simplebooklet thumbnail

Describes the 20 Business rules based on the movies "Memphis Belle" that helped me transform a company.

of 0

How a World War II movie helped me turn around a software company, save jobs and make shareholders rich

When my father learned that I had been drafted by a board of directors to lead a failing software company through a financial turnaround, he reacted: “But, what do you know about running a business?” The words stung – but he was right: I knew nothing. I’d been an attorney for a wide variety of businesses for years – but had never been responsible for a bottom line, never done a budget, never managed people and had never created a strategic plan!

I began looking everywhere I could for advice. I devoured business and management books by the carload. Most often, I found good counsel in the talented people that surrounded me. They brought the experience and skills to the corporate table that I lacked. But, the single most unusual source of wisdom came one night when my CFO, Paul Byrne, and I drank a bottle of Thompson’s Bourbon Whiskey in the corporate house we shared in Wisconsin and watched the 1990 movie The Memphis Belle.

The namesake of the movie is an Army B-17 WWII bomber (“Flying Fortress”) whose crew had flown 24 missions into enemy territory. According to military policy, the crew would return home if they returned safely from their 25th mission. The movie tells the story of that final mission.

We were in the early days of our trench warfare trying to save the company, so it was natural that we felt a kinship with the pilot and crew of the Belle. As we drank and watched, we began to discover business rules and management lessons within the war-movie plot. By the time we were done, we had Ten Rules of Management From The Memphis Belle. Then, Paul came up with an 11th. I cussed and said “you can’t just have an odd number like 11” – so we replayed the movie in our heads and thought of 9 more.