Beam me up, Scotty.
I know I’m not the only one out there who spent far too many evenings eagerly awaiting the newest Star Trek episode. I was part of the Star Trek: The New Generation era, so it wasn’t until my late teens that I was able to binge-watch the original series with Captain Kirk. Now, I don’t want to get into who was the best Captain, (cough-Captain Kirk-cough) because that’s like talking politics or religion. People take that stuff really seriously. But I do want to discuss how this famous franchise can help you build your brand.
Star Trek wasn’t just about space exploration and aliens with weird accents; it was so much more than that. Whether you’re a casual or more extreme Star Trek groupie, this series offers a lot of lessons you can apply toward creating a better business.
“Time is the fire in which we burn.”Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek Producer
7 tips to set your business phaser to stun:
1. Too Many Kirks Spoil the Pot.
Sure, it makes sense to assemble the best and the brightest to work on your team, but too many “leader-types” can create a negative dynamic and cause a disaster. Aim to have a “Spock” for every “Kirk” on your team to create optimal team energy that can tackle any villain.
I like me. I mean, obviously, right? I’m awesome. I have a tendency to like people who are like me, and when I first started in my business I only hired people who mirrored the things I love about myself. Because the more me’s, the better — right? Wrong. So wrong. I’m a natural leader, so working with other natural leaders ended up creating constant power struggles. Everyone thought their way was right and we got nowhere. When I finally recognized that I needed a variety of personality types and skill sets, my businesses started running more smoothly. Like they say, too many cooks spoil the pot, and too many Kirks will steer your ship right into the nearest asteroid.
2. Don’t Trust “Yes-Men.”
It’s nice to hear positive feedback, but when you find that you’re no longer hearing constructive criticisms anymore, something is wrong. You need to have someone close to you — either on your team or mentoring you — who isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re wrong. Kirk’s success as captain hinged on his shipmates telling him exactly how back the situation was, especially in the face of self-doubt. You can’t risk steering your business down the wrong path just because someone you trust sugar-coated the truth.
It’s natural as a leader to want everyone to get on board with what you want. I’ve certainly fallen victim to this kind of thinking a time or two. Fortunately, I have seen that getting all the answers you want instead of the ones you need can spell disaster, so I’ve learned the best team members are those who are going to give me their two cents at any cost. Examples like those from Star Trek have given me a lot of insight and made me aware of problems I may have otherwise missed.
3. Dive Into Disaster Head-First.
Kirk was quick to jump into chaotic situations, much to the dismay of his crew. But there was a method to his madness; he wanted to tackle the harm head-on, so it didn’t end up getting worse before it got better. When you approach a disaster with eyes wide open, you gain tremendous power and maintain some control. Annihilating the fear of having to handle a bad situation could be the best thing you can do for your business and end up making you much stronger in the long run.
I can be a bit of an over-thinker at times; I like to review every logical plan and reasonable outcome. It can be a good thing in some cases, but for others it just means stunting my productivity and reducing profits and growth. I’ve had to condition myself to think more like my mentor Captain Kirk — identify the issue, then get right in there and attack it. I can figure out the dirty details in the process of fixing the problem; I don’t have to have all the answers to start seeking solutions.
4. Study Your Competitors.
Kirk frequently had some sort of background or intel on the villains he and his crew encountered, even if it was just a vague sense of their culture or a bit of their language. Study your competition like you would a magic trick — decode the mystery and repeat the action until you’ve got it down to a science. Doing this will help you understand how to strike back when the going gets tough.
Over time, I have to come to know my opponents pretty well. Outside of our businesses, we actually like each other a lot and are pretty good friends; however, just because we get along outside of work doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stay a little frosty. I know their strengths and weaknesses, and I capitalize on them by working my own model to improve upon what their models lack. I’m not saying that there is no such thing as communal earning or friendship in business — just that you have to be educated about the competition and hustle to best them in the game. The friendly post-game handshake is for after you’ve already won.
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures.
