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Lessons From Well-Known Businesses in Pop Culture
  • 13 December 2017
  • Daniel Vahab

Lessons From Well-Known Businesses in Pop Culture

From coffee shops, to bars, to offices where beloved characters clock in on a daily basis, small businesses are everywhere in films and television shows. While the stories may be fictional, the companies depicted within them can serve as a valuable source of inspiration. Here is an overview of some lessons you can learn from three businesses featured in pop culture entertainment.


Sterling Cooper

Featured in the popular television series, Mad Men, Sterling Cooper was the New York City advertising agency central to the show’s storyline. As Inc. points out, there are a variety of important business lessons you can learn from lead character, Don Draper. As the creative director, Don constantly thinks outside of the box to make the client-winning pitch.

A good example, as Inc. recalls, is a scene in which Don pitches Kodak an idea for a campaign promoting their projector. Throughout the presentation, Don incorporates slides of his own family photos, including an image of him carrying his wife on his wedding day and one of him pushing his child on a swing. This well-received pitch illustrates the importance of appealing to your client's emotions and showing how your offerings can serve to meet a deeper need. Think about this concept as it relates to your own small business: When you’re developing marketing messaging, consider how you speak to address your customers' concerns, needs, and struggles. By fostering these types of emotional relationships with your audience, you can make them feel more strongly about the products and services you offer, enabling you to earn more repeat customers.

Central Perk

Central Perk is the coffeehouse featured on the classic sitcom, Friends. Located in New York City, Central Perk offers more than just a product or service—in this case, coffee—to the show's six main characters. The coffee shop also serves as a warm, inviting place for the group of friends to catch up and experience a sense of community.

In many ways, Central Perk served as a "third place" for the characters—an informal public gathering place that allowed Joey, Rachel, Ross, Chandler and Monica to simply enjoy their surroundings and forget about their concerns. If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, try thinking about how it can serve to unite the neighborhood in this way. Ask yourself: How can you create a more memorable experience that will give your business a competitive edge?


Another "third place" is the classic bar featured in the 1980s sitcom, Cheers. Owned by Sam Malone, Cheers was the go-to spot for a variety of customers, including an accountant, a mailman, a businesswoman, and a psychiatrist. In fact, the bar's slogan was "Where Everybody Knows Your Name." As star Norm, for example, would enter the bar, he was always greeted with a call of "Norm!" This type of personalized greeting serves to improve the customer experience, making each individual patron feel welcomed and at home. While you may not be able to learn the name of every customer you serve, there are little things you can do to make each customer feel valued and comfortable within your business—making them want to come back again and again.

There is always more to learn in business, and inspiration can come from a variety of different places. Despite being fictional, these iconic businesses in pop culture offer valuable, practical real-world lessons for small business owners. The entrepreneurs depicted within these programs demonstrate the importance of personalizing the customer experience, maintaining strong client services, creating a welcoming environment, and hiring staff that you can count on. As you continue to scale your enterprise, look to these programs as more than just a source of entertainment.

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