5 Business Lessons from Your Favorite Christmas Movies
Christmas movies, by design, have a little something for everyone.
Whether it’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Die Hard—everyone has their favorite. They usually revolve around family, generosity, and the spirit of the holiday. However, these films aren’t just feel-good stories, they also hold powerful lessons that you can carry into both your personal and professional lives. So, go ahead! Curl up under a blanket, make some hot chocolate, and let your favorite Christmas movies teach you a little something about business.
Oh, and maybe consider playing one of these Christmas classics at your next lunch and learn:
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Stay True to Your Brand
In Tim Burton’s classic, stop motion animated Christmas cautionary tale, our dashing hero Jack Skellington is a native of Halloween Town, a fictional settlement where every day is Halloween. The bustling town, which is populated with ghoulish characters like mad scientists, ghosts, and witches, is a playground of the macabre. However, as with any routine, the daily activities of Halloween Town soon become boring to our adventurous protagonist. This is where the trouble begins.
The movie follows Jack as he discovers a holiday-centric town parallel to his own but wherein every day is Christmas. He is taken in by the spectacle of gifts, lights, reindeer, and Christmas cheer and brings his discovery back to Halloween Town to convince others to celebrate the holiday. The result is a confusing mishmash of ghouls and elves, skeletons and reindeer, spiders and snowflakes.
If you look closely, there’s a business lesson buried in this story: Don’t try to be something you’re not. You don’t need to be all things to all people. Just stick to a cohesive brand, and focus on what you do best.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Be Transparent with Partners and Customers
George Bailey, who agrees to run the family business after his father’s death, has lived a life of selflessness—a life he is thinking of ending at the opening of this heart-warming Christmas movie.
George’s business (not to mention his freedom) is in danger after his uncle misplaces an envelope containing the company’s money and a competitor falsely reports George for fraud. This, however, is not the first time the Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan is threatened. Years earlier, a run on the bank caused by investor panic nearly sent the business into bankruptcy. It was George’s transparency, however, that won over frightened investors and ultimately saved the business.
Presenting an impromptu breakdown of the business’s investment portfolio, George calms the crowd and saves the bank. Later, after George’s guardian angel shows him the negative impact his absence would have had on the town, George returns home to face his fate. He is greeted, however, by the members of the community he has helped over the years, and they present him with the money he needs to save his business and avoid arrest.
The trust and goodwill that George cultivates in the community are ultimately what saves his business and his life.
Miracle on 34th Street: Put Customers First
Hired as the new Macy’s department store Santa after his successor shows up to the job intoxicated, Kris Kringle is the perfect embodiment of the Christmas spirit (some may say suspiciously so).
However, he’s also a good businessman.
Almost immediately, Kris breaks the rules by telling parents to check at Gimbel’s, a direct competitor, when the department store he works at doesn’t offer what they’re looking for. His supervisors are infuriated, focusing only on the short-term loss of profit rather than the long-term effects of Kris’s excellent customer service and honesty.
Over 500 parents write to the department store to express their gratitude, and even Gimbel’s is forced to embrace the same customer-centric policy in order to stay competitive. The result is a win for both stores and the customers who shop there. Everyone finds exactly what they’re looking for, and Kris’s store reaps the benefits of a loyal and committed customer base.
A Christmas Carol: Treat Your Employees Well
Adapted many times over for the big screen, Charles Dickens’ story follows a miserly old businessman confronted with the consequences of his greed. The story opens on our protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, refusing an invitation to spend Christmas with his nephew, turning away charity workers at the door, and only begrudgingly allowing his overworked clerk, Bob Cratchit, to take Christmas day off of work.
Over the course of the following night, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts: one of Christmas Past, one of Christmas Present, and one of Christmas Yet to Come. They offer a glimpse at how his actions affect those around him and show him the ultimate consequences of his selfish ways.
When he wakes the next morning, Scrooge is a changed man. He anonymously sends a turkey to the Cratchit home and resolves to give him a well-earned raise. He donates generously to the charity he rejected the day before, and he chooses to spend his Christmas with family.
While the moral of the story is obvious, it’s worth restating. You should treat people, especially your employees, with kindness. Despite Scrooge’s abuses, Bob Cratchit is a devoted employee. Treating him well isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes business sense. Happy employees are more productive and far less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Elf: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different
Buddy is not like other elves. In fact, he’s not an elf at all. Buddy is a human who was adopted by Santa Claus and his elves after he stowed away in Santa’s sleigh. As a result, he doesn’t quite fit into either world. His hands are too big to perform the intricate crafting techniques needed to build toys, and his cheery and naïve attitude is out of place in the human world.
While this does cause issues for Buddy and his biological family, it’s also the key to reinvigorating his birth father’s career.
Walter, Buddy’s father, works at a publishing company and is under immense pressure after the company’s last children’s book failed to sell. Throughout the movie, we see Walter becoming increasingly frustrated with unimaginative pitches from his writers, long hours at the office, and a corporate culture that doesn’t seem to value his contributions.
At the climax of the movie, Walter quits his job to put his family first, demonstrating his acceptance of his son—quirks and all. A year later, Walter has started his own publishing company and released a hit book all about Buddy’s adventures.
It takes courage to embrace your ideas and put out a unique product, but to create something incredible, you have to bet on yourself.
Is your favorite Christmas movie on this list? What business lessons can we learn from your personal favorites? Let us know in the comments!