We learned a lot from The Wolf of Wall Street before the movie even hit theaters. Now that it’s been around more than a month and has made a killing at the box office, we’re learning some more practical lessons from the instant hit. No, I’m not about to go emulate the infamous Jordan Belfort because, among other things, I have a conscience. But he still has a lot to teach about good business. Here are some of the top business lessons to take away from Belfort and The Wolf of Wall Street.
1. Know What You Want
More than setting goals, look to the future and really figure out exactly what it is you want and how you can get there. Have a vision in mind, and let that steer your decisions. Belfort didn’t get rich by accident.
2. Sell Yourself
Belfort acted powerful and wore fancy suits, and people saw him as confident and successful. Understand how others view you, decide how you want them to view you, and then present yourself in the right way.
3. Find A Specialty
Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont specialized in penny stocks. It sold cheap stocks to the public. He effectively found his niche and exploited it.
4. Adjust And Perfect Your Strategy, Then Keep At It
Belfort knew the ultra-wealthy wouldn’t go for typical Wall Street pitches. He came up with a strategy that worked for his target demographic, and he tweaked it until it worked perfectly. Belfort found a way to cater to a specific demographic in the 1990s, long before personalized ad experiences and Google Analytics were there to help out. Keep your customer base in mind and tailor your pitches for them.
5. Train People Well
Belfort was the brains behind Stratton Oakmont’s business model, but he used a large staff to implement his ideas. He was able to train otherwise clueless people to sound like knowledgeable and experienced stock brokers. He kept things simple and effective, and employees always knew what he expected from them. Instead of doing all the work yourself, hire a good staff and show them exactly what you want.
6. Try, Try Again
No one does it right the first time. Even Belfort managed to bankrupt his own small business before he went to Wall Street. But he didn’t give up on his ambitions to be filthy rich. This goes for smaller goals, too: never end a conversation when you’re trying to sell something. It’s not over until the person hangs up or closes the door.
7. Provide A Solution
Belfort’s clients were happy until the truth came out, because he made sure to provide a solution and an answer for people. As Belfort himself explained, “At a certain point, one of the questions I always ask is, ‘What is your greatest headache right now?’” Find out how you can help your customers and then do exactly that.
8. Keep Employees Happy
Belfort threw outlandish parties and gave grandiose speeches of encouragement. He celebrated victories with his team and included them in his success. Happy workers mean continued success and loyalty. That is, until the cops find out.
9. Avoid IPOs
Business lessons aren’t just for people in the business. If you’re on the other side of the story and are interested in investing, the movie teaches you to avoid initial public offerings you’re not familiar with. Most of Belfort’s scams involved fraudulent IPOs and “pump and dump” schemes.
10. Use Well-Known Brokerage Firms
Stratton Oakmont didn’t have a long history and wasn’t well-established. When it owed people money after court rulings, it simply closed up shop and didn’t pay. A well-known brokerage firm is a safer bet and, if fraud does occur, you’re likely to collect a court judgment.
11. Take Your Time
If you’re offered a deal and you’re hesitant, follow your instinct. Take some time to think about it and research the opportunity to make sure it’s legitimate.
12. There’s No Such Thing As A Sure Thing
Belfort offered his clients “sure things” and quick returns. Such promises are unrealistic and need to be investigated, if not ignored outright. Do your homework and find out what the real story is before you agree to anything.