Like many Americans (and few Kazakhs), I saw the Borat movie this Turkey Day weekend. In addition to being at times hilarious, shocking and offensive, it struck me that there were a few good lessons for entrepreneurs in Sacha Cohen’s irony-laced film.
Take risks, without fear.
When one watches the Borat character approaching strangers on NYC subways, attempting to plant "hello" kisses on them, it is thrilling and fascinating. One frets that Cohen will end up battered and hospitalized by some irate, affronted resident of Gotham. It is this aggressive risk-taking, fearless approach that makes the charater so engrossing. It is impossible for the viewer to predict what is going to happen, but you know it will be voyeuristically entertaining. Entrepreneurs who take bold risks without fear of personal repercussions are similarly fascinating. They engender the admiration of those around them, who are similarly enthralled by the unpredictability of the outcome and their absence of timidity.
Audacious, yet credible.
This boldness leads to the next attribute that is so striking about Borat. He is audacious, yet somehow credible. How else can one explain his ability to lure congressmen, college frat boys, racist cowboys and stuffy socialites on film, only to make complete fools of themselves? If he were too over-the-top, their BS meters would be firing. Somehow, he is credible enough to pull off the charade. Entrepreneurs have similar challenges – they need to be bold enough to inspire, yet credible enough to not lose anyone along the entrepreneurial journey. Striking this fine balance is an accomplishment that only the most talented entrepreneurs are able to pull off gracefully.
Never stop selling.
We never catch Sacha Cohen on screen out of character. He is always selling Borat. No matter what surprises and twists and turns come his way (e.g, walking into a weatherman delivering the daily report), he is always able to remain in character. Similarly, talented entrepreneurs are always selling. They are always able to convince customers, partners and employees to follow them despite the odds, despite the twists and turns. Staying "in character" throughout the many obstacles that challenge an entrepreneur is a valuable attribute that Borat, and others, appreciate.
The final lesson: have fun with it. The entrepreneurial journey is a long one with many twists and turns. A little humor goes a long way. Just ask Borat. And if he were to ever want to start IDG Ventures Kazakhstan? My prediction: Great Success!