With January slinking away behind us, and the whole new year to look forward to, we thought it would be a good idea to end the month on a high optimistic note. And we couldn’t think of a better place to look for optimism than Pixar, the plucky little animation studio that could. Business owners can already learn a lot from Pixar simply by looking at its transformation from the small group of animators that Steve Jobs bought for $5 million back in 1986 into the $7.4 billion animation powerhouse that it became. But we thought we’d take a step away from looking at the financial strengths of the company to see what its creations can teach us about the business world. Little quips from beloved characters like Carl Fredericksen and Edna Mode can go a long way for entrepreneurs to embrace and embody as a standard for their business- sometimes it’s the smallest words that make the biggest impact!

Shining a LIGHT on business! Get it?! I’ll see myself out…

1. Monsters Inc. (2001) – “Laughter can produce more energy than screams.”

Also known as the “you catch more flies with honey” idiom that our mothers tutted at us when we were at our worse, the concept of being friendly over being a, well, monster is highly applicable in the business world. There are many ancient stereotypes about the manager lurking in the shadows, waiting for an employee to mess up so they can pounce and tear them to shreds. In some workplaces, employees genuinely fear the management, which is not something you want. It kills morale, and divides the office to the point that most employees will simply do the bare minimum in the hopes that no one notices them. So make sure to hire friendly managers, be a kind face in the office, and don’t be afraid to let a bit of laughter out to help empower your company.

2. Ratatouille (2007) – “Anyone can cook!”

This is a concept that our business especially holds dear. In the film, our hero Alfredo Linguini, along with his furry pal Remy, realizes that “not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” The very same can be said for the world of business – a great CEO could be hiding in anyone. All it takes is a bit of push to turn the average person into an entrepreneur and, while running a business isn’t easy, hard work and a determination to succeed can go a long way in making a successful company. Success is neither easy nor given, but for those of us who take that courageous step forward, we have to believe it can happen to us.

3. The Incredibles (2004) – “I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now.”

History should be an opportunity to learn, not a crutch or an excuse. And yet, so many people look to their past and fret about their choices, worrying over what they could have done better. That isn’t healthy! Learn from your mistakes, take experience from your past and only look back when you are trying to determine the way forward. Personal history has a nasty habit of distorting our views, so we must always remember to remain in the now and to allow our past to rest behind us.

4. UP (2009) – “I would like to award you the highest honor I can bestow, the Ellie Badge.”

UP is, in our opinion, one of the saddest movies Pixar has ever created. After 96 minutes and a box of tissues, this movie leaves its viewers dumbstruck after taking them on the emotional rollercoaster ride of their lives. Not wanting to end without causing a few more tears, the ex-curmudgeon Carl gives his personal touch to the badge Russell had been trying to earn the entire movie. While it wasn’t the assisting the elderly badge Russell originally set out to earn, the simple bottle cap Carl hands him was much more valuable. Business has a way of distancing the people involved – CEOs forget about their customers and employees become so intensely focused on their own work that they sacrifice any and all personal interaction with others. The strongest and happiest companies foster relationships, and even the most impersonal businesses can change.

5. Wall-E (2008) – “Recycle, exercise, and garden.”

Corporate might cannot run the world. That’s what we saw in Wall-E, and it’s a good lesson to end with. The human race became so concerned with consumerism that many people forgot to look up from the computer screen every once in a while and look at the stars. Use the New Year as an excuse to inject some of the natural world into your life. Try biking or walking a little more on your way to work, set up a recycling program for your business, and maybe even plant a little flowerbed behind your office. The world isn’t all about concrete, electricity and cash, though sometimes we all need a little reminder of that.

Have a good February everyone!