With the dark knight celebrating his 80th anniversary, we find out how the caped crusader can inspire business excellence for the next eight decades
Batman is turning 80. The caped crusader first swung into the public realm in March 1939 in Detective Comics Issue 27. Since then Bruce Wayne has averted the menacing plans of killer clowns, rampaging toy makers and ninja eco-terrorists alike. For an octogenarian, the dark knight is still surprisingly sparky and has yet to go out of fashion with new movies, TV series and comics constantly hitting the shelves.
And while a work of fiction, it doesn’t mean real-life entrepreneurs cannot learn a thing or ten from the dark knight’s 80 years of crime fighting.
(1) Pick your mentors wisely
Few startup founders get by today without having great mentors on their side. However, as Batman learned the hard way, you better pick who you trust carefully.
In Christopher Nolan’s movie Batman Begins, the world’s greatest detective learns this lesson when his old mentor-turned-terrorist unveils his plan to destroy Gotham City to restore order to civilisation.
And this is something entrepreneurs can learn from. “Just like Ra’s al Ghul, people often have different ambitions which may not be aligned with your own,” advises Alistair Main, director at Duncan & Toplis, the chartered accountants and business advisers. “Whether a potential investor wants to take your business into a market you’re not comfortable with or if their idea of justice involves killing petty criminals and triggering city-wide catastrophes, it’s important to establish and agree upon your goals early in a relationship.”
Indeed, as we’ve recently reported, some investors may not even be interested in your startup but may have unseemly motivations for seeing you
(2) Act on your idea
A lot of people have great ideas. But it’s important to act on them.
And that’s certainly the case for a certain caped crusader. “Batman wants to strike fear in the hearts of criminals – but he [wasn’t originally] fully aware of how he’ll go about that,” explains Daniel Ball, Business Development Director at Wax Digital, the spending management software developer. “That doesn’t deter him, however. He begins meticulously researching those around him and working alongside compatriots who are going to help him along the way.”
Ball adds: “This rolling with the punches approach illustrates that if you have an idea or a plan, you should get to work on it. You don’t have to have everything figured out instantly. Too often, entrepreneurs wait until their product is 100% perfect in case something fail or they’re copied by competitors. Act on your instinct and strike while the iron is hot.”
So don’t rest on your laurels when you have a lightbulb moment
(3) Stay healthy
Batman is fit. “Bruce Wayne [practices] immense self-discipline through the study of martial arts and meditation – keeping the balance between healthy body and healthy mind at the pinnacle of perfection,” says Duncan McAlpine, head of development at Wilson Worldwide Productions, the film and movie production company.
And people seemingly can’t wait to emulate the protector of Gotham’s fitness. Google “Batman workout” and you’ll find an imaginative range of articles listing either the fitness regiments Ben Affleck and Christian Bale went through to play the caped crusader or insane sessions created by numerous PTs.
And you should be one of them as keeping healthy can benefit both yourself and your business. For instance, a study from University of Cologne and Centre for Financial Research demonstrated that business leaders who ran marathons saw the value of their companies sky-rocket.
So get moving. However, whether you do that with another set of burpees at the gym or by fencing on a frozen lake is up to you.
(4)Research your enemies
Forget the idea that tinkering away in a bubble will make you a success. You have to get out in the world to get your startup through the stratosphere.
That means you have to steal a page from Batman and learn what your competitors are up to. “Keeping the streets of Gotham City safe is what keeps Batman squeezing into his tights every time there’s crime to fight,” says Natalie Murphy, PR manager at Pace Communications the creative communications agency. “And from The Joker to The Penguin, he knows his enemies well enough to keep kapowing his way to victory.”
If you’re still in doubt, remember that not knowing your market and the people in it is one of the most common reasons for startup failure.
(5) Stay ahead with the latest technology
From the trusted batarangs and the Batmobile to bizarre ones like the shark repellent spray and sad pills, the dark knight is famous for his gadgets. But using the latest tech could indeed help you too. “AI, automated marketing systems and chatbots can all help businesses be more effective and efficient,” says Jack Terry, Copywriter at VHR, an international recruitment company. “You don’t want to get stuck in the past, like Batman was when Darkseid sent him back in time.”
