Not everything is bad on TV. If you pay close attention, there are plenty of valuable insights that entrepreneurs and small business owners can gain from memorable sitcoms. From coffee shops to burger joints to mall stores, virtually every type of business is represented on the small screen.
Let’s review some of our favorite small businesses from TV and the lessons you can learn from them:
Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana
Located on the Oceanside Wharf boardwalk in Newport Beach, the Bluth’s frozen banana stand is a major staple from the Arrested Development series. Despite constantly losing money, the patriarch of the Bluth family claims “there’s always money in the banana stand!” Too bad that his comment was meant to be taken literally and $250,000 in cash, hidden in the walls of the stand, were lost in a fire set by Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman).
Business Lesson: Skipping business insurance can be devastating to any business that suffers a major loss. Take the time to find where to get business insurance that provides the coverage that your business needs at an affordable price. Oh, and don’t stash cash in the walls of your biz – unless it’s in a fireproof vault!
Throughout the 10 seasons of Friends, the Central Perk coffeehouse is the main hangout for Joey, Rachel, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe and Monica. Central Perk is such an important part of the show that Gunther, Central Perk’s manager, has the most appearances after the main cast. Fun fact: the actor playing Gunther, James Michael Tyler, was a real-life trained barista at a popular Hollywood coffee shop.
Business Lesson: No matter what product you offer, understand that you’re in the business of satisfying your customers. Gunther is always there to serve the Friends gang and they know that they can count on him. Central Perk offered much more than just food and coffee, it offered a place to relax and unwind.
One of TV’s most popular bars, Cheers, was owned by Sam Malone (Ted Danson), a former baseball player. With its tagline of “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” Cheers gathered a wide range of customers, including psychiatrists, mailmen and businesswomen. Among Sam’s staff, server Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) stood out because of her no-nonsense attitude and ability to get the job done.
Business Lesson: Just like Sam could count on Carla to keep the place in line, you need to recruit and train your second-in-command. Once you have enough money to hire your first employee, take the recruiting process very seriously. Remember that your first hire, if things go according to plan, will eventually become your most senior employee and the one that your other employees will see as a role model.
The Simpsons is filled with small businesses. While most fans of the show will think of Moe’s Tavern as the business to learn from, Ned Flander’s The Leftorium is a better pick. Ned is the epitome of the American entrepreneurial spirit: after quitting his pharma salesman job, he puts most of his life savings in this mall store that focuses on products for lefties. Ned has been able to stay in business because some of Springfield’s most famous citizens, including Moe and Mr. Burns, are loyal customers of the Leftorium.
Business Lesson: Do your market research! While selling products only for lefties may sound like an unsustainable business idea, Ned knows that about one in three Sprinfieldians are left-handed, as compared to about one in nine in real life.
Owned most of the time by Larry the Cook (Lawrence Mandley), Monk’s Café is the favorite place of the Seinfeld gang. Larry is a jack-of-all-trades and he both manages and cooks. The stress of trying to do it all might have gone to him because during Season 4 he sold his restaurant to Mr. Visaki, only to buy it right back on Season 5. Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) and George (Jason Alexander) couldn’t get enough of Monk’s egg white omelette and big salad (“Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs!”).
Business Lesson: The key to Monk’s Café is its ability to deliver consistent quality to its regulars. Even though Monk’s competing restaurant, Reggie’s, offered similar items, Monk’s loyal customers found Monk’s food to be superior in taste and portion size. Become that place that everybody can count on all the time, every time.
The Krusty Krab
Mr. Krabs surely knew what he was doing when he started The Krusty Krab in Bikini Bottom, home of SpongeBob SquarePants. There are two reasons why The Krusty Krab is so popular. First, the only other restaurant in Bikini Bottom is the Chum Bucket, which sells inedible chum (yum?). Second, Krabs developed his secret “Krabby Patty formula” that allows him to make perfect Krabby Patties every single time for his flagship sandwich, the Krusty Krab burger.
Business Lesson: The owner of rival Chum Bucket is always looking for ways to steal Mr. Krabs’ secret formula. Like Mr. Krabs, you should go to great lengths to protect your trade secrets from the competition. Whether it’s filing a trademark, filing an utility patent or hiring a patent attorney, take steps to protect your intellectual property.
What are other small businesses from TV that provide great business lessons? Let us know in the comments below or tweet