News 17 June 2016

Business lessons from Martin Scorsese

We re-watched some of the master filmmaker’s classics and have identified some key pointers for business owners

Martin Scorsese’s movies are riddled with dodgy characters, black humour, shocking violence and the shadier side of doing business. Whether they’re running a small family grocer, the biggest casino in Vegas or a Wall Street stockbroking firm, Scorsese’s characters know a thing or two about succeeding in business even before they cross to the wrong side of the law. In the lead up to our Business After Dark networking event at ACMI’s SCORSESE exhibition next month, we re-watched some of the master filmmaker’s classics and have identified some key pointers for business owners.

Know your customers

Make it your mission to know what your customers want and understand how they buy and use your products or services. Check in with them over the phone, meet them in person and always think about how you can make their experience with your business more enjoyable.

Ethical issues aside, Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein knew Ichikawa’s thought process at the gambling tables intimately, and he knew the importance of providing a consistent customer experience, especially when it comes to the number of blueberries in each muffin.

Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort was a keen salesperson, who worked hard to build rapport with clients so he could understand them and deliver what they wanted. Putting the hard sell onto clients may be out of fashion these days, but there will always a place for building client relations and making your customers feel good about their purchase.

Acknowledge your employees’ contributions and commitment

You don’t always need to give a bottle of champagne or a $40,000 dollar watch to show staff you appreciate their hard work and achievements. It can be as simple as congratulating people on a job well done.

Similarly, ensure your employees understand the vision for your business and offer professional development and coaching that builds their skills. Rewards and recognition builds loyalty and reduces staff turnover. Every member of your team counts: from the valet to your sales teams to your accountant, so make sure everyone feels a part of your business’ success.

However, we definitely do not endorse Belfort’s preference of giving illicit substances and weekly parties that can see you face a WorkCover claim or a Fair Work Commission hearing.

Work hard and work with passion

Henry Hill always knew he wanted to be a gangster and Jordan Belfort wanted to be rich. These characters did everything they could to stand out to get their start, worked long hours to learn the ropes and become the best in their field.

When L.F. Rothschild closed its doors, Belfort demonstrated a passion and determination –something many business owners need – to start his own firm, Stratton Oakmont. His dedication to taking his company “into the stratosphere” saw him diversify and adapt his business plan to grow and compete with the top Wall Street firms.

Hire people who know your industry (or can learn) and passionately believe in your goals

Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein was hired for the Tangiers casino because he “ate, slept and breathed gambling”. He knew what his boss’ business goals were and he had the skills and knowledge to make the role his own.

Belfort hired Donnie, a children’s furniture maker, to be his partner in Stratton Oakmont based on his shared values, his willingness to take a calculated risk but always protect the Stratton Oakmont brand and ability to build a good professional relationship with him. Even Travis Bickle demonstrated initiative by working during his long waking hours.

It’s not all about money

As Belfort says, money can give you a better life, better cars, better food, and allow you to be a better person by donating to charities close to your heart. However, getting rich rarely worked for any of Scorsese’s characters; many lost their family, friends, their money, freedom and their lives. A bit extreme for us, perhaps, but there is a lesson in what to consider when setting your goals and working to achieve them. 

Business After Dark is on Tuesday July 12. The event includes networking over drinks and canapés and entry to the SCORSESE exhibition. Book now.

Media Contact

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0423 883 945

For all other enquiries please contact the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333

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