There is much wisdom to be gained from the Grinch.
It’s that time of year when Dr. Seuss’ iconic character is frequently on TV, in the all-time classic 1966 cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And his annual re-emergence got us to thinking about some of his character traits. Sure enough, he has some of the tools it takes to succeed in small business — once you get past his anti-everything attitude, his raging case of kleptomania and his grumpy appearance.
Here’s a look at a few business lessons, courtesy of our favorite Christmas curmudgeon.
For the bulk of the cartoon, nothing stands in the way of the Grinch’s ultimate goal — stealing Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville. He manages to mimic Santa’s chimney arrival in each house, and he completely wipes out all signs of Christmas, from trees to decorations to presents. He even swipes all the food, including the last can of Who Hash and “a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.”
Small business lesson: Those who are driven to succeed often have the best shot to actually do it. It takes guts and grit, as David A. Frankel explores in a story for Inc.com. “People with ‘true grit’ set goals and pursue them relentlessly no matter what the conditions or obstacles may be,” he says. “This requires discipline, focus, a certain fearless nature, and an ability to ignore the distractions that may hinder you from getting what you want.”
When the Grinch gets his “wonderful, awful idea” to steal Christmas, he goes all out. Few would have expected a 53-year-old grouch to be a whiz on the sewing machine, but he knocks out a quality Santa costume with little trouble. He turns his faithful dog Max into a low-rent reindeer, with the use of some modified antlers. He’s so convincing as Santa that the lone Who to spot him during his holiday heist — “little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than 2” — is completely fooled.
Small business lesson: Creativity is crucial for many small business owners. The ability to brainstorm new ideas and act on them can help pave the way to a successful business. Erika Andersen includes creativity in her piece titled “5 things you need to be a successful entrepreneur” for Forbes: “A lot of making a new business successful has to do with blazing trails: making decisions where you don’t necessarily have all the information you need; getting things done with limited resources; appealing to needs customers may not yet even know they have. And in the beginning, you will definitely run into situations where nothing you’ve done before has prepared you to address the problem or take advantage of the opportunity that’s in front of you. At those times, you have to be willing and able to think in new ways to come up with possible solutions that take best advantage of the strengths and assets you have at the moment. It’s a fundamentally MacGyverish undertaking, being an entrepreneur.”
He’s open-minded (eventually)
Despite all of the Grinch’s dastardly deeds, he does have the epiphany when he sees that the Whos are unfazed by their departed decorations and gifts (“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store/Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more”). In fact, as he’s trying to prevent his sled from tumbling down the hill — that great moment when “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day” — his eyes turn from their trademark sinister red to a sweet shade of blue.
Small business lesson: Flexibility often comes into play for a new small business owner. You want to stay focused on your overall mission, but the ability to shift and adapt can be beneficial. Murray Newlands writes about this in a piece for Entrepreneur.com. “While you obviously need a plan to run a business, businesses have to change their modes of operation more often than not,” he says. “Flexibility is an important and useful trait. Technology changes rapidly, as do online trends. You need to flex and bend, naturally, to keep your business running successfully. Avoid business plans that demand that you remain fixed in your ways for any period of time. At any moment, you might have to change your focus to keep your audience. Be prepared for that! Investors are always looking for startups able to adapt and still succeed. That is an invaluable asset for impressing the best investors.”