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  • Garry Gooding

Business Themes from the Big Screen


As I was developing my lifelong love affair with the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, I held a variety of corporate management positions mostly in stand-alone businesses that ranged in size from 500 to over 5,000 employees. My last inside job was at a large facility of a healthcare system that employed over 200,000 men and women. My professional life also included being a small businessman either self-employed or in partnership with others, hired to consult with organizations of all sizes in a wide variety of fields.

You might say, I’ve seen a lot of cultures, management styles, and organizational challenges, which may be what has helped drive my endless passion for the movie.

On one annual visit to Bedford Falls, I started studying the business side of the story. Like with so many elements of the movie, this component was presented in a somewhat simple, black and white (no pun intended) point of view. Still, the messages, pro and con, about running a business, especially a small one, rang true.

In its broad strokes, It’s a Wonderful Life shows how two men approached the bottom line for their businesses from totally different directions. Mr. Potter only saw the numbers, not the people behind them. George Bailey viewed his market, almost to a fault, through the prism of the heart. One was admired, trusted. The other feared and hated. But until the $8,000 went missing on that fateful Christmas Eve, both men were running successful businesses. Potter’s could only be measured in money, George’s could be measured in ways beyond a balance sheet.

Inspired by the business truths from the movie, I found myself sharing anecdotes from the movie when working with clients. Slowly I developed a ranged of truisms gleaned from the movie to help organizations assess their problems and potentials. Stay tuned as I intend to share these truisms and business lessons from the big screen one by one. In the meantime do not hesitate to get your copy of my novel Fresh Snow on Bedford Falls: Second Chances here.

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