As Commander James Bond celebrates 50 years on Her Majesty’s Secret Service at the movies — and cable stations across the grid provide the fireworks with wall-to-wall 007 orgies — it’s a good time to celebrate the lessons Bond can teach entrepreneurs.
Even though Bond drew a paycheck — undoubtedly funneled through some nondescript entity — from MI6, he was in fact an entrepreneur.
Dispatched to some dangerous — and predictably warm and coastal — foreign clime with little more than some gruff orders from M and a few gadgets from Q (the latest Bonds have been notably gadget-shy, as befits Daniel Craig’s brutally lean take on the character) he was expected to figure out the situation on the ground and improvise a
response on his own.
Hence his “license to kill.” When he needed to liquidate a bad guy, he couldn’t wait around for the home office to clear it.
Herewith, then, are seven lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the legendary secret agent:
1. Fail fast: The producers of the Bond franchise themselves provided this lesson. When George Lazenby quit the role as his wooden portrayal of Bond in 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” bombed with critics, they moved swiftly on to Roger Moore. Whatever you think of Moore’s fizzy Bond Lite — and I thought it stunk — he played the role seven times, just as many as Connery did. A big flop led to a big success.
2. Embrace new technology: This is practically the unspoken philosophy of the entire series up until Craig, Examples abound, but who can forget Bond escaping an assassin via then-nascent jetpack tech in the pre-title sequence of 1965’s “Thunderball”?
3. But sometimes old technology can do the job: In last year’s “Skyfall,” Craig’s Bond lures villain Raoul Silva to his family’s abandoned estate (the Skyfall of the title) on the moors in Scotland, there to greet him with improvised booby traps and vintage shotguns. When Albert Finney’s gamekeeper empties both barrels into a Silva flunky while saying “Welcome to Scotland” it provides one of the film’s few applause lines. Though he is badly outweaponed, Bond prevails (not so Skyfall, though).
4. Fake it ’til you make it: Pierce Brosnan’s Bond obviously has no idea how to pilot the T-55 tank he steals in “Goldeneye” (1995) — an apt metaphor for first-time entrepreneurs contending with unfamiliar forces and technologies. But he sticks with it, acts like he knows what he’s doing, and in time he’s flattened half of St. Petersburg and nailed a few stooges in the process.
5. Sometimes you have to destroy what you love to win: In “Skyfall,” Bond leaves his beloved — and priceless — Aston-Martin DB5 outside his childhood home as bait for Silva. Bond loses the car (happily for car nuts like me, the film version was made by a 3D printer) but wins the skirmish. Lesson: Don’t get so attached to a business model or anything else that you can’t pivot if circumstances require.
6. Choose you partners well: Bond’s friend CIA agent Felix Leiter is one of the film series’ most enduring characters, having been played by eight different actors. He’s always had Bond’s back. Make sure your partners have yours.
7. Whatever happens, maintain your sense of humor: Bond’s wisecracks as a laser beam inches toward his crotch so rattles the villain Goldfinger in the 1964 film of the same name that he sputters: “Choose your next witticism wisely, Mr. Bond. It may be your last!” Bond stayed cool. Guess who lived to have a Martini, shaken not stirred, later that night?