Tenacity and 'The Greatest Showman'

Recently I was home in New Zealand and ended up at the Cinema one lazy afternoon watching The Greatest Showman with my parents. Now, this film (with a bit of creative license) told the story of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman), a tenacious American showman, politician, businessman, author, publisher and philanthropist, known for promoting what they then called, inappropriately, ‘celebrated  hoaxes and circus freaks’ (Tom Thumb, a bearded lady and the like) AND for founding the still world famous Barnum & Bailey Circus.

But his eventual success was in no way easily won. The film looks at his life, and loves, but mainly focuses on the hurdles he had to overcome to achieve success:

  • He didn’t set out with much money, in fact he borrowed a fair bit to get up and going.
  • His father was a grafter (an innkeeper, tailor and store-keeper).
  • His wealthy father-in-law belittled him from the moment they met.
  • He was shunned by those with money and prestige.
  • The ‘paparazzi’ at the time hammered his idea’s as often as they could.
  • He lost his way and tried to diversify too much (moving from curiosities to opera of all things).
  • He began to compromise his beliefs and ethics (and upset some of his closest friends and employees in the process).
  • He was often distracted by ‘the latest idea’ he had swimming around in his head.
  • Fires, train disasters and other disasters befell his businesses

BUT, what kept him achieving success was his tenacity. He set a goal for himself, devised a plan to get there and despite life and his own mistakes getting in the way he never gave up, he kept driving towards achieving that goal always kept moving forward.

But what do I actually mean when I talk about tenacity in relation to agency growth and new business? When I looked up the meaning of tenacity in the dictionary this is what I discovered “the quality of holding fast and being persistent.”

Like P.T. Barnum I admire my parent’s tremendously, they’ve owned their own businesses my whole life and they have, if nothing else, held fast and remained persistent, and yes, as tenacious as all hell. It’s not always been easy to for them (we even had the bank auction our family home once), but their tenacity has meant they have never given up, they’ve kept on ‘sticking to the plan’ and I’m proud to say they’re about to retire as the owners of the largest and most successful landscaping company in the country on 4.5 acres of stunning New Zealand land.

As you can imagine, going to see this film with them set my ‘grey matter’ fizzing about how anyone looking to achieve agency growth requires the kind of tenacity my parents and P.T. Barnum had. Over the years I’ve met many successful people, founders of agencies, new business practitioners, creatives and suits and do you know what they all had in common with ‘The Greatest Showman’ and my parents? Yep, you got it, tenacity.

Which leads me nicely to where my brain went following my trip to the cinema. A big challenge we often need to help our agency client’s with is getting them to ‘stick to the plan’. We create an amazing brand positioning and comprehensive marketing/new business strategy. It’s all going along brilliantly, we’re on track to achieve maximum, permanent impact and after just a couple of months, because they haven’t yet got new clients lining up around the block and haven’t won millions, fear and that awful ‘short-termism’ can start to creep back into their behaviour.

This is where tenacity and keeping your eye on the prize has to be applied, because if you want to truly move the dial and achieve maximum impact on your future success you must focus more on the medium and long term rather than letting short-termism get the better of you.

You need to think in years. True impact takes time, you can’t expect everything to change in just a few months. To survive you need tenacity, you can’t ever give up on the plans you have laid down (as long as they are good plans of course).

Here’s what we believe it takes to stay focused, keep your eye on the prize and remain at a level of tenacity that leads to long-term commercial success, what it takes to be tenacious:

  • Dig deep and NEVER give up.
  • Surround yourself with people that inspire and encourage you ever single day.
  • Be very certain of why your business exists (your ‘Why’ and purpose).
  • Know where your business is going (Vision).
  • And make a very clear, focused plan on how you intend to get there (Mission).
  • Hold yourself accountable (set goals and regularly measure how you are doing against those goals).
  • Adjust the plan where it needs it, but NEVER just ditch the plan altogether after just a few months of trying.
  • Hire people not just on a set of core skills, but on their tenacity, if you’re tenacity is going to get you to your end goal, you sure as shit want to ensure that you are sharing the trenches with other people just as tenacious as you

So, keep on keeping on, don’t waiver from your goal or the plan to achieve it, because as the great man P.T. Barnum once said : “Fortune always favours the brave, and never helps a man who does not help himself.”

And, as an even greater man always says to me: “Work hard and don’t you ever give up on your dreams.” Bruce Robinson (my Dad).