When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, anyone can give you a list, especially one applied to better business resolutions. Do more of this. Be less of that. Sure, lists are super-organized and good for roadmapping the year ahead, but I’m more of a practical application kind of person. Don’t tell me how I can be better in 2015, show me.
For all the visual learners out there searching for business models to follow in the new year, I suggest you look at one of my favorite forms of media: television. Granted, not every businessman and businesswoman on TV should be exemplified (I’m excluding meth dealers and Targaryans, of course), but small business owners on TV display more than a few admirable qualities. I offer a few examples for your consideration:
Bob Belcher, owner of Bob’s Burgers (FOX)
Easily the smallest business owner on television, Bob runs a family-owned burger joint on Ocean Avenue in a fictional beachside community. With the help of wife, Linda, and elementary-aged children Tina, Gene, and Louise, Bob’s Burgers (also the show’s title) is the epitome of local businesses.
As dedicated as Bob is to his craft, he’s the poster child for struggling business owners everywhere.
The show’s opening credits say it all, as we’re reminded Bob’s Burgers fell prey to a building fire and a rat infestation before it became the restaurant audiences visit every week. Despite the pitfalls, Bob’s Burgers always manages to recover, and though the Belchers struggle to keep the doors open, they run their business with creativity and passion.
Four seasons later, Bob’s Burgers is the wholesome business whose model you might resolve to integrate into your New Year’s Resolutions. Bob caters to the locals and his best customers (a handyman and a mortician), never compromises the quality of his product, and maintains a steady competition for Jimmy Pesto’s Pizzaria across the street. Bob’s Burgers is a constant. People can always count on it to be there.
Hank & Evan Lawson, co-owners of HankMed (USA)
In a slightly lesser known example, I give you the Lawson brothers.
On USA’s Royal Pains, they’re co-owners of a concierge medical practice for the rich and not-so-rich people of the Hamptons.
One of the great things about HankMed is the contrasting personalities that run it. Hank is strictly medically-minded, while Evan manages the business, retaining clients and marketing the business at every summer party he can get into. Neither makes a point to crossover into the other’s territory.
Like Bob, Hank doesn’t compromise quality in his practice. HankMed is a big idea, but it doesn’t lose sight of the small pieces that make it unique. He’s always looking for ways to make his services better. The Lawsons find their niche and stick to it.
We’re not saying you should go into business with your family, but maybe allow your business to be balanced by a personality other than your own.
Leslie Knope, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation (NBC)
If you’re an avid watcher of the droll comedy Parks and Recreation, you might be thinking this analogy is a little bit of a stretch, but hear me out.
No, technically, Leslie Knope doesn’t run a small business (Pawnee, Indiana, is small, but not mom-and-pop small), but she does treat her town like one.
As the co-head of a rather small government agency, Leslie is exactly the kind of person you should want to emulate in 2015. Against all odds, Leslie never forgets her employees, her constituents, or her roots. At any given point, she’s equal parts sparring with the people of Pawnee and developing meaningful relationships with them. The city of Pawnee is as much a character as the gruff but sweet Ron Swanson and the sarcastic, animal-loving April Ludgate.
Leslie is the most dedicated boss on network television: positive, driven, and hilarious. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who loves what they do on the same level as Leslie Knope.
She’s supportive of her co-workers and is always willing to meet a citizen on their level to resolve an issue — she lobbies for a citizen who wants to put a Twilight book in a city time capsule to help him impress his daughter; she agrees to live pioneer-style at the Pawnee Historic House Museum, yes, to win a bet, but also to understand why a passionate citizen loves 19th-century Pawnee. You might be thinking, no one does that. I assure you, Leslie Knope does that.
When the end credits roll, we can adapt the fictional business models to our own. Situational predicaments aside, when you strip away the antics and relationship drama, you get fiction that can be effectively applied to reality.
Honestly, I hear a lot about small businesses wanting to follow in the overwhelming footsteps of the Disney or Apple or Google models. Without a doubt, those companies are impressive, but this year, resolve to think smaller, more quality over quantity.
In the new year, sure, you can trust the lists set forth by Fortune 500 companies, but sometimes the best resolutions are the ones you come home to at primetime.