By Nicole Smartt, president of Star Staffing
Some days it can pay to indulge in guilty pleasures. After all, focusing too much on one’s goals can sometimes lead to goal blindness, where we don’t see options and outcomes as clearly as when we step away for a few minutes. It turns out, though, that some seriously entertaining TV shows might be able to teach us about business while we indulge in downtime. Here are eight shows that can teach you a few things about business without putting you to sleep.
1. The Profit
This show features Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, offering expertise, guidance and even funding to struggling small businesses. Lemonis buys a stake in the companies and then transforms them, and we get to watch everything. I’ve learned a great deal about people, processes, products and how important it is to know your numbers.
2. Shark Tank
Probably one of the most popular shows about entrepreneurship right now, "Shark Tank" showcases entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to a panel of experts who then choose whether to invest. Though steeped in TV drama, the parameters that the Sharks use to evaluate the entrepreneurs’ ideas are solid: They expect strong pitches and an understanding of their numbers, production costs, margins and where and to whom they're selling their product. Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from hearing the Sharks' reasoning behind agreeing to invest.
3. Undercover Boss
This show features high-level executives or owners masquerading as new hires in their own companies to discover what it's actually like to work for them. Many episodes uncover huge systemic issues, from problems with distribution, to failing or missing essential equipment, to struggling employees. Many episodes end with executives shelling out cash for employee training experiences, new equipment and improving working conditions. The biggest takeaway from "Undercover Boss" is that businesses are not “set it and forget it” environments. Communication, high standards, humility and strong business sense are all essential.
4. Million Dollar Listing
I'm a huge fan of this show, and while some of it may not be entirely real, you still have an opportunity to learn. "Million Dollar Listing" follows individual American real estate agents through their professional and personal lives as they sell high-dollar properties. The show features excellent examples of networking, marketing and negotiation that many entrepreneurs can learn from.
5. Billion Dollar Buyer
This show follows Tilman Fertitta, the chairman, president and CEO of Landry’s Inc., as he travels the country discovering innovative new hospitality products. The biggest takeaways from "Billion Dollar Buyer" center on the details of producing a product with consistent quality at a volume that can support mass orders and that's presented well enough to get sold as part of a big contract. The show contains a wealth of useful information, as well as sensible rules of thumb, for any small business or product producer.
"Suits" follows lawyers at a fictional law firm in New York City. This show's biggest draw for me is the quick-witted work humor. The characters deal with tough situations and always come out on top. Their positive attitude mixed with their problem-solving savviness is a win-win. The show champions perseverance, the importance of sticking to one’s ethics, the fact that there’s always another choice, strong communication and rising to the occasion. You can learn a ton about negotiation, communication and navigating complex situations. Plus, it’s a really fun and absorbing watch.
"Billions" is a fictionalized take on the experiences of former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara as he battled with hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen. Perhaps surprisingly, the show has a lot to say about ongoing learning, earning career advancements, loyalty and sticking with your own long game. It also can give you some tools to help you stay oriented and self-confident even when the pressure is turned way up.
"Ballers" follows a retired NFL player, played by Dwayne Johnson, as he figures out how to be a financial manager for other football players. This show has a lot to say about sensible spending and what can happen if you spend irresponsibly. "Ballers" also can teach you how to navigate interpersonal issues with grace and humor.
Next time you feel a little guilty for wanting to kick back and watch a TV show, remember that you can learn some very useful lessons and hone real skills by watching shows that may not seem particularly educational on the surface.
Nicole Smartt is president of Star Staffing & best-selling author of From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead at Work.