(6) Keep innovating
Batman is constantly having Lucius Fox, CEO and president of Wayne Enterprises, dream up new ways to fight crime – may that be a new Batsuit or a fancy glider.
And here’s another lesson for business leaders. “[We] can take a lot from Bruce Wayne’s approach to learning and development,” says Darren Hockley, managing director of DeltaNet International, the e-learning company. “After all, Batman wasn’t born special or super, he uses technology and training to achieve his goals. What’s more, the process of innovation is constant for Batman because there’s always room for improvement and optimisation. In business, we may not encounter too many super villains along the way but an agile approach to problem-solving can help you stand out from the crowd and meet customer needs better than your competitors.”
So keep pushing your foot to the metal and keep those creative juices flowing.
(7) Your team is everything
The caped crusader may often be depicted as a solitary stoic safeguarding the citizens of Gotham. However, that would be missing a huge point. “For me, the obvious one is that Batman would have been nothing without Robin and his butler Alfred,” says Neil Cocker, CEO of Ramp, the on demand t-shirt company
And that’s another key lessons for founders. “No entrepreneur exists in isolation,” Cocker continues. “For every person on the front cover of Forbes, there are tens, hundreds or even thousands of Robins and Alfreds behind them. Whether you're looking at the high camp of the 60's TV version, the grit of Frank Miller's 80's comics or the dark cinematic reboots from Christopher Nolan, Batman's brilliance was knowing that he was only human and therefore couldn't do it all on his own. Without the support and wise council that they offered him, he would never have become The Caped Crusader. And he almost certainly would have died many times.”
Remember, no Batman is an island and no entrepreneur can build a multi-million pound brand by themselves. So surround yourself with people who add value to your company.
(8) Plan ahead
No matter how formidable a fighter he is, the caped crusader is still only human. That hasn’t stopped him from teaming up with heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman and going toe to toe with incredibly powerful villains like Darkseid.
And according to Nimesh Shah, head of marketing at Feel Good Contacts, the contact lens retailer, there’s a reason for that. “Due to [him having no powers], he has always had to plan accordingly for any situation, especially when it comes to his super-powered teammates in the Justice League,” Shah says. “The business lesson anyone can learn here is that preparation and dedication are always going to surpass those who rely on pure skill."
For an entrepreneur, the takeaway is simply to plan for every eventuality.
(9)Build a strong personal brand
Batman is always on-brand,” declares Nikki Proctor, PR manager ExtraMile Communications, the digital marketing agency. And it’s easy to see where she’s coming from with the dark knight naming every gadget – from the batsignal to the batcar – after the same winged mammal.
However, like every entrepreneur should emulate, branding is about more than names and fancy icons. “Everyone knows exactly what the Batman logo stands for and the branding is clear, consistent and its authenticity is unquestionable,” Proctor says. He will never use guns, kill or give up and will fight any imitator using his symbol in a way that’s inconsistent with his ethics and ideology. Consider the scene in The Dark Knight when a group of vigilantes dress up like Batman and attack the Scarecrow with automatic rifles. While the caped crusader certainly can agree with them getting an evil foe of the streets, their methods go against everything he believes in. So he takes them down with the same unrelenting force as the crocs, bundling the two groups together afterwards.
And that’s the lesson. “When running a business it’s very important that your brand strategy is clear and consistent to generate the required level of awareness from your target audience – just as Batman’s [is],” argues Proctor. “This will help your business establish long-term relationships with its customers, build customer loyalty and a positive company – all of which will ultimately lead to an increase in sales, word of mouth referrals and advocacy for your products and services.”
(10) Adapt to the times
The times they are a-changing, even for Batman. But the octogenarian has stayed in fashion thanks to his ability to adapt with the times.
Commenting on the evolution of the dark knight, Damien Howard-Pask, managing director of Purple Robot marketing and brand design agency, says: “Batman started as a Zorro-like caped crusader who solved crimes while dressed as a bat. The series then became a colourful and over the top 1960s romp before completely changing to turn the character into an angry and bitter old man before becoming a dark and brooding man on a mission. Throughout the 80 years of the character’s lifetime, the brand has been completely refreshed and redesigned several times over so he’s always exciting and always relevant.”
So if you want your startup to be around for the next 80 years, you better do like Batman does and evolve with the times.