Small business owners have a tendency to be passionate about what they do. As part of this passion, they also have a tendency to relate everyday life experiences to that business; sometimes in quite unusual (and in some cases rather tenuous) ways.

I’m not talking about the typical tales of how a mother/ father/ child/ grandparent/ mentor/{insert other influential person here} taught them valuable business lessons. I’m not talking about the endless posts on small business lessons learned from cats, dogs, and other pets. And, I’m also not talking about the many pithy posts bloggers seem never to tire of publishing about “Small Business Lessons Learned from {fill in the blank}.” (Though if that kind of post interests you check out Super Bowl 50 & 25 Other Things Small Business Owners Can Learn From and Small Business Lessons from the Movies)

I’m talking about personal stories from your fellow entrepreneurs explaining how they leveraged seemingly unrelated life experiences to help their small businesses succeed. While you might not have thought to analyze the situation as the authors do, the small business lessons they reveal can be useful to overcoming the day-to-day challenges you face in running your small business.


Hula Small Business Lessons

Finding one story about how Hula related to small business success would have been surprising; finding two makes you want to grab a hoop and gyrate for insight.

3 Things Hula Dancing Taught Me About Running A Successful Business
A 28-year hula dancing expert draws lessons from her Hula-persona for her small business owner role, including the significance of educating customers, the importance of presenting yourself well to customers, and that, “Passion can mean the difference between average and awesome.”


What the Hula Hoop Taught Me About Business
This small business experts relates how her initial failure at hula-hooping and subsequent life-lessons relating to learning and eventually-acquired expertise not only taught a valuable business lesson but also proved a useful skill in a business settings.


Food Related Small Business Lessons

Whether growing, preparing, selling, or serving; small business lessons from food abound.

What a pivot to roasting chestnuts taught me about small business
A small business owner describes a strategic switch from selling Italian Ice in summer to selling roasted chestnuts and hot drinks in winter. Along with insights regarding how to successfully shift production and staff, he offers “nutty” wisdom including “Ideas like chestnuts can dry up.”


6 Things Farming Taught Me About Entrepreneurship
This software entrepreneur grew up on a family farm, and highlights key traits of farmers that have helped him achieve success in business: Versatility, Cost consciousness, Creativity and ingenuity, Efficiency, Strong relationships and Optimism.


What a Soup Kitchen Taught Me About Running a Business
Taking her team to volunteer at a soup kitchen taught this marketing firm Managing Partner the value of efficient teamwork, the value of extracting maximum utility from all business resources, and the value of truly understanding your customers– meaning “understand their nature, their personality, and all they’ve been through” not simply what they want and how you can maximize profit by giving it to them.


What Baking Has Taught Me About Business
This Art Gallery Owner turned Pie Shop Owner relates key components of a successful culinary concoction to key components of running a business. She cites patience as a “key ingredient” for both baking and business, relates the exactitude required for baking to the discipline required to follow a business plan (as well as the creative flair that epitomizes a great chef to the successful entrepreneur’s ability to quickly respond to a changing environment or new opportunity), and compares the baker’s admonition to “Bake the whole pie, but savor just a slice” to a strategy for managing small business social media engagement.


What Pepperoni and Cheese Taught Me About Starting (and Keeping) a Successful Business
HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes reflects on the financial lessons he learned from his first entrepreneurial venture: a small town pizza shop he started with nothing but a credit card for capital.


Small Business Lessons from Sports & Fitness Activities

Perhaps it’s the team dynamics, the never quit attitude, or the necessity for exertion until exhaustion that causes the common comparisons between athletics and small business.

Commentary: What playing in the NFL taught me about running a small business
Professional football player turned small business owner Tony McGee recounts six lessons he learned in the NFL that have helped him run a successful business. His examples won’t be new to seasoned business professionals, but the football slant provides interesting insight. For example, he notes that “the best coaches hire great assistants” with diverse skillsets that create the strongest possible team. Any MBA will note the variant on the “A Players hire A Players and B Players hire C Players” theme.


