Eleven Business Lessons From The Movie “Jerry Maguire”

Jerry Maguire(Tom Cruise) is a successful sports agent working for the Sports Management International (SMI). He likes his work — Big clients, Huge money, Beautiful fiancee — He is willing to do anything to get the biggest possible contracts for his clients and profitability for his company.

Note: The below content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

Though Jerry has started with the aim of ‘helping and guiding his clients’, the goal has changed to ‘bring the maximum dollars to his client and maximum commission for himself”

Jerry to his client: I will not rest until you're holdinga coke in your own commercial, -- broadcast during a Super Bowlgame that you're winning.

It was just about money, commercials….not about how well an athlete could enjoy while playing, not about how an athlete could entertain the audience.

One day, an injured athlete’s 14-year-old son confronts Jerry with the brutal truth that Jerry no longer treated his clients as humans and his athletic clients no longer treated the audience as humans.

In the quest for the big dollar,little things were golng wrong.

Jerry realises how he has transformed — How he used to enjoy simple pleasures in his job — How he enjoyed the stadium sound when one of his players performed well, How he helped his players in health and injury but now everything is seen from the perspective of “profits”.

Jerry: Who had I become?Just another shark in a suit?

Every business would have been started with a goal to improve the lives of consumers but over a period of time, some of them moved towards the goal of ‘Profit maximization’. Like Jerry’s SMI, those companies aligned every aspect of their business, be it production, assembly, customer service to only one goal — To minimize expenses and maximize sales. It would lead to poor ethics like how Jerry and his players have got into. Many of those companies have vanished over a period of time.

“When you focus on money, you would fail to spend your ‘limited attention capacity’ on noting some critical problems. These problems would aggravate further, forcing you to invest more money in the business”

After a night of self-reflection, Jerry realises that the solution is to care for the players, to care for the audience.

Less money. Caring for themand caring for ourselves.

If you care about your people, they would care about your product or service.

If you need to care for your consumers, avoid calling them as “prospects”, “consumers”, “early adopters or laggards”, “buyers”, “customers” and consider them as “humans”. A consumer is defined as a person who purchases goods and services for personal use. This definition prompts us to think “How to sell our product or services to them?” — It reduces people to mere objects. It diminishes empathy.

If you call your customers as humans, your mind subconsciously would think about flesh, blood, infallible, compassionate, kind-hearted, considerate, moral, understanding, sympathetic, tolerant and the list would go on. These thoughts would prompt you to think “How to improve their lives?” and treat them as your partners.

Consumers Buy, Humans Live — Marc Gobe

“Everyone is interested in themselves, every customer needs special attention. They need preference — They need a special assurance that they are also one of the preferred customers. Preference brings loyalty. Preference makes the sale”.

Jerry remembers his mentor Dicky Fox’s advice

Dicky Fox: The key to this businessis personal relationships.

As Jerry has got limited options, he concentrates all his efforts on establishing a personal relationship with Rod.

Today, in this hypercompetitive market, great brands no longer depend only on innovation, creativity to attract a new market, maintain existing markets, clients — They need to satisfy the emotional desires, cultural-orientation and needs of their clients. Even customers expect the same. To understand their emotional desires, needs, we need to establish personal relations with our consumers — Need to engage a deeper, lasting connection with consumers.

Preference is the key reason why a consumer is willing to pay a premium for a product or service and be loyal to the brand.

Focusing on people than money may violate corporate interests as Jerry found out from his company. The company fired Jerry after hearing his plans -

Jerry: Fine. What's up?Bob Sugar: I came here to let you go.
Jerry: Pardon me?Bob Sugar: I came here to fire you, Jerry.

As the movie shows, this ‘Focusing on improving lives of people’ may appear counterintuitive in short-term(As Jerry struggles in his initial stint in the movie) but in the long run, it would bring loyal customers and sustainable business as the movie shows in the end.

In the movie, Jerry is left with only one client “Rod Tidwell”, who has got an attitude problem, wants a 10 million dollar contract, opportunities to act in product commercials of famous brands but many do not consider him to be worthy enough for such a high valued contract. Rod keeps saying, “Show me the money”. He doesn’t worry about “Jerry’s” precarious situation and is concerned only about his financial problems, his family and his future. Every human wants to satisfy his own needs or desires. His goal is not to consume your product or service.

Rod: I'm sitting here with an ant problem.My brother Tee Pee's room is flooded.

Rod claims that Jerry is not trying hard enough to get him a good value contract while Jerry feels that Rod is not proving himself worthy of the money for which he asks. But at the end of the movie, we see a different Rod Tidwell.

Understand that the customer may not be always right, but do not blame the customer for the problems, blame the situations, environment.

