5 lessons startups can learn from the American football film, Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans was put amongst the top movies of the year 2000 when it brought in over US$135 million while breaking numerous racial barriers through the game of football. Denzel Washington stars as Herman Boone, the new African American head football coach of the 1971 high school football team; the T.C. Williams Titans.
Throughout this Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer production, the Titans experience never-ending adversity due to the mixture of black and white players on the team. Not only did this film teach its viewers how people of different skin color resolved their differences in the 70’s, but another, more hidden, purpose to this movie was to provide insight on how to be successful for startups around the world. I know, that seems like a stretch, but there is no doubt that if you share the same mentality as Coach Boone and his Titan players, your startup will be growing faster than you can keep up with it.
1. “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.” – Big Ju
– Big Ju, the strongest African-American defensive player on the team, gets into an argument regarding leadership with the Captain of the entire team Gerry Bertier, who is white. Bertier criticizes Big Ju’s attitude during practice declaring that he was lazy; Big Ju retorts that his actions reflect his own captain’s leadership skills.
– In a startup, having a strong, devoted leader is everything. Notorious for being difficult to get off the ground, startups need that one person who is willing to put in all the work necessary to become a successful company. There are two main things that a startup captain, or leader, must always be doing: accentuating teamwork and generating a positive work environment. There is no doubt that teamwork is an absolute necessity in reaching any final goal of a startup. In order to develop that sense of collaboration, you must make each employee feel as though each person is a vital facet to the company as a whole, and without them it simply would not work. In terms of the positive work environment, that is all it really takes, positivity in everything you do. Once your employees see that you conduct your daily work in a positive way, they too will do the same, day in and day out.
2. If you get knocked down, get right back up.
– Almost every single game that the Titans had to play in was refereed by a racist, or rigged by a wealthy opponent. There were countless times where the opposing team would commit blatant penalties, but the referees did not flag them because they were either racist or paid off. The Titans never let the continual cheap knockdowns stand in the way of their path to victory, and ultimately and undefeated season.
– As aforementioned, startups are difficult to get off the ground sometimes. In some cases it takes several months, and others several years. Regardless of how long it takes to close your first big deal or make your first sale, the key to being a strong entrepreneur is resilience. The definition resilience varies greatly, but my favorite is “being able to flex against outside forces, but not lose your shape”. This applies directly to startups because there will undoubtedly be things that are not in your control that will slow down your business. But, you cannot let these outside forces get you down, or get in the way of reaching your final goal.
3. “Mobile. Agile. Hostile.” – the Titan team
– In order to get his team on the right track and working together, Coach Boone takes the Titans to an extensive football camp away from home. During one drill he yells them the question, “What are you?!” Their answer: “Mobile, Agile, Hostile!”
– In some cases a startup must be mobile, most likely not hostile, but most importantly a startup must be agile. More relevant to the smaller startup nation, agility is key to reaching success at the highest level. In today’s world, everything is changing at a very rapid pace. This means that your startup must do the same in order to stay competitive. Whether it’s creating a Facebook page for your company, or something more drastic like performing a “pivot”, or changing a major part of your business. Whatever the case may be, if you and your startup is not agile, then it will be difficult to stay up-to-date, and relevant in your customers’ eyes.
4. Star power isn’t everything
– In Remember the Titans, the quarterback Rev gets injured due to poor blocking. Rev was the Titans’ star to their offense, but after he goes down and the back up went in, it was like Rev never left.
– Having a star doesn’t make you a star team. Every single person contributes in a startup, and every single person deserves to be treated the same. Once your startup gets off and running, it will attract more high-caliber employees. This is certainly positive, but does not mean you forget how you got that success in the first place: with your original team. Another key to every startup is the fact that you are only as strong as your weakest link. If one person is not pulling his or her weight in the startup, everyone will suffer because of it. A leader must recognize, and make changes to the company’s personnel as these problems arise.
5. “I am a winner. I am going to win.” – Coach Boone
– Coach Henry Boone of the Titans said to his team that he is going to win. There was no doubt in his voice, and his players recognized that. He demanded perfection and that is what they gave him. As a startup, everyone must have that winning mentality, always. When they do, and when everyone understands the final goal of their business, nothing is impossible for their startup.
About Peter Montesantos
Peter Montesantos knew that he loved journalism once he hit his sophomore year in high school. He joined radio, and put himself on the air, but most importantly he began writing for the Oracle. With a broad knowledge of sports, Peter went from staff reporter to Sports Editor by his senior year. In his free time, he enjoys playing pick-up basketball with his friends, eating at authentic Mexican restaurants, and spending time with his extremely large family. Moving forward, Peter plans on pursuing a career in broadcast journalism. Peter is currently completing his internship at Fetch Plus Inc.