Here’s What Boxing Taught This Small-Business Owner About Entrepreneurship
A Boxer turned Pizza Shop Owner (yes, another pizza shop) relates how his discipline in the ring relates to his business success. As with boxing, he notes that his success comes from forcing his game plan on others, not copying the competition. And, the post wouldn’t be complete without a reference to getting knocked down and getting back up, which he does with the admonition to small business owners not to abandon a game plan or lose faith in their abilities too quickly, even if they initially “get hit in the face.”


What Tango Dancing Taught Me About Small Business
This Tango dancing small business owner relates her experience on the dance floor with her experience at the helm of a business coaching service. Her lessons learned include that picking a great partner will make you perform better, the importance of balancing leading and following, the value of knowing where to embellish, the strategic value of improvisation, and the importance of being able to execute an “elegant business pivot.”


Small Business Lessons from Movies, TV & Fiction

Life may imitate art; art may imitate life; but fictional worlds seem to have a way of helping entrepreneurs of all types understand the characters they encounter in the business world.

What “I Love Lucy” taught me about business partners
One half of a small business marketing firm partnership reflects on how her partner is the perfect “Ethel” to her crazy “Lucy,” and how the best business partnerships are ones where two people complement each other on many levels, and also simply have fun together (which in MY opinion, is truly the key to a successful small business, partnership or sole proprietorship).


7 things Hogwarts taught me about running a successful business
This business strategist parlays her Potter-mania into useful business insights, such as, “Be persistent…You need to show up. You need to follow up. When you get an inquiry, by phone or email, you better respond. Hogwarts sent Harry some 75 owls, I think you can manage to send an email!”


3 Things The Incredible Hulk Reminded Me About Good Business
This marketing executive relates his disappointing encounter with actor Lou Ferrigno (who played the Incredible Hulk on TV) at a recent Comic Con. The actor signed an autograph, with “no smile, no handshake…no friendly small talk about whether we’re enjoying the show…Nothing…Just a simple, cold, financial transaction.” The business lessons the author suggests we take from this experience are the importance of the “small stuff” in business, the importance of not engaging in a business “just for the money” and the reminder that both “Good and Bad impressions SPREAD FAST.”


Small Business Lessons from Random Life Experiences

What do all these posts have in common? Nothing but the fact that their authors have managed to glean small business lessons from the most unlikely places.

What I Learned About Small Business While Shoveling Snow

This post from 2014 describes how one small business owner applied standard business decision making processes to her decision of whether to outsource the shoveling of her snow-packed driveway or whether to do it herself. (On a personal note, I just emerged from a combined three feet of snow over the past 2 weeks, and can attest to the value of working for a small business that eliminates the need to shovel snow by embracing telecommuting.)

What Having Bipolar Disorder Has Taught Me About Business

Running a small business is hard enough without having to contend with the possibility that your brain may stop working the way you want it to. This thoughtful post from a small business owner with bipolar disorder provides valuable insight for any small business owner, including an admonition to make sure that business health encompasses both you and your operations. She writes, “You have to design your business to support you not only financially, but emotionally and mentally. If you don’t intentionally set things up so that you can run your business healthily, it will run you and it will burn you out.”


7 Things Drumming Taught Me About Business
A small business marketing freelancer relates the lessons she learned from her drum instructor that apply equally well to small business, including the derivation of the term “Chopless Wonder” and why they should be avoided in a business setting at all costs.


What a Prayer Kneeler Taught Me About Small Business Marketing
This post describes how the installation of a prayer kneeler (a long bench on which people kneel to pray) in front of a display of paintings of Catholic Saints turned the exhibit from one that was viewed to one with which people engaged. It suggests that crafting your business marketing messages in ways “which simultaneously invite the passerby to participate and facilitate the possibility of engagement… in a very meaningful way” should be the ideal towards which we strive.


8 Ways My Theater Degree Helps Me Succeed as a Small Business Owner
Noting that, “A major in theater often sits atop lists of the most useless college degrees” this small business owner contends that the lessons she learned acquiring that degree prepared her well for running her business. For example, she notes that nothing happens unless you “show up” again and again despite almost constant rejection; emphasizes the importance of being able to immediately connect with the people you meet; the value of being constantly “entertaining;” and the necessity of being able to “take risks and embrace vulnerability.”


Have you learned an important small business lesson in an unlikely place? If so we’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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