Top Gun: Lessons For Small Business Owners

by | 24th May, 2022 | micro-business, small business owners, sole-traders, thoughts on business

Anyone who has seen me present at a conference or special event knows that Tom Cruise will inevitably make an appearance during my session. Back in the 80’s I would have sacrificed a lamb roast for a date with him (if you understand this I know how old you are!). Nowadays, working as a small business mental health advocate I can appreciate his movies for so much more than those aviator sunnies. There are some valuable metaphors to be had in Top Gun. Maverick is released this week so it’s a timely reminder to revisit the messages…

Don’t let your ego write cheques your body can’t cash. 

My research consistently shows that small business owners who ask for help when challenged cope better during tough trading times. That might be asking another business owner for their advice, contacting their doctor if feeling stressed for extended periods, or letting the ATO know they can’t pay a BAS bill on time. Ego doesn’t keep them from reaching out because they know that tough times are part of business ownership and nobody knows everything. Remember in Top Gun how Maverick was just that – a bit of a maverick loner? Connecting and reaching out to others (either in person or via business online groups) can provide support when needed and reassurance that your experience is not unique. Too much glam social media and hyped-positivity can make it hard to share contrary views but believe me, your body will thank you for your honesty.

Find your Goose.

Yes, Goose doesn’t have a happy ending in Top Gun but I am keen to see how Goose’s legacy lives on in the sequel. Everyone in small business needs a Goose – especially if you work as a sole-trader. Maverick talked a lot and made mistakes. Goose listened and supported him regardless. In business, a Goose is a person who will listen to you unconditionally and without the need to give you advice. They will support you and remind you that you have the strength within yourself to overcome your challenges. Do you have a Goose you can turn to? That may not be your partner or the wise business mentor you usually talk to. These people have an important role but can they listen without wanting to share their advice? A Goose just listens and listening is sometimes all we need to keep going. If you don’t have a Goose when you go to see Maverick at the movies (and who won’t be doing that eh!) let it remind you to go find your Goose.


Remember, it takes a lot more than fancy flying to impress someone.

Success in small business is just like Maverick’s success as a pilot. He had the fancy moves (in our case a great website and social media persona perhaps) but he also needed to think about his strategy when working, his connections with others and making time to care about himself (and I’m not just talking about a good volleyball game!). It’s the same for us – we need to have a strategy for growth and a strategy for coping with growth. If your business is about reacting to requests, working to client deadlines without any voice of your own and jumping from one deal to the next you risk crashing. As Covey said so well, it’s important to “begin with the end in mind” – what are your business goals? Where do you see the business in two or five years? Knowing this makes all other decisions easy because they will either get you to your goal or they won’t.

Let Maverick be your excuse for some down time.

Finally, I hope you can use this fabulous movie release as an excuse for some down time. Relive or experience life in the 80’s and how its future is manifested in this new movie. Or, like me, just make some time to enjoy that smile and those aviators … see you there!