When it comes to fictional characters, few can be as memorable and likable as Mario; the tiny Italian plumber in search of his Princess. Besides having captured the imagination and screen time of folks across generations, the man left us with a few valuable lessons in business.
These 4 lessons that promise to set your business on a path to sustainable growth, should you be as brave as Super Mario to follow them.
#1 One eye on the Princess. The other on the Present.
When Mario starts his journey, it’s with the goal of saving his Princess. That’s the destination. And he’s very clear about that.
However, along the way, he’s got a lot of battles to win and a lot of smaller rewards to collect – a boost here, a pickup there. And of course, thousands of little Gold Coins along the way.
To win these battles, Mario can’t focus only on the Princess. He’s got to focus on what’s in front of him to really be moving forward.
That’s very true of business too.
“Focusing on the today’s revenue rather than the lofty goal of a high-value exit can go a long way.”
Take for example the SoftBank-WeWork saga.
WeWork’s strategy was to remain laser-focused on a massive exit. An “Eyes on the Prize” approach that somewhere fell short because there were no “Eyes on the Present” to ensure a sustainable growth in revenue and scale of operations.
This approach encourages businesses to stay so focused on the big Pot of Gold at a certain point in the (uncertain) future.
With multiple examples of this model not having worked, there’s room for debate about the way businesses and investors view growth.
Super Mario doesn’t chase the Pot of Gold.
#2 Build your own Pot of Gold.
Simple as that.
Rather than focusing on valuation of the future, do so on the value you create along the way.
Mario collected gold coins and victories along the way. These smaller rewards helped him march forward towards his Princess.
These smaller rewards are nothing but regular revenue.
“When you adopt a Revenue-First approach, you slowly yet steadily work towards building your own Pot of Gold.
Surely enough, the tide is shifting towards digital-first brands focusing on growing revenues through a well-defined product mix, excellent customer experience, and strong brands.
Now while “sustainable growth” might not sound as sexy as “exponential growth” or “100x”, it’s got merit.
Work towards getting things right every step of the way and focus on today’s revenue to ensure a more sustainable route to achieving scale.
#3 The Joy is in the Journey.
Now imagine this.
You invest in a copy of Super Mario and decide to embark on this man’s journey. And you begin.
15 minutes in and NO REWARDS. No gold coins, no boosts. Just a long, tedious, march towards your princess.
But that’s okay, right? You’re sure to reach your destination. So what if it’s absolutely no fun?
Super Mario disagrees.
“Like with everything else in life, the joy is in taking the journey. The revenue you make along the way needs to be a constant source of gratification and happiness.”
The final prize is meant to be the icing on the cake.
Building and growing a business is supposed to be fun throughout the journey. The little rewards do as much to your joy of doing business as they do to your P&L.
And having fun along the journey is far more important than you’d think.
#4 Balance your Growth Priorities.
Striking that balance between the goals you’re chasing is perhaps the most important Super Mario business lesson.
Typically, there are two approaches to chasing growth.
First – the Topline approach that focuses on a business’ GMV or Gross Merchandise Value.
While the GMV offers insight into the overall volumes of business, it might not be the best indicator of growth. It’s an aggressive and clouded method of valuing and measuring growth.
On the other end, is the more cautious Bottomline approach that’s more risk averse and advocates against scaling too much and too soon.
Again, Mario nailed this balance.
“Your business needs to find balance between the Topline and Bottomoline approaches. And that balance…is Revenue.”
You could call a Revenue-First approach the ‘Midline’ approach if you like. It paints a fair picture of your business’ volumes and earnings.
What’s more, chasing revenue should be a very healthy indicator of a startup’s idea of growth. Like I said above, it’s more sustainable and holistic.
And that’s that. 4 key business lessons from Super Mario.
To boil all of these lessons down into one quick statement – Focus on steady growth through regular revenue generation and enjoy the journey.