He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek Producer
5. Hire Your Opposite.
I know I already talked about not having a team of Kirks, but you should also be sure to hire individuals who are your exact opposite. In the book A Team of Rivals, author Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how Abraham Lincoln famously assembled his administration by hiring opponents. Lincoln knew that hiring his opposition would create a team vocal about his missteps and thus better suited to challenge him and guide him. Consider the same philosophy when you assemble your network.
This strategy has led to some of the best effort in my business. I get so many different perspectives from every differently-wired and unique member of my team. I know a lot, but I don’t know everything, so having a wonderful team member shoot it to me straight and give me suggestions helps me create a well-rounded, thoughtful decision for my business’s future. It’s really nice to know that all the things you didn’t or couldn’t think of are brewing in the brains of the completely, radically different folks you hired.
“The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.”
Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek Producer
6. Don’t Fall for Bright, Shiny Things
Technology is fallible, so you shouldn’t always rely on it. Make sure you have a Plan B for every strategy you have in place that is technology-dependent. Starship Enterprise’s systems were often compromised by outside forces; feeds were dominated by opponents and machines infiltrated communications. While it’s pretty unlikely that a Klingon will try to sabotage your product launch, you still don’t want to take any chances. Nothing should be able to interfere with your ability to operate.
Technology is my drug of choice. I am always on the latest innovative invention to drive my company workflow, but I have learned along the way that no matter how amazing my tech is, it has the potential to fail. With that in mind, we back up everything religiously and work closely with the experts to troubleshoot problems. I have also created other kinds of fail-safes, so if things malfunction my team members know how to handle the emergency. Remember — everyone thought the Titanic was unsinkable, until it wasn’t.
7. Go Down With The Ship.
Like any true captain of sea or space, Kirk has vowed to go down with the ship if things really get out of hand. Make the same promise to your business, and don’t abandon your team when times are darkest. Always have an eye for strategy, whether it’s a pivot to another market or striking up another conversation with potential investors.
I have made a blood pact (with myself) to never leave my “business ship” when things get rough. If I find that one day my venture just isn’t for me anymore, that’s a different story, but when the going get’s tough the tough do not get going. They bunker down to weather the storm! Making that commitment to follow my dreams, even through rough times, has repeatedly gotten me to bigger and better places. There have been times when I thought, I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain! There’s nothing more I can do! But because I’m decidedly dedicated to my goals, I always find just a little more thrust and the engines roar.
- Don’t Fill Your Team with Kirks. As it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing. Hire different personalities and experts who can bring their own knowledge and perspective to create a well-rounded team.
- Don’t Trust “Yes-Men.” Recruit a team that isn’t afraid to be vocal about how they think issues should be handled. You’ll be thankful for the insight when making the best decisions for your company.
- Dive Into Disasters Head-first. Spend less time thinking about the problem and more time fixing it. When you over-analyze, you foster fear and doubt. Take action and learn to overcome fear.
- Study Your Competition. Look at what your competition is doing and understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can take advantage of their downfalls and learn to improve from their successes.
- Hire Your Opposites. Employ individuals who can create new ways of thinking and different approaches. You want a wide variety of insights into all aspects of your company’s framework.
- Don’t Fall for Bright, Shiny Things. Never assume that all will go well, even if you have the best technology and systems. Prepare for the worst and create backup plans, because nothing is perfect.
- Go Down With Your Ship. Make a commitment to your business — for better or worse. Stick with it and help reposition the market strategy when things get rough.
Resistance is futile.
There is no denying that Star Trek has some incredible pointers for conducting your business. What you can take away from their journey into the unknown is that it takes a team of very different talents to create a stellar business. It doesn’t matter how amazing one person is, because no one person single-handedly contains all the insight you need to make the right decision in every case. Hire a team that will speak up and challenge you to ensure you see complex situations from different angles. Don’t allow fear to breed hesitation and make it a habit to attack issues full-force. Study the competition to get familiar with how they work and learn from their mistakes, but don’t spend so much time focussing on them that you forget to create backup plans for dealing with possible pitfalls in your own brand. Above all else, never abandon your business, because making a commitment to success will keep you invested in the long haul.
Now go: live long, and watch your business prosper!