Captain America : Civil War just crossed the $1 Billion mark at the worldwide box office and marked the beginning of phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with a bang. It is the first movie released in 2016 to cross this milestone and the fourth out of the thirteen released by Marvel, some hit rate! And with this the MCU also became the first movie franchise in history to gross over $10 Billion collectively! Seems like everything they touch turns into Vibranium.
Coming from bankruptcy in 1997 to a $4 Billion buyout by Walt disney in 2010 to being one of the biggest multi media franchisees in the world, this is quite a turnaround story. And like any good success story, there is lots that startups can learn from Marvel.
So here are the 7 things every startup can learn from Marvel
Hiring and Employee management
Probably the most important factor in a startup’s success, the team is also the toughest to get right. A right team and half your battle is won. Marvel, with its movie, television and gazillion other sub units is a great company to learn the secrets of team building from. As Richard Branson so rightly said
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Employees come first. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your clients.
Hiring great employees and retaining them should come first in any startup! And this is something evident in Marvel’s working.
- Finding the right people : Have a look at the list of directors that helm these mega budgeted Marvel movies and what do you notice, not many big names there! It has been a conscious effort by the heads at Marvel to not go after big names and instead get who they feel is the best guy for the job but not quite blown up on the world scene yet, the perfect startup hiring strategy.
- Reward them : When Marvel does get someone good and they deliver, they are rightly rewarded. The Russo brothers had only directed one full length movie way back in 2006 before being shortlisted to head Captain America : The winter soldier in 2014. And fast forward 2 years, the guys are virtually on the top of the Marvel pyramid having lead Civil War to victory and ready to helm Marvel’s magnum opus, The Avengers : Infinity saga.
Startups have to master the fine art of staying in the present with an eye on the future on a daily basis. Yet, in the constant daily struggles for survival many ignore the future. The business plans and vision documents stay just that, documents, that are never utilized or followed. But not with Marvel, they like to plan for the future, sometimes way into the future!
- Thanos, the mad titan, made an appearance at the end of the first Avengers movie signalling his intent to destroy earth by capturing the infinity stones. Something that he will probably do 13 movies later in the infinity saga.
- Iron man released in 2008 had Nick fury discuss the Avengers initiative with Tony Stark laying the premise for the first Avengers movie that released in 2012.
- Marvel is known to sign up their actors in huge multi movie contracts, 9 movies in some cases, clearly showing how detailed their planning is when taking something up
Though Marvel isn’t the first nor the only media company to venture into films, they surely have been the most successful. And a really important factor in that is their ability to experiment.
- Crossover films : The entire concept of having different lead characters exist in the same shared universe was pioneered by Marvel. And it has paid its dividends, 3 of their 4 biggest movies (Avengers 1 &2 and civil war) have been these multi superhero sagas.
- Moving away from popular comic characters and introducing new ones like the Guardians of the Galaxy made sure the universe doesn’t get repetitive.
Its all cocktails and shawarmas when everything is going right, but what happens when it doesn’t. Knowing when to pivot is one of the most critical decisions a startup has to take. And Marvel sure understands this
- When the incredible hulk didn’t do well at the box office, the franchisee was stopped. Moreover, the lead star Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo for the Avengers and the results are there for all to see.
Partnership and collaboration
How common is it to see incredibly talented founding teams with great ideas not making it solely because they remained in their shell and were too afraid to venture out. Having the right partnerships plays a key role in any business’s success and Marvel shows us just the right way to do it
- The deal they struck with Sony pictures which allows them to bring the friendly neighborhood superhero Spiderman to the MCU is such a masterstroke
- Well you have great characters, good movies in the pipeline but no experience in movie distribution or worldwide presence. What do you do? You bring in Walt ‘I am everywhere’ Disney to take care of that for you.
Everyday in a startup is about survival. With the amount of uncertainty that exists in almost every aspect of your daily work, just making it through without crashing is an achievement is itself. And Marvel has the ultimate survival instinct
- The company went bankrupt in 1996. To stay afloat it used everything in its tanker from theme park deals to restaurant agreements and to the big one, licensing some of its trademarked characters like the X -Men , Blade and Spider man to other studios.
It’s great to rest on your laurels and keep doing the same stuff when things seem to be going good but in reality that is the time to press home your advantage and diversify. And a lot of once big companies fall from grace because they weren’t able to do this when at their prime. But not Marvel, having tasted success with movies they were quick to move and are now present everywhere from cable television, to network and netflix and still growing.