3 Small Business Lessons You Can Take from “The Revenant”

Who knew there was so much small business in Hollywood?

With the Oscars airing this weekend, we couldn’t help but take a hard look at “The Revenant,” the movie getting the most awards buzz this season. But while everyone is talking about whether or not Leo will finally break his curse, we’re thinking about something: Small businesses. Because while the naysayers decry “The Revenant” as nothing more than a pretentious film about nothing, we see it as a movie about small business, entrepreneurship and opportunity.

Warning: SPOILERS!

To recap: “The Revenant” follows a group of early 19th century fur traders contracted by a private company to hunt for valuable pelts in what now the modern day Dakotas. The story’s protagonist, Hugh Glass (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his comrades. Unbeknownst to them, Glass survives and seeks his vengeance on those who wronged him.

It may not sound like it has anything to do with small businesses, but bear with us. Because beneath all the snow, wilderness and fur pelts, there are lessons for business owners everywhere embedded in the film.

Here are 3 lessons small businesses can take from “The Revenant”:

1. Have a clear management structure in place, with roles clearly defined:

“Revenant” tie-in: It’s clear early on in the film that the chain of command is blurred. For one, the supposed “leader” and one in charge of the group of trappers is Captain Andrew Henry (played by Domhnall Gleeson), who also financed the expedition. But after the group is ambushed by Native Americans, Henry defers to Glass on what to do next, which clearly irks the main antagonist John Fitzgerald (played by Tom Hardy), setting the stage for the events of the film.

Small business tie-in: A common problem that can plague a startup or small business: Who’s in charge? In the startup community, it’s popular to breed a progressive culture of “equality,” and while this can work to a degree, in practice it can be difficult to sustain. Every company needs a leader who passes down tasks to managers who then break with their respective teams on completing each objective. If your company has too many people trying to get their voice heard or “too many cooks in the kitchen,” decision making and productivity may suffer.

2. Make sure everyone is on the same page/sharing the same common vision

“Revenant” tie-in: After Glass is mauled in the infamous “bear scene,” the members of the group decide to transport the barely-breathing Glass with them, until it becomes apparent that doing so is slowing them down too much. An argument then erupts between the men over whether or not to just put Glass out of his misery or to carry on with him in tow.

Small business tie in: It’s crucial that everyone in the company from the top down shares the same vision. Whether you’re the owner expressing the grand vision and goals of the entire company or a manager communicating with your team, it’s important to be as transparent as possible. This ensures employees not only understand their roles, but also know exactly what the goals are as well as current progress towards each goal.

3. Manager/employee relations:

“Revenant” tie-in: After Fitzgerald murders Glass’ son, Fitzgerald and a young man named Bridger leave Glass behind and begin making their way to an outpost. Throughout this storyline Fitzgerald—the older, more experienced trapper—intimidates the young and naïve Bridger into complying with his orders, sometimes even using violence and force to get his way.

Small business tie-in: As a manager, you need to decide what relationship you want to have with your team. Do you want to be a players’ manager, or more of standoff-ish, “Do your job” type on? Either way, you need to build the respect of your team by giving them a reason to respect you. We’re not saying to intimidate them like Fitzgerald, but you can start off by showing that you respect them and their hard work and giving them the space they need to complete projects and reach their goals. If your team lacks respect for you and your position, then you’ve already failed.

See? That wasn’t so hard. You’d be amazed at how many movies have lessons for entrepreneurs within them. All you need to do is watch!