If I were to ask you, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Arnold Schwarzenegger?,” you might tell me of his seven Mr. Olympia wins (and his documentary Pumping Iron), or you might launch into an encyclopedic knowledge of his movies from the 1980s and 1990s, like Total Recall, the Terminator franchise. Even Twins or Junior!
However, the first thing that comes to mind to me is his late 1960s bricklaying business. Arnold and Franco Columbu were partners in a bricklaying business they founded together, and they styled themselves as Specialty European Bricklayers to make their business stand out from the competition. Being a “specialty” service, they were also able to raise their prices above the standard rate.
Bricklaying is bricklaying. There’s nothing special from one company to the next. They all do the same thing. However, for Arnold’s customers, they were receiving a “specialty” service, and they were willing to pay more as a result.
Beyond bricklaying, Arnold is the paragon of American success, achieving his dreams and inspiring generations of future Americans to do the same. When looking back at his journey from a German-speaking immigrant who barely spoke English (some say even to this day), to a world-class bodybuilder and movie star, to the Governor of California, Arnold’s life offers many lessons for entrepreneurs and business owners. Here are the top three life lessons Arnold can offer your business.
1. Success Almost Never Occurs Overnight
It is uncommon when someone achieves success so quickly in a profession or accomplishment without setbacks. One modern example would be Maisie Williams’s acting career. Maisie is most well-known as Arya Stark on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, her first role. While it is understandable that this is her breakout role since she was very young when cast six years ago, few actors ever achieve such success until later in their careers. Even Arnold.
When Arnold was first making the transition from pro-bodybuilder to movie star, he starred in Hercules in New York. Movie producers thought his last name was hard to pronounce, so they billed him as Arnold Strong instead. His lines were also dubbed due to his thick and then-unrecognizable accent. Conan the Barbarian, arguably Arnold’s breakout hit movie, would not be released until 1982, a whole 12 years after Arnold entered the industry. And yet, day after day and year after year, Arnold persevered, wanting to make his dream a reality.
As a small business owner, you too are more likely to be the “Arnold” or your industry, not the “Maisie.” Your product may be great but you should know that sometimes, it is a matter of time before your company’s worth and value is discovered. It may take months, years, or decades, but it will pay off.
2. There’s Always Another Accomplishment
You will find that, as you continue achieving your goals, they grow and blossom into even harder goals. It was once told to me as follows: Success is climbing a mountain. You start the climb with a group of people, all wanting the same thing you want. However, along the way, they drop out for one reason or another. Eventually, you reach the top with a very small group. Once you have reached the summit, you realize that not only can you climb a mountain, but you want to climb another one. A much more challenging one.
You and the small group who succeeded attempt to climb this harder mountain. Again, the group dwindles on the way up. Eventually, you are all alone on the mountain. You look down and they look up at you. You have become the paragon of success that everyone is chasing.
Not just a pretty metaphor, this is Arnold’s life in a nutshell. Arnold last won the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition in 1975. It was his seventh win. His record would not be beaten until Lee Hanley’s eighth win in 1991. This means that Arnold’s record lasted 16 years. However, just like the man at the top of the mountain, Arnold needed to climb another mountain. English-speaking moving pictures.
At this point in time, it would be seven years until Arnold starred in Conan the Barbarian. Arnold did not turn down roles, thinking they were beneath him. He embraced the role of an actor and starred in such renowned films like Stay Hungry (1976), The Villain (1979), and Scavenger Hunt (1979). Who can forget his role as “Handsome Stranger” in The Villain? It’s a classic!
Arnold was so ahead of his time, he was time travelling before he even starred in the Terminator. By simply being alive, Arnold travelled all the way from 1975 to 1982, became a bona fide movie star overnight with the success of Conan the Barbarian, and then starred in some of the best movies of the 1980s, and in the history of cinema, like the Terminator (1984), Commando (1985), and Predator (1987) (the action film, not the Chris Hansen Lifetime Movie).
In 2003, California ran a Gubernational recall election. At this point in time, Arnold was one of the biggest movie stars in the world (weight and star power). He ran and won the election. When his term was up in 2007, Arnold thought to himself, “I’ll be back,” and he was, winning the election and serving until 2011.
Since then, Arnold has returned to movies. For more than 20 years, Arnold was the biggest movie star in Hollywood, a record that has just been surpassed by another athlete-turned-action star. And his name is John Cena! Actually, it’s the Rock. And Arnold’s still not done. He’s going to become the new host of The Celebrity Apprentice in the near future.
Follow Arnold’s lead and be the best you can be at whatever you set out to accomplish for your business. As you accomplish more and more, your metrics of success will grow and you will constantly be chasing success. You are going to be winning so much, you are going to become sick and tired of winning all the time.
Improve yourself and your business every day. Make one more sale. Reduce your expenses. Market-test a small amount of new inventory. There are many ways to improve your business and you will gradually become closer and closer to achieving your business goals.
However, you will soon realize that you have already achieved your goals, whether you wanted to make at least $60,000 a year in profits or you wanted to open another franchise, or your wanted to expand your business nationally. Whatever your goal is, keep it in mind as you continually strive towards it.
3. Do Not Compare Yourself to Arnold
I know. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, I’ve just spent the last 1000 words telling you exactly why you should emulate Arnold. However, I merely did that because a picture is worth 1000 words, and I wanted to paint you a picture of success.
Ultimately, your business is your business. You are the catalyst for its success and failure. No one or thing on this Earth will influence your business as much as you do, unless you sell Earthquake Insurance in San Francisco.
While you can extrapolate lessons and examples from Arnold’s life, or the lives of other famous and successful people, your situation is unique. Your business is unique. You need to focus on your business, and find ways you can improve and stand out from your competition. Whether it is celebrating a holiday with reduced sales prices to get rid of old inventory, or responding to customer requests and stocking new items, there is always something you can do that sets you apart from your competition. Arnold told his clients he was offering specialty “European-style” bricklaying. Think of ways you can set your company apart by providing your customers such value, even if it is rhetorical.
Understand that success is not overnight and you, like Arnold, may have to wait a while before you breakout. After you achieve some success, you may find you have new goals and grander aspirations for your business. Maybe you want to hire some new staff, expand your inventory, or even start a different business on the side.
Regardless of your goals, you must always chase success. It will not fall into your lap. And it may not appear to you at first. Bricklaying is the farthest thing from bodybuilding and yet Arnold and Franco found a way to make it, and other business ventures, profitable, becoming millionaires back when a million dollars meant something. There is always another mountain to climb and with enough time, patience, skill, and determination, you will.