Seinfeld on Startups – Serenity Now!

Seinfeld on Startups – Serenity Now!

By Dan Beenken, Advance Iowa, UNI Center for Business Growth and Innovation

Family business issues.  Employee compensation programs.  Bankruptcy.  Background checks – or lack thereof.  Lloyd Braun.

The 3rd episode of Season 9 had it all.  It was like a Perfect Storm of business metaphors all crammed into a sweet little package of awesome.

The premise is roughly something like this:  Frank Costanza watches a movie – The Net – and decides computers must be pretty popular, I’m going to start selling them.  First off, that is pretty sound market research, so let’s give Frankie a couple points right off the bat.

To sell computers, he enlists the talents of his “secret weapon” – his son, George.  Let’s take a breath here to review the uber-successful sales career of one George Costanza.  He’s been a washout realtor, perhaps the most famous latex salesman of all time, a rest stop supply salesman for Sanalac, a playground equipment sales rep for Play Now Sports (that one went really well), and too many others to mention here.  He’s had so many jobs, he’s even had fake jobs – Marine Biologist, Architech, Importer/Exporter, and even Hen Supervisor with Tyler Chicken.

At first glance, that is a rock star resume of sales experience.  As his father, Frank should be in the unique position to know just how badly George sucked it up in all of those roles.  Yet he ignores all of those data points to come to the conclusion:

George:  “Dan, do you know what it takes to compete with Microsoft and IBM?”

Frank:  “Yes I do, that’s why I’ve got a secret weapon – my Son”

Frank did what we see families do all too often, ignore the data points and base decisions on emotion.  I’m not saying that everyone’s kids are as inept as George Costanza.  (For the sake of the future of the human race, I hope that is not true.)  But I am saying that family and business, particularly one involving the Costanzas, is not always the recipe for success you might think it is.

I respect the desire to have family involved in a business.  That said, you can’t put your blinders on either.  George in the sales department was a doomed mismatch.  Perhaps there was a better seat on the bus for ol Georgie-boy at Costanza and Son.  I have no idea where he could have possibly had success, guessing Frank didn’t either.

To summarize.  When bringing family into the business – put them in spots where they will succeed.  Not just where you have an empty seat.  Don’t raise kids that turn out like George Costanza – and if for some reason your parenting goes that far off the tracks – don’t offer them a job in the sales department or you’ll be left with “Insanity Later!”

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