It’s that time of year again! No, not Christmas. There’s another Star Wars movie about to be released! So it seems appropriate that we provide you with another article about business growth and management, as it relates to Star Wars.
Under the watchful eye of the Emperor, Darth Vader built not one, but two Death Stars. As far as a business enterprise goes, there are probably a lot more cost-effective ways to keep the galaxy in line. But, more importantly, there are five critical mistakes that Darth made in trying to make the Empire the one true power in that galaxy far, far away.
These are the same mistakes that many businesses, particularly startups, encounter through their inception, growth, and inevitable failure. Taking note and avoiding these mistakes might be the difference between you becoming a true power in the galaxy or lining up at the job application centre to become a stormtrooper ("here’s your laser gun, try not to hit anything").
So without further ado . . .
1) A Severe Lack of Planning
DARTH: "<insert heavy breathing> Alright folks, we’re going to build a space station. It’s going to be massive <more breathing> really really massive, the biggest space station you’ve ever seen. It’ll be tremendous!"
ENGINEER: How big are we talking here?
DARTH: Massive! Like the size of a small moon <more breathing>.
ENGINEER: That’s insane. It can’t be done.
DARTH: <force-chokes engineer, puts someone else in charge>
The economics students at Lehigh University in Pensylvania worked out just how much iron you’d need in order to render the amount of steel required to build a space station of that size:
" . . .at today’s rate of steel production (1.3 billion tonnes annually), it would take 833,315 years to produce enough steel to begin work. So once someone notices what you’re up to, you have to fend them off for 800 millennia before you have a chance to fight back."
Sure, a massive space station that can blow up a planet would certainly provide enough incentive for anyone to bend to your will but if it’s going to take over eight hundred thousand years to build, it’s probably not worth it.
Make realistic plans and by all means, dream big! But Make sure you have a solid plan in place when building your business.
2) Not Learning from Your Mistakes
The first Death Star got blown up because of a 2 metre exhaust port. It took one missile to destroy the entire thing. Did Vader learn from this mistake? No. He built a second Death Star where several ships could fly directly into the space station and blow it up from the inside. In his defence, he’d likely killed all the available engineers at this point and was forced to solely work with the plumbers.
Mistakes are a natural progression of building a business. Things will not always go smoothly. You may encounter issues with shipping, difficult employees, service interruptions, product problems, and the occasional angry wookie. That doesn’t mean you should give up or, worse, repeat the same mistakes. When things don’t go according to plan, consider those times as an opportunity to learn and grow.
3) Not Paying Attention to Trends
Vader ignored the fact that his Empire, or brand, was not even remotely popular. He didn’t try to understand why, he didn’t try to work with the people to create a better world, he just spouted some nonsense about the dark side, built a weapon of mass destruction, and started blowing up planets.
Blockbuster ignored the growing trend of online streaming media and, consequently, they no longer exist. You can’t ignore industry trends. Listen to the noise that exists on social media, to your clients, to your peers, and change accordingly. It’s entirely possible that Darth Vader was one focus group away from a happy, carefree galaxy.
4) Throwing Money Down the Trash Compactor
The economics students at Lehigh University worked out the potential cost of building a Death Star and the results are staggering. Just for for steel production alone it’d cost $852,000,000,000,000,000 (that’s 8.5 quadrillion). After you take into account the electric work, the plumbing, the big power source that blows up planets, dorms for the soldiers, engineers, and janitors, the cleaning costs, fuel costs, and a penthouse suite for Vadar, according to Gizmodo, you’re looking at a clean $15.6 septillion and 94 cents. And the Empire didn’t build just one. They built two!
Any business comes with startup costs and, depending on the nature of your business, those costs can sometimes be quite high. The last thing you want to do is spend unwisely and this goes back to point #1 about having a plan. You need to know what your goals are as a company, what do you want to accomplish, how are you going to get there? And then budget accordingly. Don’t just consider your hard business costs. What about marketing? Professional development? Potential expansion? A nice moon-sized space station with which to destroy your competition?
5) Being a Solo Act (pun completely intended)
It’s all well and good walking around force-choking people but let’s be serious, you need your team. We could argue that Vader had the entire armed forces of the Empire at his fingertips, but none of them were really team players. As soon as things went south, they all abandoned ship.
Having a trusted and loyal team around you is essential, particularly when it comes to growth. You can’t do everything yourself. The more you grow and advance as a company, the more you’ll need to rely on other people to ensure things continue to run smoothly. This is sometimes the hardest thing for many managers to do but coming to the realization that you need to trust in other people is an important lesson.
There you have it! Lessons from a galaxy far, far away that can easily be applied to business here on earth.