13 September 2017

learn from everything - buzz lightyear lessons from toy story lawrence jones mbe ukfast entrepreneurBear with me. I appreciate that this is an unusual theme for a blog but there are opportunities to learn everywhere, particularly in stories.

My kids love Disney films and visiting Disney World, and one story stands out for me: Toy Story. We’ve seen it hundreds of times and every time I watch it, I pick up another of the messages hidden in the chaos of Andy’s childhood bedroom. So what can we learn from the film to help us in business? You may be surprised to know there’s actually quite a lot!

To infinity and beyond!

I am a firm believer in dreaming big and self-belief, and there’s no greater advocate for that than Buzz Lightyear! When you believe something is going to happen, more often than not, it will happen; just look at Buzz’s ‘falling with style’!

Self-belief is a trait we see amongst the most successful people in every arena. From Muhammad Ali in the boxing ring to Sir Richard Branson in the business arena, it is this belief and confidence that sets people apart.

Loyalty counts for everything

In business, loyalty is hugely valuable. You will inevitably meet new people, hire new teammates and acquire new clients but don’t forget those who’ve been with you along that journey. Andy always comes back for Woody even though he’s got new toys to play with.

I am still in contact with the first clients that ever joined UKFast and many of them are still with us to this day. We stay in touch personally and are helping each other to grow together. Many of these clients are now great friends.

Equally, a couple of weeks ago I went for dinner with the UKFast Ten-Year Club. It’s astonishing to think that between them they now have 210 years’ experience in the UKFast team. That’s irreplaceable. These 16 people are the very bedrock of the UKFast culture and they’re who others learn from. Whilst we’re fortunate to constantly grow the team, there’s no replacing the value that these teammates bring to the business. It’s irreplaceable. That’s why we reward ten years’ service with a  £10,000 cheque, tax paid.

Learn what goes around comes around

There’s little more important motivation than doing things for the right reason. Ethics are so much more important than profit. It’s not about how much money you make, it’s about the impact that you have on other people. We have found that the more we help others and support the community, the more success seems to follow naturally.

The big businesses that are not paying their taxes appropriately – whether legal or not – aren’t giving back to the very community that they are thriving off. It just doesn’t seem right. For me, I am proud to pay tax in Britain because I know it goes back into making our country stronger and goes some way to paying back the community that has helped us to get to where we are today.

Equally, we focussed on giving back to the local community too. We’ve worked with the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation for many years, and we work with more than 57,000 school children across Greater Manchester. We’re helping them to learn and to grow the next generation of our country’s leaders.

Ultimately, if you put good into the world, good will come to you as well.

Surround yourself with friends

*Spoiler* when the toys find themselves on the cusp of oblivion in the third of the Toy Story series, the overriding message for little ones watching is the value of friendship. Whatever scraps the toys find themselves in, they come out of it thanks to each other and their incredible bond.

In business, you need this friendship. It can be incredibly lonely as the CEO of a business. You’re in a position that no one else is in. You’re ultimately responsible for every decision in the business and the pressure can easily mount. That’s when it is time to take a break, go for a coffee with friends or hit the gym. Surround yourself with supportive people and people outside the office who you can switch off with.

Have you ever learned a business lesson from an unusual place? I’d love to hear your tips from unusual sources in the comments below.


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