Four Things Any Small Business Owner Can Learn from Harry Potter

For one reason or another, I never got into Harry Potter back in the 90s and early 2000s when the books and movies were huge. That is, not until HBO Max added the series during the Summer of 2021 and I binge-watched all eight movies over the course of a week.

As I watched each and every movie in the series, I started making some observations and drawing parallels to the small business world.

Here are 4 of these parallels:

1)  Don’t just hope for success-put the working.

Harry Potter’s success as a wizard was not an overnight achievement. It took years of hard work, perseverance and seeking help from others before he became successful in accomplishing the big goal of defeating Voldemort (oops, maybe I should not have said his name).

Though Harry was given some of Voldemort’s power back when he was a baby, he was only able to defeat Voldemort in the end because he had learned and practiced the necessary skills. He went to class, learned the spells, practiced when he could and came out on top in the end. Had he not had the diligence to prepare, he may not have been the victor.

His natural talent for wizardry was high but his progress was slow. Like in anything, mastery takes years.

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book “Outliers,” you are probably familiar with the concept of the 10,000 hours rule. Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials. Many are not willing to dedicate the time it takes to achieve mastery, but those who do enjoy great rewards as a result.

Success doesn’t come easily in any field, especially not in business, but the rewards of working hard are great: knowledge, experience, a sense of purpose and community impact.

Business is a marathon. To win at the end you need both endurance and speed. Those come as a result of two different types of putting the work in. And if you, like Harry, are willing to give the necessary time and effort to learning, growing, practicing and participating you will reap these benefits in business and in life.

2)  Understand that failure is a prerequisite for success.

Let’s hop out of the fantasy life of Harry Potter and into the real life of the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. You may not know but she was a struggling single mother when she wrote the famous series.

Believe it or not, she was rejected by a dozen publishers before someone took a chance on the soon-to-be-famous books.

How easy would it have been for her to give up? After all, she had a daughter to take care of! But she had big dreams that she was not ready to let go of. Because she didn’t give up, she is now one of the most successful authors in the world.

Little failures can result in big success. Remember the famous Thomas Edison quote on how he kept himself motivated in his endeavor to invent the lightbulb?

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Failure is a part of any business as well; however, don’t dwell on your mistakes. Just learn from them and apply your lessons accordingly. Consider them as a steppingstone or something you must overcome before you reach success.

3)  Have a team.

There is only one Harry Potter, the chosen one; but he did not do it alone. He understood that he could not fight the fight alone. It takes a team. In his case it took a village; he had helpers, doers, mentors, teachers and subject matter experts surrounding him.

Harry Potter sought and accepted help; he welcomed help. Harry knew he couldn’t do it all on his own, and that’s why he recruited the help of friends.

Plus, Harry had a strong core-team who showed a complete alignment towards outcomes, great care for each other and had complementary skill sets. Harry knew they needed to work together, not just for themselves but also for a cause bigger than any one of them could handle on their own.

In business, it is hard to assemble a team. It is hard to manage a team. It is hard to financially afford a competent team. But having your team of helpers and experts is vital for the success of your business.

Consider your external team members (such as your Bookkeeper, CPA, Tax Preparer, Attorney, Marketing Consultant) among your team. Choose wisely. Even when it comes to choosing vendors, make sure they understand your business, can repeat what you do and even refer business to you. A diverse group of thinkers helps you grow in areas where you may not be as knowledgeable or skilled.

4)  Unlock what is already inside you.

Harry Potter was a wizard from birth but did not know until his 11th birthday when Hagrid showed up to his house to take him school shopping for Hogwarts.

Harry had to be told of the power he had inside of him in order to know how to pursue who he was created to be.

In the business world, this is often true. Though a big, hairy man does not show up to our houses and tell us of the skills we have, we have to discover them in order to grow them and use them. This can be through a few different avenues: someone close having that conversation with us, trial-and-error or even through finding where our passions lie. Figure out what skills you already have and focus on improving those instead of putting so much attention on the areas you lack.

You will learn to perfect those skills and you will see tremendous growth in your business as a result.

In the same way that you notice these qualities in yourself, seek to notice them in employees and future employees. See the potential. Learn how to lead them to growth and improvement. Only then will you get to see the results for which you hoped.

Binge-watching the Harry Potter series all at once provided a view into his entire journey. J.K. Rowling takes us from his start, to what and who helped him and what gets in his way and ultimately to what makes him happy and successful.

It is not always easy to see ourselves in the context of the entire journey. It was nice to be reminded that the magic may be in not giving up and believing that your ideas and abilities can make a difference.

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Credits: Big thanks to my helpers and collaborators for this article: Sarah Yingling, Michelle Taing, Deborah Wotursky.