Many of our customers may not be aware of their inherent rational and emotional needs, desires, aspirations and the obstacles they face in achieving their goals/dreams. They maybe unconsciously making mistakes. Establishing ‘personal relationships’ would help us to understand their choices, the reasons behind their actions, what kind of pains they have, what are their anxieties and fears, the kind of mental and physical obstacles in their life. Once we understand them, we could customize our solutions to guide them, elevate their social status and provide them with a self-identity.

Jerry spends more time with ‘Rod’ — travels with him to all the games, watches him play. Slowly, he understands the problems that block ‘Rod’ from achieving his goals. Jerry realises that he could get a high-value contract only when ‘Rod’ mends his ways and performs well.

Jerry slowly makes Rod understand his problems, helps him to overcome those obstacles.

It is our duty to inspire our consumers to have dreams and help them to accomplish those dreams.

There are people who come to ‘watch’ the rugby game and some come to ‘experience’ the game. A product or service may fulfill needs, but the experiences fulfill desires. Experiences will remain in the audience’s(your customers) emotional memory, would help in retaining customer loyalty.

In one of the scenes, Jerry asks Rod not to just play but provide a wonderful experience to the audience. Unless Rod enjoys playing, forgets himself in the game, he cannot provide a wonderful experience to his audience.

Jerry: Rod, Show them your joy for the game.Bury the attitude a little bit,and show them...Get back to the guywho first started playing this game.
Way back when you were a kid,was it just about the money?

Your customer would enjoy your product or service only if you enjoy designing, producing it. Show your customers your joy for the product and Show them the experience.

Jerry pleads Rod to change himself by saying “Help me to help you”

Jerry: Rod, Play like a guywho first started playing this game.
Way back when you were a kid,was it just about the money?
Help me.Help me... help you.Help me help you

If we are willing to listen, observe, our customers would provide a path to a long sustainable business and they are the best source of information for our new product ideas, inventions, habit building products. Help them to help ourselves.

Jerry continues to spend time with Rod, figures out the problems he faces in achieving his dreams and again tries to convince him to change.

Jerry: I have a question for you.Are we really friends?You know, friends can telleach other anything, right?
I'll tell you why you don'thave your $ million.
You play for the money. You playwith your head, not your heart.
When you get on the field,it's all about what you didn't get.
Who's to blame. Who's gotthe contract you didn't get.That is not what inspires people!
Shut up!Play the game from your heart.
Then I'll show you the kwan.And that's the truth!

Everyone has got limited attention capacity. Thinking about rewards or consequences would take away attention away from the activity itself. As Rod is focussed on the external rewards(Money, Fame, Commercials), his concentration in the game suffered, affecting his performance. Jerry mentions that ‘playing’ alone should be a reward like how Rod had enjoyed playing while as a kid. Instead of external rewards, we need to encourage our customers to substitute with their own internal rewards which are under their control.

In May 2007, Mahalo.com, a Q&A website similar to Quora was born. The team at Mahalo.com provided monetary rewards for best answers in the form of virtual currencies, which could be traded for real money. They believed that monetary benefits would encourage more customers to use their website. Unfortunately, the website died. In 2010, a similar website Quora did not offer any monetary rewards, yet succeeded in increasing customer engagement. Focus on internal rewards.

Honesty has become a standard to be followed by all businesses. Every customer expects the same. But trust needs to be earned over a period of time. At the end of the movie, we could see how Jerry earned trust from Rod — Rod refuses to entertain another sports agent when they approach him.

Jerry was consistently honest, truthful, sincere to Rod — He put real effort in building the relationship. Whatever Jerry did, advised, was for the benefit of his client Rod and not from the perspective of earning more commission. Jerry did not deceive, mislead or withhold any information. Even his feedback was honest. Build trust.

Rod maybe proving to be difficult to work with — he may be ‘self-centered’, yet Jerry continues to like him, spend time with him and provide support. He considers his client as his friend and a partner. Love your customer however they are.

If you want your customer to love your product or service, you need to help him in achieving their aspirations like how Jerry helped Rod in achieving his desires.

Dicky Fox, Jerry’s mentor says

Unless you love everybody,you can't sell anybody.

In the end, ‘Rod’ succeeds and appears in a TV show. In the show, Rod becomes emotional, proceeds to thank Jerry publicly and extends warm, heartful greetings to him. As they say, if you love your customers, they would do the marketing for you.

At the end of the movie, ‘Rod’ senses the presence of Jerry in his life’s success — He feels that Jerry has become part of him and his family. Our customers too should feel the presence of our brand in their life. Instead of focusing on what competitor would do, our focus should be on making a real, positive, deep connection with our consumers.

Note: The above content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

Reference: Jerry Maguire movie script from script-o-rama.com, Emotional Branding by Marc Gobe, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet, What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn.

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at mmshah8@gmail.com. or https://www.shahmohammed.com