To Be or Not To Be – How Shakespeare Can Help Your Startup

Certain things “go together.” Soap and water. Thunder and Lightning. And of course, Shakespeare and business. There are many reasons why the work of William Shakespeare has endured for centuries. Was he a genius? Yes. Was he a gifted writer? Of course. However, a major reason is also because he spent a long time thinking about how life, people, and yes, even work actually exists.

Think of any good movie, book or work of art that you’ve enjoyed. A key component is often realism. A realistic portrayal, realistic emotions or realistic situations that we can identify with. Shakespeare understood reality, even when he peppered it with fantasy.

A startup founder needs a little of both elements as well. Fantasy because as we’ve often mentioned, entrepreneurs are often a little insane. It takes a different sort of mind to dream big and take risks. Reality is needed to stay grounded. Whatever your dreams, in order to be realised, they must be played out in reality.

So let’s apply a little Shakespearean wisdom to our startups.


“Brevity is the Soul of Wit”

Whether you are pitching a business idea on a sales call or following up with a client, brevity is an important skill to develop. Learn how to keep things short and to the point, especially if you have a tendency to get long-winded. There will always be time to elaborate later.

Henry VI

“Wise men never sit and wail their losses, but cheerily seek how to redress their harms “

A lesson in recovering after a misstep or failure. We’ve spoken often on how most startups fail. In fact, most great entrepreneurs have had a company or an idea that never panned out. However, today no one remembers that Bill Gates’ first startup business was a flop. They remember Microsoft. An important part of success lies in learning how to recover from failure.

King Lear

“How, in one house, should many people under two commands hold amity? ‘Tis hard; almost impossible.”

If there is not a clear line of leadership, your company will suffer. As the founder, you set the tone. Of course one of the benefits of an early stage startup is being able to crowdsource ideas from your small team. However, it is important that you set the mandate and that you also lead with authority.

The Merchant of Venice

“I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.”

Startups are frequent targets for scams and schemes, especially in the early days. Strapped for cash and eager for opportunity, you may be more inclined to take risks or latch on to a seemingly great deal because of the potential it promises. Be aware, and also beware. If a deal or offer seems too good to be true, it most likely is.

Antony and Cleopatra

“To business that we love we rise betimes and go to ‘t with delight”

An earlier form of the old saying that goes “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It is true that good sense, smart thinking and careful planning are important to the success and growth of any startup. It is equally, if not more true, that passion and drive play a role as well.

Tragedy or Comedy?

A startup can have elements of both, and like a play, startups will have many acts. They won’t all end well, but perhaps by heeding some of these words you can help navigate the tempest. This, above all, to thine own self be true!

Looking to grow your business? ecentre organizes several startup workshops and provides business coaching to launch your business idea.