12 Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Movie: The Intern

When I was young I used to watch lots and lots of TV. In the last couple of years, I have drastically reduced on that. I have replaced that with reading and writing. I rarely watch movies, I just watch the first 5minutes of a movie to decide if it’s worth my time. This one certainly was.

It features Robert De Niro as a 70year old intern at an e-commerce company run by a young lady played by Anne Hathaway who started it from her own kitchen and within 18months grew it and now has 216 employees. Here are 12 entrepreneurial lessons from the movie:

1.Keep it Hip, Keep it Fresh.

There was a scene where the CEO is riding a bicycle on the company floor. I really loved that. Seriously.

2. Start Where You Are.

I sometimes I get people asking me how to come up with a business idea. Well, what is one product or service you wish was there, was served better, looked better or functioned better? The best way is to look right where you are and ask these questions.

3. Nothing Beats Passion.

Of course, there are other factors like the team, finances, and market forces. But no, I still think nothing beats passion. De Niro told the CEO, ‘I saw you teaching the ladies at the warehouse how to fold a piece of clothing. I tell you nobody will love your company the way you do.’ So true.

4. Attention to Detail is Important.

One of her employees is showing her a web page. She asks,’ what do you want me to see? 5 girls one shirt or check out the fit?’ She immediately goes on to give 3 instructions on optimizing the images such as increasing the font size and re-arranging the
colour presentations. Many of us will just think put the shirt on a pretty girl, take some pictures and put it on the website. Tiny details do count.

5. Pay Attention to Metrics

“40% of our website visitors don’t go beyond the home page. It is really not bad.”

‘Yeah, but we gotta fix that.’

This is one area where Zambian businesses, including my own, can sometimes be behind. How many website visitors do you have per month? What are they doing on your website? How many are going beyond the home page? I did a survey of 15 medium-size companies in Kitwe town once, none of the managers knew a thing about their website statistics.

6. Old is Gold

What’s this obsession with retirement age? Around the age of 55-65years, it is said people should retire. I think a smart company should keep a good mix of older and young people. I am writing more about this in a separate blog. When I started work in the mines, I was working with people who had been called back from retirement because of their valuable skills.

7. People Who Love You Will Never Ask You to Give Up Your Passion for Them

Ever. For some reason, the VCs feel the company needs a more experienced CEO. The CEO’s husband also feels this will be better for their marriage. Both the senior intern and her husband eventually tell her the same thing: you built this company on your own, it’s your life, your passion. Don’t give it up. Yes, a young CEO probably needs an older mentor but it’s the young CEO with the passion.

8. You Need a Cool Number Two

Anne is a high-speed CEO. The type A kind of person where the deadline is always yesterday. Good for speed and efficiency, but there is a crush and burn risk. This is where a cool-headed number two, vice-something, deputy, business partner, spouse or even personal assistant really come in handy. Anne has a guy named Cameron who she discusses the important business details and decisions with. He’s cool, laid back and clearly, gives a great balance to her high-speed approach.

9. Celebrate the Little Wins

They have a red bell in the workspace. When something good happens, they ring the bell, make an announcement and everybody claps. For example, someone cleaned up the messy table which had been bothering the CEO, they announced the name of the person and everyone clapped. They hit some milestone on their social media marketing, they rung the bell. Just watching that, I could feel the positive energy generated and the motivation installed. Simple but effective.

10. Take Initiative

After the new older intern is introduced to the boss, she says she will email him when she has something for him to do. Hour-after-hour passes, no email. Then the whole day. Stop. He decides to take things into his own hands. He starts helping other people around without being asked. Its called taking initiative. Through this, he gets recognized and is given more work by other people including his boss and eventually becomes almost indispensable. So get off that chair and act.

11. Go On, Be Yourself and Stand Out

Why do you wear a suit? I want to stand out. The CEO laughs and says it’s not necessary but he doesn’t relent, he keeps wearing the suit.

12. Employee Welfare Counts

These guys have an in-house massage therapist, are you kidding me? I have never seen that in any movie or even a real company. Am totally having that when my business finally has it’s own premises. Even a contracted one who comes from time to time but I really loved the idea. You have employees sitting all day, have someone give them massages from time to time. Absolutely loved the idea!


So thank you to the producers of that movie. And its totally going into my watch again movie list.




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