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6 Documentaries That Will Make You A Better Entrepreneur

What inspires you?

To be a successful entrepreneur, you must never stop learning. While the day to day processes of running a business can make it hard to stop and take a breath, you must set aside a specific time every day – or every week to start – where you actively expand your knowledge of your industry. Even the most seasoned investors should continue their education in order to keep up with the latest trends and competition. Becoming an entrepreneur does not require a degree – although it doesn’t hurt – but a passion for learning is the common thread among the most successful business owners.

Whether you read the morning paper, watch the evening news, follow relevant blogs, or even simply communicate with like-minded individuals, establish a method of guidance you enjoy and keep up with it. If you prefer more direct instruction – like the stereotypical teacher, student relationship – there are plenty of free or low cost online resources available at the tips of your fingers. As former Harvard University President said, “if you think the cost of education is expensive, try the cost of ignorance.”

With advances in technology spreading like wildfire, you will be left behind if you refuse to keep learning. Competition is increasing exponentially as well. According to a new report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 27 million working-age americans -roughly 14 percent – are starting or running new businesses and 80 percent of those who plan on starting their businesses within the next three years are already doing something about it – i.e. leasing office space, registering their brand name, and advancing their educations.

If those numbers are not enough to motivate you and you’d still prefer to stay in the comfort of your own home on your couch watching movies, you’re in luck. My partners over at CT Homes and I have come up with a way for you to kick back and relax and learn at the same. Here are six must-see documentaries that will inspire, teach, and help you take your business to new heights:

Films To Inspire YOU:

1. Somm – Jason Wise (2012)

“When someone tells you this is something that a lot of people can’t do, people either go – wow, that’s impressive, or they say – wow, I want to do that.”

About: “Somm” gives viewers a behind the scenes glimpse of the grueling process that accompanies passing the master sommelier exam – a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world. The story follows four men who are preparing for the exam and highlights the ups and downs of their journeys. With wide critical acclaim, you can expect to laugh, cry, and feel inspired – knowing that you are not alone in your own plight of success. The cast explains that with unwavering perseverance, there is often a price to pay whether it be the loss of certain relationships or emotional distress and turmoil. Ultimately however, the reward of success outweighs the hurdles you jumped to achieve it.

Lesson You Will Learn: As an entrepreneur – or an aspiring one – you probably already know that securing success will take ample time and hard work. But Somm will teach you that, that is an understatement. After watching this documentary, you will be motivated to take on the challenges that exist in your current business or feel excited to pursue your lofty ambitions you never thought were possible.

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – David Gelb (2011)

“Even at my age (85) in my work…I haven’t reached perfection”

About: As the only sushi chef to ever receive 3 Michelin stars, 85-year-old Jiro Ono is known as one of the most influential men in Japan. He is known for his constant search for perfection and his 300 dollar per plate meals. The documentary reveals how Jiro negotiates with vendors, mentors his employees, and prepares his son to eventually take over the business.

Lesson You Will Learn: This film is the epitome of a ‘never give up spiel’, but sometimes that is nice to hear every once in awhile – even for experienced investors. Jiro teaches us that with tireless dedication comes ultimate success. Viewers will learn that it is always important to value quality over quantity if you want a loyal client base and an untarnished reputation. You’ve heard it before – choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life – and after watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, you will sincerely believe in the possibility of turning passion into profession.

3. Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos – Paul Crowder, John Dower (2006)

“The whole thing was like lightning in a bottle.  The glamour, the greed, and the glory.”

About: This film exposes the secrets behind the New York Cosmos – the American Soccer League team owned by entrepreneur Steve Ross of Time Warner Communications and Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records.  What starts as a cliche success story takes a dark turn down the road of rapacity and materialism.  Don’t worry, we won’t give away the ending.    

Lesson You Will Learn:  Although this film is related to the sports industry, there are still valuable lessons to be learned.  By hiring the best employees – or in the case of the New York Cosmos, signing pro soccer star Pele – your business has the greatest chance of becoming the best.  Do not underestimate the importance of attracting the top talent to your company.  If you want to be known as an expert in your field, surround yourself with people who can teach you a thing or two.  However, be sure not to let success get the better of you.  Don’t let confidence turn to cockiness.  If your business is doing well, you’re doing something right.  

Films To Inspire your TEAM:

4. Freakonomics – Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Heidi Ewing, Seth Gordon, Eugene Jarecki, Rachel Grady (2010)

“They say money doesn’t buy happiness…wanna bet?”

About: Based on the international bestseller, “Freakonomics” uncovers the truths behind what really matters to consumers; and as an entrepreneur, isn’t that your number one goal?  Professional economists look at the science behind human behavior and incentive-based thinking to answer the question: what really makes people do what they do? I can guarantee you will be surprised by people’s responses.

Lesson You Will Learn:  This film should inspire you to sit down and collaborate with your team about what you can change to drive greater traffic to your business.  Whether this means prompting more individuals to visit your site or to turning potential leads into deals, figure out what motivates your clients to action.  Once you understand what influences people, you just might be able to turn them into your biggest customer.  (This idea works for employees as well.  Companies using incentive programs reported a 79 percent success rate in achieving their established goals and claim that those incentives increased employee performance by 44 percent)

5. Steve Jobs: One Last Thing – Mimi O’Connor, Sarah Fanthorpe (2011)

“The way he does things is just different, it’s magical.”

About: We all know Steve Jobs as the legendary mastermind behind all things Apple This documentary gives an intimate portrait of Jobs from the people who knew him best.  Viewers get to see a different perspective of Jobs and the decisions he made that completely altered the technology industry.  

Lesson You Will Learn:  This documentary shows how one idea has the ability to shape the lives of millions.  Jobs was all about collaboration and communication with his team, which is how a successful business should be run. Although he was known for being a little harsh to his employees at times, he treated them with respect when needed and knew what to say to motivate them to keep pushing forward.  

6. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room – Alex Gibney (2005)

“It had taken Enron 16 years to go from about 10 billion in assets to 65 billion in assets and it took them 24 days to go bankrupt.”

About: This film investigates and exposes the 2001 scandal and collapse of the Enron Corporation.  Although Enron was a multibillion dollar business, even small business owners will be able to note some similarities and draw conclusions about what NOT to do.  

Lesson You Will Learn:  While this might be contrary to what you’ve heard, it’s not always about the bottom line.  If you have to bend the rules to close a deal quickly or tell a white lie so that your lender approves a mortgage application, it isn’t worth it.  If you and your team take away one lesson from Enron’s mistakes, it’s that it is a lot easier to ruin a reputation than it is to build one.  Make smart investments and your team will follow.   

These documentaries are sure to inspire you and your team and will help you to make better investment decisions in the future that will ultimately make you a more successful entrepreneur.

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