4 Lessons from The Greatest Showman For Entrepreneurs
Contributed by Claudine Fernandez February 1, 2018
The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman, was inspired by the real life story of P.T. Barnum, who had built the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus in America. While critics may be scrutinising the historical inaccuracy of the movie, the carnival-like musical offers insights to be gleaned and timely reminders, especially for budding and current entrepreneurs.
The Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Greatest Showman
1. Creative ideas can create social mobility
In the movie, P.T. Barnum’ character was a pauper who had to fight for his survival and prove his worth to his future father-in-law. Yet, he always managed to find a way to get by and even climb the social ladder to become wealthy.
When his American Museum failed to take off, he had a brilliant plan to create a circus featuring unique people and it became a big hit for many. Even when his circus had been destroyed and no bank would give him a loan to rebuild his business, he was resourceful and came up with the idea of setting up a tent to run the show.
His combination of creative ideas and opportunistic risk-taking tendencies not only made him the greatest showman, but also the greatest salesman.
2. Money should not be the end goal
When one tastes success for the first time, it is tempting to want even more. Such was the case with Barnum. After his circus had taken off, his appetite was not satiated and he wanted more recognition and fame. More importantly, he wanted to prove his worth to his father-in-law, a snobbish wealthy man who had chastised him since he was a child. Yet, as he became more and more ambitious he recruited the renowned opera singer from Sweden, Jenny Lind (without actually hearing her sing) and toured with her, leaving his family behind and neglecting the circus that he worked so hard to build.
As the movie reminds us, success comes with a price and sometimes, a hefty one. His circus was burned down by bigots, his wife left him and he became bankrupt. In fact, the burning down of the circus served as a symbolic representation of Barnum’s downfall. Thankfully, Barnum was able to redeem himself by remembering why he wanted to be successful in the first place; it was to provide his family with a comfortable life.
3. Give your employees something valuable
After the circus had been destroyed and Barnum was at his lowest point, thinking he had nothing left, his employees rallied around him and gave him the strength to start all over again. He not only gave them jobs as performing acts in the circus, he also gave them a new purpose in life. While the rest of the world had shunned them, and labelled them as ‘freaks’, he saw something extraordinary in them and groomed them into talented performers who brought joy to the masses.
4. Mutually beneficial connections are important
Barnum was drawn to Phillip Carlyle because he belonged to the upper echelons of society. He noticed that Carlyle was discontented with his life even though he was wealthy. Therefore, Barnum offered him an opportunity to be his business partner. Despite tensions between them, Carlyle found joy in working for the circus as it was unpretentious and real, unlike his previous job in the theatre, which was reserved for the elite rich.
Carlyle also found the love of his life. In return, Carlyle pulled some strings to get Barnum a meeting with the Queen of England and gave Barnum the opportunity to rebuild the business after the fire. In fact, their mutually beneficial relationship becomes a motif throughout the movie, even towards the end when Barnum passes the baton and hands over the circus to Carlyle, in order to spend more time with his family.
From all these lessons from The Greatest Showman, which one greatly impacts you?