Business Lesson’s From Pixar’s Co-Founder Edwin Catmull

What does Pixar co-founder Edwin Catmull have to share about business that made Pixar one of the world’s top computer animation companies?

Let’s dive right in:

Sequels are hard to make but easy to market

It’s hard to add value on top of a masterpiece. Are you thinking about upsells? Or new product or services?

The marketing lesson here is that it’s easy to sell to a customer when you already delivered big value.

For example, if you like Apple products it’s easy to sell you new Apple products because they’re already tried-and-true for you.

But make sure the follow-on products do not disappoint.

Build a brain trust

Identify a group of 4-6 people that are capable but different from you. Coordinate with them on critical decisions.

Having a core group of capable people will help atone for the blind spots of individual members and bring different points of view to the table.

It never hurts to hear from people who are informed and believable about whatever needs to be understood.

Allow external forces to shake it up

Sometimes you need an external source to be critical with you.

Data isn’t everything

At Pixar, movies aren’t necessarily created based on a data-first approach.

The most passionate story wins, then data is used to fill the gaps.

That wacky crazy video ad idea you had? Test it.

Accept that decisions are not binary

In other words, they’re never strictly good or bad. The important step is making one, rather than rambling on them.

Things are rarely black or white. There’s a lot of gray involved and you have to be okay with thinking in a probabilistic sense.

Qualified doesn’t mean good

A qualification shouldn’t be the only criteria when building a team.

Hire for culture fit, tenacity, creativity, and coachability.

Don’t overweight skills and abilities relative to the other stuff.

People don’t follow up on what you discussed

Or they won’t do what they said they will. You need to do this for yourself.

Avoid quick reactions

Edwin Catmull would wait days and even weeks to respond to Steve Jobs’ requests.

Be thoughtful about your decision. Take your time and make sure you really think through it.

The biggest impediment to quality decision-making is harmful emotions.

But on the marketing front… Emotional persuasion beats logical persuasion every time

Pixar stories are not based on data.

They’re powerful because they tap into emotions. Make sure your marketing is like Pixar’s movies.

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