Why business is like... A Tarantino movie

When Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, the new director scored a smash hit, full of razor-sharp dialogue, clever chronology and bloody violence.

by Jennifer Harris, director of JRBH Strategy & Management, www.jrbh.co.uk
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It was a rich formula: every one of his later successes, from Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown to Kill Bill, would come from the same mould as his first production.

And, of course, he spawned imitators. Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was built on similar themes, with an added mockney twist. Like Tarantino, Ritchie stayed true to the formula. His second film, Snatch, felt more like a sequel to the first than a work in its own right.

In the business world, countless pioneers have struck a workable seam and exploited it. McDonald's, for example, introduced its 'Speedee Service System' as long ago as 1948, establishing principles now taken for granted by every fast-food restaurant the world over.

Yet these American and British directors differ: Tarantino stuck rigidly to the method; Ritchie didn't. With Swept Away (2002), Richie swapped sharp-tongued gangsters and London's East End for Madonna and a desert island - and made one of the biggest turkeys of all time.

Plenty of entrepreneurs have made the same mistake. Stelios, for example, pioneered the low-cost airline with easyJet. But instead of building on that early success, he returned to the drawing-board - and bungled everything from hotels to cinema, pizza and watches. Clive Sinclair got it right with the pocket calculator, but wrong with digital watches, the C5 battery-powered buggy and the fold-up A-bike. McDonald's, you'll notice, has no plans for a slow-food restaurant.

Nowadays, Ritchie is famous for being Madonna's husband, while Tarantino is still spoken of with awe. Yet even the great American should beware. This year's effort, Death Proof, arrived 15 years after Reservoir Dogs but is peddling the same trademark aesthetic - and is hardly setting the world on fire. Even the strongest formulas need shaking up from time to time.

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