New Businesses Done The Right And The Wrong Way, In One Single Movie: “An American Pickle”

New Businesses Done The Right And The Wrong Way, In One Single Movie: “An American Pickle”

International traveling started again after the Corona holidays, and with that came journeys from Singapore to Germany and back for me.

So did I in March 2022, and I only realized then that I never watch a movie in my spare time. A ticket to the movies is not really of value to me because I always fall asleep. I hate it to watch a movie when I cannot easily walk out because I do not like it, and this is how I usually end up in a cinema: asleep in my seat and with a stiff neck after waking up again.

But watching a movie in an airplane during an international flight is different. I have 12 hours to kill, enough time for a night of sleep, AND for watching one or two movies. And the movies are never bad. Todays aircraft entertainment systems have hundreds of different movies available, many of them brand new, and there are always one or two movies that I find interesting.

Now you know where I am coming from: on my latest international flight, I got interested in the movie “An American Pickle”, a comedy. The Oxford Dictionary offers two definitions of comedy, one is simply “a film, play, or broadcast programme intended to make an audience laugh” and the other one – used for more serious artwork – is “a play characterized by its humorous or satirical tone and its depiction of amusing people or incidents, in which the characters ultimately triumph over adversity.” And what is important here is that the movie “An American Pickle” falls under the latter definition. This is definitely not a movie that is intended to make you laugh.

Wikipedia tells the first part of the movie as follows:

Herschel Greenbaum and wife, Sarah, are struggling Jewish laborers. They emigrate from their shtetl to America in 1919 after their village is rampaged by Cossacks. He finds a job at a pickle factory, and saves up for two graves at a Jewish cemetery. One day, while working, he falls into a vat of pickles just as the factory is closed for health reasons, leaving Herschel brined for 100 years.

Waking up in Brooklyn in 2019, Herschel discovers that his only living relative is his great-grandson Ben. Ben works as a freelance app developer and is currently developing an app “Boop Bop”, a service that checks companies’ ethics when buying their products. Ben reluctantly agrees to go with Herschel to the cemetery where Sarah and his son along with Ben’s parents are buried. Herschel is disgusted to find the cemetery is in shambles with a Cossack vodka billboard overlooking it. This causes him to assault construction workers putting up the billboard, leading to his and Ben’s arrest.

Ben bails them out of jail; however, he finds that he can’t get investors for his app due to his new criminal record, so he disowns Herschel. Herschel decides to begin a pickle business to buy and take down the billboard overlooking the cemetery. Herschel is a huge success over social media. However, Ben tells health inspectors that Herschel has been using produce found in the trash bins, causing him to be fined $12,000. Herschel is able to come back from this with the assistance of unpaid interns, causing his business to become even more popular and allowing him to refurbish the cemetery and remove the billboard. Herschel’s success leads to Ben envying him even more.

Ben then tells Herschel to download Twitter, and he begins tweeting controversial statements. While initially met with protests and boycotts, Herschel is then seen as an icon of free speech and empowerment.

How that part of the movie did resonate with me! Though he knows nothing about the contemporary business world, Herschel quickly becomes a successful entrepreneur thanks in part to his refreshingly simple recipe, which consists only of salt, rainwater, and cucumbers. When asked whether his pickles contain benzoates or other preservatives, Herschel tells his hip customers he doesn’t even know the meaning of those words.

Herschel triumphs over adversity by following simple rules for setting up a new business: do what you know best (making pickles) and find out what the customers want (sustainable, fair food). Then solve your Freedom-to-Operate issues (the health regulations for making and selling pickles), create your Intellectual Property (the unique Herschel character), and test the market response very soon (by right away selling his first batch of pickles on the street). His investment into the new product was zero, except for his worktime. And what was a necessity because he could not afford a production site became a marketing feature: Herschel uses rainwater for making the brine, which underlines the sustainability of his product. A shortened version of this business story can be found here:

What a contrast with his great-grandson Ben. Ben has been developing his app “Boop Bop” for more than five (5) years without testing the market. Ben is losing time and money with finding a logo instead of finding paying customers. Ben spent all the money that his late parents left him as an inheritance for his useless app that checks and publishes companies’ ethics.  In short words, Ben is a true copy of the “Gene” character in my book “The 4×4 Innovation Strategy” (free download here:×4-innovation-strategy/)

Whenever you meet someone who starts a new business, please recommend these two items to them: watching the movie “An American Pickle” and reading my book “The 4×4 Innovation Strategy”.

The movie comes with another twist, but that one is not relevant for my message to you. Please find it out yourself by watching the entire movie.

You will probably not like every part of the movie but in general, it is definitely worth watching that movie because of the business aspect of its story.


Call To Action

If you have not yet done so, start today.

Watch the movie “An American Pickle” (click here) and read my free book “The 4×4 Innovation Strategy” (click here).


Martin “4×4 Innovation” Schweiger

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