Five business lessons from Harry Potter

Know the strengths of your team

Harry Potter may be 'The Chosen One' but the hero of JK Rowling's tale knows that he cannot do everything alone. He needs Hermione's unimpeachable logic, Ron's good humour and prowess at Wizard's Chess, Neville's botany skills and Hagrid's daredevil dexterity on a motorcycle.

Unless you've read the books, or watched the film versions of the Harry Potter story, these references will be gobbledegook. But the underlying lesson is clear: if you lack certain skills or abilities, you have to surround yourself with people who do.

Running a business is (usually) less life-threatening than Harry Potter's fictional world of dragons, boggarts and evil wizards, but where Harry Potter has his arch nemesis Voldemort, business owners have competitors, exacting investors and demanding customers. Make sure that you have the right team around you to deal with these challenges.

Hermione will always beat Harry at spells. Ron may never be Harry's match at Quidditch, but the youngest Weasley has got his best friend out of countless scrapes and sticky situations. Don't be afraid to hire people who are better than you at certain tasks, or who possess character traits that you lack. Not only will these smart people prove an asset to your business, they will also help you to up your game by showing you a new way of approaching challenges.

Constantly reinvent and innovate

Re-watch the first movie in the Harry Potter franchise - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Today, it seems incredibly dated. The film was released back in 2001 and features a fresh-faced Daniel Radcliffe embarking on his first adventures as 'The Boy Who Lived'. Buy a ticket for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, now showing in cinemas, and you'll see how far the franchise has progressed. The characters are deeper and darker. The effects are more frightening and slick. The plot has become increasingly gnarled and complex.

In business, it is extremely important to keep reworking and improving your offering. Your customers can only become more sophisticated. It's important not to rest on your laurels and strive to provide something new and interesting to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Never give up

Harry Potter has had a pretty tough time of it. Let's look at the facts: his parents are killed by an evil wizard; he is raised by an aunt and uncle who despise him; someone's trying to do him in every five minutes; his love life is a mess; he has to wear those ridiculous spectacles. Most people would roll over and give up, faced with these challenges. But not HP.

If there's one overarching lesson from the Harry Potter series, it's that you must never give up.

In the Harry Potter story, the fate of the world centres on the battle between good and evil - friendship and compassion versus greed and violence. In business, it's about having faith in yourself, your company and your product or service, against the odds. Statistics show that half of all businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail within five; who in their right mind would take those odds?

You. That's who.

Which is exactly why it's so important that, like Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the rest of these fictional magic-makers, you steel your resolve and keep on keeping on.

Smarta founder Shaa Wasmund sums this up brilliantly. If, as a small business, you hit a wall, what do you do? You definitely don't give up. You simply work out a way to go over it. If you can't go over it, you dig your way underneath. If that's too difficult, you take down the wall, brick by brick, until you get past it.

Every successful business was once a tiny start-up

Who would have thought that a couple of youngsters would end up defeating all manner of evil creatures? Remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione bested their first ogre? The brute cornered the young witch in the ladies loo in Hogwarts during their first few weeks at school. Who could have predicted that Dumbledore's Army of untried teenagers would ever withstand the Death Eaters. Or that Harry Potter would be able to kill the ancient basilisk?

Just because you are a new business, facing an established foe, does not mean the game is up. The trick is to remember that everyone, entrepreneur and wizard alike, must start somewhere. Achievements that seems impossible can become reality with perseverance - and a bit of luck.

Every world-beating company that you see today was once just an idea, or a small start-up fighting for its position. Use your size and novelty to your advantage.

Choose your tools carefully

Where would Harry Potter be without his wand, his trusty owl Hedwig, his cloak of invisibility and his Marauder's Map? In the olde worlde of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, these accoutrements replace our modern day technology. Do you have all the tools you need to keep your business on top of its game?

Entrepreneurs like James Caan swear by their BlackBerrys. Deals are done on trains, in restaurants, from airport lounges with round the clock connectivity. But it's not all about smartphones. There's a whole range of laptops out now that are designed specifically for small business owners like you. Take the Dell Vostro V130, light as a feather and aluminium plated to withstand the daily grind. Or the Apple MacBook Pro for small businesses in the creative industries.

You may not need a bezoar to save you from a variety of poisons but, if you have trouble remembering the details from meetings, a digital recorder might be your kind of life-saver. If YouTube is the cornerstone of your social media campaign, you Flip camera may be the key to your survival.

Get the tools right and you're that much closer to success.

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