The Intern: lessons learned from the movie

I recently watched the movie "The Intern" with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. My hubby had mentioned a number of times that I should watch this movie because it reminded him of me.

It is a cute movie., although not a lot of depth, but does subtly convey some business ownership messages and struggles.

Jules, owner of a successful company, finds out she is expected to hire a "qualified" CEO to replace herself for the overall greater good of the company. The movie shows her struggles as a working mom, running a business, with others looking to replace her (and her vision), for the "greater good".

A number of moments from the movie stood out for me, and resonated with my own business experience. They are:

1) the Office Junk desk: everyday Jules walks (rides in her case, see image above) by a cluttered junk desk filled that sits in the middle of the open office space, and cringes. She laments, in front of her staff, how much it bothers her that everyone else keeps piling junk on this desk and no one does anything about it.

She actually says "I was going to stay late to fix it". This is the owner of the company; she likely has more business-critical things to do than clean up a desk.

Eventually her "intern" (Robert De Niro) cleans it up on his own initiative and she is thrilled. Literally. Thrilled.

I know this feeling.

The feeling of someone doing something so unexpected, and seemingly out of their "job" description, but which makes a huge impact to you as the owner. I know this feeling.

As a biz owner you get told the office is out of toilet paper, coffee, cream, dish soap (insert literally anything here). And you go get it. There are garbage bags left at the front door that everyone walks by each day, until you take it out.

And then one day toilet paper just shows up, without your involvement. An employee who was out getting groceries just picked up what was needed. The garbage is taken out. Birthday cake is bought. All without your involvement.

And as small a gesture as this might be, it feels amazing as a biz owner to know that people in your employ notice and help by doing literally whatever it takes.

(I am saying "literally" a lot in this article. It's because it's literally how I feel).

2) not being "good" enough: from time-to-time you will encounter people who think they can run your business better than you can. And maybe they can. But to do this everyday for 17 years successfully has taken some kind of "talent" and this kind of commitment is what I bring to the table as the owner and founder.

As the company searches to replace Jules, and hire an "experienced, qualified" CEO with a great track record, who wants to change EVERYTHING that makes her company unique, she has to manage how she feels about that. And she has to put a stake in the ground and stand her ground. She created this company. She can run it. She is the heart and soul of it. Despite experience, MBA degrees or pedigree.

3) Doing it "all": I don't care how cliche it sounds, we working moms ARE trying to have it all. We are running businesses and making cookies for bake sales, volunteering on sports Boards, taxiing our kids around town for after school activities.

Jules is trying to balance the same, although she has a "stay at home husband" which most of us don't have. But she still loses out on her daughter's activities, falls asleep on the car ride home, and is always running 10 minutes late. It's a symptom of doing "it all" everyday.

I can relate.

It's not whining, it's a fact. We. Are. Busy. But, it doesn't matter; we love our children and wouldn't change a thing. We thrive on it :)

I am not going to miss that game, that PD day, that field trip, that sick day, that "stay home with me mom" day. Never.


I had a client give me grief once for postponing a meeting because i had to pick up a sick little boy at school. I no longer work with this client. They just don't get it; what I stand for and am trying to accomplish.

4) Imperfect: as the owner you can be held to a higher standard. Co-workers often refer to Jules as "difficult" (I didn't see this at all), "a mess" (hmmm....not really).

The fact is: no one is perfect.

Jules created something that in 18 months took off and was wildly successful. Difficult or messy aside, she has some quality that makes her successful. I do not have a MBA, prior business experience nor do I program. Realistically I am the last person who should own a web technology company.

So what do I bring to the table? Perseverance. Ambition. Risk taking. Organization skills. A natural tendency to take responsibility and see something through to the end. At all costs.

Your quirks can often be what make you successful. This is what makes you stand out from the norm.

"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."

And even though Jules struggles throughout the movie to conform to the acceptable norm of a CEO/business owner, it is her intern that teaches her that her unique style and approach is exactly what makes the company so successful. And that she should stop trying to make everyone else happy by hiring a CEO, and do what is good for her.

That's a good lesson.

5) Just breathe Jules: one I practice often. In its beautiful, simplistic glory, just breathing can momentarily, and critically, re-establish equilibrium. I use this tactic often to reset and reconsider, both essential to managing the multiple moving parts in our lives.

As I finished the movie last night on my i-pad, eyes closing as I was falling asleep, my hubby came to bed. He reached over, took the earbud out of my ear and said "she reminds me of you."

I'll take that as a compliment.