The former Mr. and Mrs. Smith are now officially hitched. While everyone was distracted by award shows and the fact that Hello Kitty is actually not a kitty at all, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie quietly got married this past Saturday in France.
Here at Entrepreneur.com, we found some parallels between their secret nuptials and some of the secrets to running a successful business.
1. The importance of perception. Long before they were engaged -- in fact, long before Brad Pitt was even single -- both stars portrayed themselves as a family in the media. There was the infamous photo shoot for W magazine, where they were portrayed as a married couple with a child on the beach to help promote their new spy flick at the time. Moreover, Angelina would mention to the press how her son Maddox viewed Brad as a father figure. Later, they moved in together and had children. By the time Pitt proposed in 2012, it wasn’t surprising. People already thought of them as a family (as opposed to, say, adulterers).
Similarly, in business, sometimes you have to “fake it ‘til you make it.” “One way of quickly influencing perception is by presenting yourself as bigger, better and more brilliant than you currently are,” writes entrepreneur and angel investor Justin Jones in an article on unconventional business tips. Jones uses the example of real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, now one of the sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank. Corcoran was struggling as a real estate agent when she heard that Madonna was looking for a new apartment in New York City. She put together a report of the requirements the Material Girl might have, and when television stations picked up on the document, she portrayed herself as a power player. Her televised appearances created the perception that she was already established, and soon after, she was.
2. The benefits of stealth mode. Somehow, two of the biggest celebrities in the world managed to marry each other without telling anyone it was happening. This meant no paparazzi and no media circus. In keeping their wedding plans secret, “Brangelina” was able to focus on the actual point of the wedding. The couple was also able to time the announcement when they wanted to, when buzz from the VMAs and the Emmys had dulled and they wanted to plug their upcoming film, By the Sea. As in business, timing is everything.
As an entrepreneur, keeping the project you’re working on a secret has benefits, too. As writer Matt Villano points out in his article about the pros and cons of operating in stealth mode, keeping your mouth shut about your work allows you to protect your intellectual property. It also lets you solidify a strategy and make your product the best it can be before you divert energy and resources to aspects like PR. “Trying to do branding and PR are distractions that can get in the way of entrepreneurs doing the most important thing, which is getting the product good enough to sell,” says Jason Chicola, the CEO and founder of San Francisco-based creative services provider Rev.com.
3. The fundamentals of a lasting partnership. Marriage requires things like trust, mutual respect, and good communication; so does a successful business partnership. This is harder to come by than you might think, which is why so many marriages end in divorce and more than half of all new businesses fail. The Jolie-Pitts took time to get these basics down over seven years of dating before they tied the knot. If they can handle six kids, two careers and a breast cancer scare, it’s a safe bet that they have a solid foundation for their newly official union.
As your business grows, you’ll face challenges of the unknown, you’ll have to rebound from mistakes and you’ll need someone to help take up the slack. Choose your partners carefully, and if you like it put a ring on it -- or, in business terms, offer a contract.
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