If you’ve not see JOY yet, you may want to see it before reading this as there are more than a couple of spoilers here.
It’s New Year’s Day and I just got in from seeing the matinee of JOY with my family. As an entrepreneur who has spent much of the last week thinking about how 2016 is going to look for our personal lives and our business, this movie inspired me in so many ways. The movie was inspired by the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the “Miracle Mop". Her life story is a true rags to riches story of a woman who had to hit rock bottom before having success that most will only dream of.
The movie is more than inspiring however. There are quite a few lessons to be learned, and this article serves as a way to further engrain those lessons into my own mind as much as it does as a way that I hope I can encourage other entrepreneurs.
- You are the sum of the 5 people closest to you…. until you decide otherwise.
Joy was a creator from the time she was a child. The movie depicts her as a young girl playing with a paper barnyard and animals that she’d made, using her paper figures to tell her step sister a story, and ending the story making it clear to the audience that she didn’t need a prince. She was the valedictorian of her high school class. She had the encouragement of a loving grandmother telling her that she could be anything she wanted to be. But like so many of us, life happened and she found herself as the glue that was holding her family together, and the one responsible person among the group. She felt trapped in a life where she new she didn’t belong, but she stayed there because the rest of the family kept her there. One day when she’d had enough, everything changed. And so it is with many of us entrepreneurs. We see the grand vision of success. We can visualize a thriving business, a multitude of people being employed, and a positive impact on our community, but being surrounded by a group of people who don’t have and don’t understand the entrepreneurial spirit somehow wears us down and keeps us at their level. But just like Joy, we can choose to stay at their level or we can wake up, tell the world to get out of our way, and see our dreams come alive!
- Nobody can sell your product as good as you can.
Once Joy decided she was no longer the sum of the people who surrounded her, she quickly took action on her dreams and turned her idea into reality. Joy found herself as the inventor of a mop that was far superior to any other mop ever made. But as she learned, just because its a better product doesn’t mean that everyone else will see that truth as easily as she did. After failed attempts at getting the traditional brick and mortar stores to pick up her product, and having marketing ideas that were so bad they literally landed her in jail, she found herself in the pit of despair with a great product that nobody wanted. Her break came when her ex-husband leaned on an old friend who was working for the then-new QVC. She was able to sell QVC on the product, but QVC’s celebrity salesperson failed miserably at selling the mop. The salesperson didn’t understand the product, didn’t have a passion for the product, and therefore couldn’t sell the product. When you create something, you can see something in it that no one else can. You live it, you breath it, you dream it, and ultimately you have a stronger passion for it than anyone else. That passion shows….. and passion sells! After the QVC celebrity failed to sell a single unit, QVC nixed the product, but Joy refused to accept that and she convinced them to let her make the pitch. She sold nearly 20,000 units in less than 20 minutes. Today you can buy that mop in nearly every grocery store.
- You can be adversaries yet remain friends.
When QVC executive Neil Walker saw the huge success of the Miracle Mop, he made it a point to tell Joy that although they are “friends in commerce” now, they could easily find themselves as “adversaries in commerce”. He made her promise him that even if the time came that they were adversaries, that they would remain friends. In the end of the movie, that time did come, and because they had remained friendly adversaries, Neil let Joy in on some information that would give her great bargaining power in the future. There are people that you will run into in business where the dynamics of the relationship will change over time due to the situations of power that you each find yourselves in. Always be respectful and look for the win-win. It makes it much easier to be across the table from that person later, and you never know when it may pay you back in dividends.
- Just because you trust your advisors doesn’t mean they are the right advisors.
Joy found herself in the not-so-unique situation of having her family as her business advisors. Her father meant well, her sister was jealous, and her ex-husband was probably the best advisor of the bunch but none of them took him seriously because he was a flake in many other aspects. Her investor insisted on using “her attorney”, and her grandmother would encourage her even when she she needed someone to tell her the hard truth. This perfect storm made for a father who made poor decisions while trying to make both daughters happy, a sister who made decisions that she thought would further her own motives, an ex-husband who was resentful because he was right to begin with, a lawyer who was’t qualified to do the job he was hired for, and well, a grandmother who was just doing what grandmothers are supposed to do. Unless your family has proven business success, they should never be your advisors. They are terrible at saying “I don’t know” and they are too close to you to give objective feedback. The best thing to do with family is thank them for their concern but hire professionals or join a mastermind of proven successful people in similar business.
- Bad circumstances can turn on a dime (So never give up).
We’ve all been there where we had found rock bottom, and couldn’t see a way out of our current situation. Joy was in that exact place after the hail storm of bad advice, poor legal council, dishonest businessmen, and self-serving decisions of a jealous sister came pounding down on her. She was on the verge of bankruptcy and losing everything she had created. She had her low moment, and then she got mad. Anger can be a great motivator, and sometimes one last motivational push can be the difference between success and failure. Joy dug in and started looking at contracts, making phone calls, and digging up information that would serve her in making the ultimate rebound. In the second climax of the movie, Joy finds herself in a hotel room with that Dallas businessman who’d screwed her over, and with the results of her determination and research, she walked away looking as cool as ever with everything she’d lost, and more. Sometimes you just have to make one more push. There is story after story of the most successful business people who, had they given up and not made that 7th or 8th “last try”, they would have remained the sum of those 5 people they were closest to.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned in some of the greatest movies. This movie will absolutely be added to many of the lists of “Best Movies for Entrepreneurs” and “Best Business Movies of All Time”. Take your kids to see this movie, especially your daughters. Maybe they will be the next Joy Mangano, Marisa Mayer, or my personal favorite, Kim Walker.