Tax & admin · 21 December 2017

Love Actually business lessons – Five tips from Britain’s best rom-com

Love Actually
Love Actually scored the highest ever UK opening weekend takings of any British romantic comedy when released in 2003

The weather outside is frightful and there are chestnuts roasting on the fire, which means it’s the time of year when the festive airwaves start to get filled with Christmas movies.

One modern classic that usually finds its way onto our screens is Love Actually; the star-studded, feel-good comedy that follows multiple romantic storylines during the Christmas season. But are there any lessons that micro business owners can learn from Richard Curtis’s 2003 box office smash?

Here, Emily Coltman, chief accountant to accounting software provider FreeAgent, gives five top business tips to take from Love Actually.

  1. If you want something enough, you’ll do it – Jamie and Aurélia

British author Jamie (Colin Firth) and his Portuguese housekeeper Aurélia are increasingly drawn to each other even though they don’t speak each other’s languages – until they both, separately, decide to learn to speak the other’s native tongue.

In business, if you want something strongly enough, you have to do whatever you need to in order to make it work – whether that’s learning a new skill, making contact with a network that can take you into a new market, or finding a better way to keep your books.

Remember, if you just stick to what you’ve always done, you’ll never escape your status quo.

Colin Firth played hapless author Jamie
Colin Firth played hapless author Jamie
  1. Dirty secrets will always be found out – Harry, Karen and Mia

Husband and dad Harry (Alan Rickman) becomes more and more attracted to his pretty, flirtatious secretary Mia. But his indiscretion is eventually found out by his wife Karen (Emma Thompson) when she finds an expensive necklace in his coat pocket. Thinking it is for her, she is crushed on Christmas Eve when she finds out he has planned to give the gift to Mia instead.

Secrets are never a good thing to keep in business – particularly if it’s information you don’t want your colleagues or clients to find out. Awkward details tend to be discovered eventually, so it’s better to be upfront and open from the outset.

And don’t try to bluff your way through a difficult business situation, because sooner or later you’ll be found out too. It is much safer to admit you don’t know the answer to a customer’s query, find out the answer and get back to them, than risk giving them the wrong answer and looking very foolish, or even losing them money, when they find out.

  1. Do not be afraid to stand up to big customers who bully you – David, Natalie and the President

Hugh Grant as prime minister David
Hugh Grant as prime minister David

Prime minister David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), one of his staff, are taking very small steps towards building a romantic relationship. But, their future is placed in jeopardy when the visiting US President (Billy Bob Thornton) makes advances on Natalie, prompting an angry David to make an epic speech challenging his political ally on a national issue rather than just offering blind loyalty.

As a small business owner, you may feel honoured when a large business agrees to buy from you, but beware that they may impose conditions on you that could seriously damage your business’s cash flow, for example “we only pay in 60 days, not the 30 you have asked for”.

Plan carefully how much you can afford – and do not be afraid to say no. Remember it’s always better to challenge a client rather than accepting unfavourable terms without question.

  1. Don’t try to be available 24-7 – Sarah, Karl and Michael

A potential, blossoming relationship between Sarah (Laura Linney) and her hunky colleague Karl is disrupted by constant phone calls from her mentally ill brother Michael.

Though this is an extreme case, we can still draw parallels with a small business owner who tries to be available for his/her clients at any time of the day or night. This will result, eventually, in exhaustion, burnout and illness. Set your business boundaries and switch off your phone during family time, meals, and at night.

  1. Be yourself for the greatest wins – Billy Mack

Aging rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas song that he openly declares to be “crap” and which he continues to denigrate while promoting it. Unwilling to tone down his rock star ways, he makes a series of car-crash appearances on radio and TV – but unsuspectedly finds himself appealing to the public as a “Bad Grandad” figure, and his record goes to number one.

What’s the lesson here? Don’t try to take on a persona when you run a small business. People buy from people and you can only sustain an act for so long. Be yourself and you will draw like-minded people to you – and hopefully win.

Emily Coltman FCA is chief accountant to FreeAgent, provider of award-winning cloud accounting software to freelancers, micro-businesses and their accountants

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Emily Coltman is chief accountant to FreeAgent, provider of cloud accounting software for freelancers, micro businesses and accountants. She is passionate about helping the owners of small and growing businesses to escape their “fear of the numbers” and she translates small business finance and tax into practical common sense speak.

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