4 powerful business lessons from James Bond and Skyfall

James Bond…entrepreneurial guru?

I recently saw Skyfall,, the latest installment in the Bond franchise and it was incredible. Not normally a Bond fan, I loved Casino Royale, wiped the awful Quantum of Solace from my memory, but thoroughly enjoyed this latest turn. The characters were complex and flawed, the performances brilliant, the pace lively and Daniel Craig does wonders for an expensive suit. I left the theatre like I’d just gotten off a roller coaster. My husband – a native Scotsman – even dared admit, “I have to say that Daniel Craig can now be crowned the best Bond, even better than Connery.” Blasphemy! But very true.

That said, our favorite Secret Agent can also teach us some powerful business lessons. So strap on your Rolex submariner, put on your X-ray sunglasses and climb inside your tricked-out Aston Martin as we review Bond’s best advice:

  1. Stick to the basics: We’ve grown accustomed to Q loading Bond up with spectacular gadgets before each mission. In Skyfall, we watch with delight as Bond confronts his age by meeting the newest Q, a young techie hipster that wouldn’t look out of place at Apple’s Genius Bar.  One assumes Bond will get some sort of iPod mets Kinect device or some Google-developed driverless car. But no: Q simply hands Bond a Walther PPK, which is a small automatic pistol, and a  tiny tracking radio. Even Bond is surprised but it turns out that’s all he needs when in a pinch and Q mocks him by saying something like, “What? Were you expecting another exploding pen?” In our age of the next new shiny object coming out every 5 minutes, it’s easy for entrepreneurs and business owners to forget the basics and get lost in the glitz. But often, it’s the old, simple secrets that make the best weapons for your business success: building your brand strategy before throwing away money on tactics, delighting customers, collaborating in person over coffee, providing quality products/services, delivering what you promise.
  2. There’s always a way through: Many scenes in Skyfall leave viewers thinking, “Oh, he’ll never find a way out of this one!” And then, of course, Bond continues to chase the bad guy onto a moving train, escape an island run by a madman and outsmart an evil mastermind and all his henchmen with just his wits, resourcefulness and resolve. No matter how bleak it seems, no matter how much you think you’d stop running or surrender, Bond shows us that ingenuity can help you see every problem in a fresh way. If you are facing business challenges, step back and look at the issue from another angle. If sales are down, should you offer a new product or service, or adjust your prices? If no one is reading your blog, can you clarify your brand value or find other avenues to promote each post? If prospects don’t know who you are, can you partner with someone else for more exposure? There’s a million ways to look at a problem and a million levers you can pull before you throw in the towel.
  3. Stay calm under pressure: There’s an awesomely sexy scene in Skyfall where Bond crashes into the passenger car of a speeding train. As the surprised onlookers gawk, he maintains his balance, straightens up, adjusts the cuffs on his impeccable suit and proceeds to walk through the train car calmly as he continues chasing his man. That’s grace under pressure.  When things hurtle out of control, customers demand attention and you are juggling 637 things at once, how do you respond? Do you handle everything calmly and get the job done, or do you freak out or run and hide? It’s up to you to tame the chaos and say no to things that prove distracting.
  4. Control the conversation: Towards the film’s climax, Bond realizes he’s constantly one step behind his nemesis. Bond is reacting to, rather than controlling, the conversation. He sets a trap and then lures the baddie to his turf where he can now proactively make the moves he wants to make and keep his enemy off-balance, rather than vice versa. Sometimes, in business, we react to the everyday fires and demands that others are making on us, rather than keeping our eye on the ball and charting a clear course to our mission. We end up slaves to a to-do list, rather than making time to achieve our long-term vision. We need boundaries: not checking email every second, or making sure people know we only return phone calls between 3 and 4 pm, or whatever system works for you. Get your strategy sorted first and work towards that before you let the seemingly urgent but ultimately less important demands on your time take over. Change the conversation to the one you want to have.

Any other business lessons that Bond (or other movie heroes) have taught you? Please share in the Comments below and get some link love back to your site!

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  1. says

    It’s like all the previous actors were the CEOs of the James Bond franchise. We were forgiving to the missteps of previous actors/scripts, because of the great James Bond brand. The movies were able to weather the storm and continue to be relevant 30-40 years on. Not many brands can withstand the changing decades.

  2. Red Slice says

    Very true, Ursula! There is a powerful branding lesson in the overall franchise as well, regardless of film, script or actor. “James Bond” still has a clear brand impression it leaves that has stood the test of time. Thanks…

  3. says

    First things first, I am a diehard Bond fan. Great memories w/ my Dad watching the movies and oooing and awhing over all the shiny gadgets.
    As for staying power and brand recognition all ya have to say is Bond, James Bond and its all there. …
    When i began, I simply wanted to bring “awareness” to being thankful ,have it spoke more mainstream w/ feeling too of course. I can only hope when folks say/hear the words Thankful, I’m Thankful they feel the laughter, joy and true Gratitude for their lives and feel it vibrating in there life.

  4. Red Slice says

    I love when movies evoke treasured memories, Sue, don’t you? And I have to say, honestly, when I hear the word “thankful” I hear all of those things you describe – AND I think of your brand, too!

  5. says

    Great article!
    I’ve always loved Bond but never thought to look for business lessons in the films. I appreciate point # 4 the most, “Control The Conversation”. So often we get caught in crisis management and forget that proactive measures can make or break us.
    Thank you,

  6. Red Slice says

    Thanks for your insight, Roland. I never considered finding business lessons amidst all the action and style, either, but as I thought about the film, it clicked for me. And I am guilty of not always adhering to #4 myself, so I especially need to take that lesson to heart!

  7. Beverly Freeman says

    As a huge Daniel Craig/Bond fan, I eagerly read your article. I was fascinated by your comparisons to business strategies. #1 resonated with me because there were so many references to former Bond movies in Skyfall. While new technology is cool and all, it can simply be a distraction to getting the work done and in many instances is not any better than the “old” ways/tools. Remembering the core values of any business and sticking to them is crucial while using new toys/tools to enhance your foundation. And the movie also explored relationships which for me, is primary in my business success. Now that you’ve broadened my awareness, I’m sure I’ll start thinking about other business lessons learned in this movie – and others! Great article!

  8. Red Slice says

    Thanks Beverly. I certainly didn’t expect to find business advice during a Bond film, either. Your point is so well articulated: “Remembering the core values of any business and sticking to them is crucial while using new toys/tools to enhance your foundation.” This is exactly what I teach about Brand Strategy. Brand strategy at its core is what is true for your business, focus and value. It’s about what you stand for, who you are going to reach and what you will say. Only THEN can you use the tools effectively – and figure out which are the right tools to use in the first place. Too many people say to me, “I don’t really know what my brand represents, or how to articulate my value. But I don’t have time for that. I just know I need to figure out my Twitter plan right NOW!” Drives me bonkers…

    And yes, I was fascinated by the relationship theme in the movie as well. Now, don’t let looking for business lessons diminish your enjoyment of watching Daniel Craig in action!

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