*Spoiler Alert* This post may contain spoilers from Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy, will likely be rewarded by the Academy with Oscar nominations in ‘Best Motion Picture’ and ‘Best Director.’ Positive responses have come in the form of an 8.9/10 rating on IMDB and an 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As the general public continues to pour into movie theatres to catch the flick of Summer 2012. As we allow Nolan to take us through the two-and-a-half hour cinematic excursion that completes the Dark Knight series, it’s easy to become lost in action-packed story and lose sight of the messages that Bruce Wayne himself strives to convey by assuming the role of Gotham’s masked vigilante. For every lesson we take away about integrity and purpose, Batman also teaches entrepreneurs a few essential lessons in starting a business.
1. “If you’re going to save the world, you’ll have to start by trusting it.”
At the beginning of Dark Knight Rises we see Bruce Wayne emerge from his manor as a social recluse of eight years following the death of Rachel Dawes. The audience learns that Wayne Enterprises has been driven into the ground after Wayne’s save-the-world endeavor, the clean energy Integer Project, funded by board member Miranda Tate has been shut down due to Bruce’s fear of fusion power becoming weaponized in the wrong hands. Wayne lives with the secret of an operational fusion reactor under Gotham for nearly three years before disclosing details to Tate to entrust her to look over Wayne Enterprises after Wayne himself is forced to relinquish control.
As entrepreneurs, we often feel inclined to keep the details hidden, fearful of employees and colleagues. However, as you begin to build the foundation of what hopes to be a large and successful venture, make sure that the foundation in question is built with integrity, truth, and wholesomeness. Trust your team with the truth, and together you can weather the storms that batter the road to start-up success. It is essential that every member of your team be aware of the intentions of the company so that your brand equity is consistent as you move forward.
2. “As a man I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.”
Successful businesses are more than the sum of its parts. While it is important to assemble the right personnel and brilliant minds to launch your idea, the idea itself is the most pivotal aspect of your business. Bruce Wayne was viewed as a millionaire playboy, but as Batman, Wayne was a symbol of hope pitched against the violence and corruption of Gotham’s streets. Even whilst the Gotham PD paints an image of Batman as a villain and murderer, we see that faith still lives in the hearts of ordinary civilians, embodied in chalk-drawn Batman symbols. An Evey Hammond quote from another popular comic book adaptation, V for Vendetta expresses the same notion, “remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world.”
A startup should be founded upon an idea that lives beyond the efforts of a single individual. The idea becomes a symbol that your brand represents. Although it is important to lead with energy and passion, distinguish your leadership from the business itself such that you do not tie the fortune of the company to the efforts of a single individual.
3. “Victory has made you weak.”
As a startup experiences more success, the tendency to take risks may diminish. Suddenly, there is something to be lost. Bane’s quote as he breaks Batman’s back poses a question relevant to many growing businesses. Some leaders are afraid to assume responsibility, deferring to their second-in-command; other leaders will do only enough to maintain the status quo, afraid to crumble beneath their next step; and finally there are those special individuals who are constantly seeking to improve themselves and the ideas that they represent. As your startup grows, make a conscious effort to maintain the same sense of ambition that you started with on day one. Thomas Wayne so memorably said, “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Do not be crippled by the fear of failure and continue taking intelligent risks.
4. “Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day.”
Eight years following the death of Harvey Dent we see what appears to be a reformed Gotham, rid of crime and corruption. However, we soon begin to see cracks in the system built upon the lie of Dent’s supposed murder in the hands of Batman. As Commissioner Gordon struggles to live with a lie, the rise of Bane unearths the lie that the city had been operating on. In contrast, at the conclusion of Dark Knight Rises, we see a genuinely changed Gotham—a Gotham built on the sacrifice of its Dark Knight, and a Gotham predicated upon hope, faith, and the truth.
An institution built upon truth and integrity will always outlast that which is founded upon deception. A successful entrepreneur will always see decisions in the long-run and make business decisions based on long-term benefits and consequences. Do not compromise the eventual success of your start-up for short-term gains that whittle away at the integrity of your brand.
The principles that motivate Batman’s protection of Gotham are much like the principles that will guide an entrepreneur’s success. Think of your start-up as Gotham City and yourself as its protector and beacon of hope. This is your chance to be a superhero.