receives for each of them every week. Needless to say, it’s not a bright life for Annie. When Mr. Stacks saves Annie from being hit by a car, his campaign manager sees PR gold and convinces him to become her temporary foster parent. And she shows him everything that he’s been missing.

There’s a lot more to this movie than singing and dancing. Here are some lessons that I learned while watching “Annie.”

Never drop a call

The slogan for Mr. Stacks’s cellphone company is brilliant: Never Drop a Call. It made me wonder what it would take for a company to guarantee not to drop a call. In Mr. Stacks’s case, it meant a lot of redundancy and an awesome fail-over system. His company owned five times as many cell towers as his competition, and it hid them in plain sight around the city. Stacks also personally flew around the city in his helicopter to inspect his cell towers.

All companies can benefit from this kind of preparation and effort. When it comes to a disaster recovery system, all businesses need redundancy for their data and their systems. There should be a backup system in case something fails, and documents should be kept where they’re easy to access in an emergency.

Innovation is the future

Mr. Stacks placed a lot of emphasis on research and development in his company. His main project focused on creating a phone that could operate for a whole week on one battery charge. In the end, beta testing on the phone revealed that the phone got too hot and basically blew up in people’s ears.

It’s essential for companies to invest in research and development, even if there’s a chance for failure. Mr. Stacks pushed his tech team to the limits looking for new solutions. They may not have succeeded, but they learned a lot about the process and the limitations of cell phones.

This is a great way for a company to further its products and services. It’s an investment in your company’s future that’s worth your time, energy and money. You also could end up changing the business model for your industry and make people look at your products in a new way.

Start from where you are

The American Dream is built on the idea that anyone can succeed if they work hard enough. Mr. Stacks grew up in Queens with very little and managed to build a cell phone empire. He took Annie back to his old neighborhood to show her that it’s important to remember your history and not let it define your future.

You may have to start at the bottom of the ladder, working in the mailroom or fetching coffee. But if you work hard, you can rise up to the top.

Don’t be afraid to say yes

One of the things Annie pointed out to Mr. Stacks was, “When people say no, they’re just scared of saying yes.” This is an important lesson for entrepreneurs to learn. People are scared in general, and they let that fear hold them back. When you’re trying something new, you have to say “yes” and manage the fear or you’ll never move forward. The fear will never completely go away – that’s a part of business – but you can learn how to manage it, be courageous, and say “YES” anyway.

Look right in front of you

It’s easy to be distracted when you’re too close to something. Sometimes, you think you’re doing all the right things in your business and your life. Mr. Stacks was a successful CEO, but his personal life was nonexistent. He didn’t realize what he was missing until Annie filled his life in a new way.

Sometimes all you need to do is take what you have and twist it around so you can see it in a new light. Whatever it is you want or need to be successful could be right in front of you. Just take a step back and get a new perspective.

In the end, Mr. Stacks learned a valuable lesson from Annie that a lot of entrepreneurs have to face: success does not always equal happiness. Mr. Stacks built his life around money, but under the surface, he was lonely and sad. If you don’t have significant relationships in your life, your emotional needs won’t be fulfilled. After all, money can’t buy you love. And it can’t light up your life.

What innovations are you working on for tomorrow?

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