Twenty three years ago, Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece, Pulp Fiction was released. An instant cult classic, Pulp Fiction continues to be quoted and referenced. While Vince and Jules left a lasting impression on many, it was The Wolfe who has stayed with me all these years.
Harvey Keitel as The Wolfe enters at a pivotal point in the movie, where everything has gone wrong. Vince and Jules are in a world of trouble, and they have a very short window of time in which to fix it. Tensions are high. They call their boss to ask for help. He summons The Wolfe who shows up in a crisp, perfectly tailored tux and introduces himself: "I'm Winston Wolfe. I solve problems."
Within three minutes The Wolfe works up a detailed plan to clean up the mess and get Jules and Vincent on their way. "I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you want to get out of this."
When building a hyper-growth startup, you're faced with hairy problems every day. Often times these problems are out of your control and you can't solve them on your own -- manufacturers miss deadlines; retailers whiff projections; partners change their technology platforms without warning.
So when it came time to build a team, I went looking for Wolfes. You see, when Vince and Jules learned that their boss had summoned Winston Wolfe, they immediately relaxed. Wolves take ownership. They're cool under pressure, see impossible problems as opportunities for creative thinking and, most importantly, never hesitate to own a problem and find a solution. When a Wolfe takes on something, you know you don't have to worry about it. You can trust it'll get done.
Here are four characteristics we can all admire and emulate to be an indispensable asset to any company:
- Take charge and make things happen with the resources you have. Sometimes you have a tight budget and an even tighter timeline. You make it work with what you've got.
- Be the solution, not the problem. Don't blame others for what happened or complain about being stuck cleaning up someone else's mess. Own it like it's yours.
- Simple and clever are better than perfect. Sometimes it's about survival. When you're a startup with limited funding, ambitious growth targets and a quarter-killing mess on your hands, you can't waste time dreaming about nice-to-haves. Rather find a way to make it through the night and be alive in the morning to face another day. When the worst is over, then you can go back and make it perfect.
- Grit meets grace. In the movie, The Wolfe wears a tuxedo, but his demeanor wouldn't have changed if he was in a t-shirt. It's not what you wear, it's the way you carry yourself that counts. You may be curt, but you are never rude. You may be sweating it inside, but on the outside you keep it together and inspire confidence in your team.
If you are an employee, be the Wolfe. If you're a leader and lucky enough to meet a Wolfe in real life, hire them. They will be the linchpin of your company and you'll never want to let them go.