Think like a trained assassin when launching your business

Controversial opinion: Columbiana is a must-watch for entrepreneurs!

I first saw Columbiana in theatres nine years ago, and thought it was a great movie at the time. Last month, however, I was invited to watch it again. Having since collected a decade’s worth of entrepreneurial experience, the film struck me differently this time. I could not believe how rich with entrepreneurial, business management, and administrative concepts it was. In every hit the assassin had to complete, she was 25 steps ahead of her victims and other stakeholders.

If there is ONE THING this movie teaches you, it is the importance of proper planning and preparation for your business. How many people do you know who have struggled or failed in business because of inadequate planning? Or, perhaps it is you who may be struggling due to poor preparation. Let me tell you something. My entrepreneurial journey has been riddled with disappointments for the same reason.

Columbiana also reinforces the following concepts:

1. Strategic planning

2. Branding

3. Marketing

4. Leadership

5. Communication

6. Mastering “One Thing” (the star was a master killer)

7. Human psychology

8. Competitor analysis (so you can ELIMINATE your competition)

Each of these elements is essential to planning and building a successful business.

In one scene, SWAT is about to ambush the star, Cataleya (played by Zoe Saldana), in her apartment. She had less than one minute to plot and prepare her escape. In that minute, she was prepared, and I mean PREPARED, to leave everything behind. How many of us are prepared right now to leave everything behind if our apartment or business location goes up in flames? I will go first: I am not prepared.

Some of the most precious things I have collected over the years are photographs. I grew up in the age when Kodak disposable cameras took the pictures and Rite Aid developed them. I now have a big Rubbermaid bin full of pictures, and if my apartment went up in flames today, I would lose them. After watching Columbiana, I am now thinking about ways to protect those pictures in the event of a disaster. I might scan them and back them up on Dropbox, or invest in a fireproof safe. Now consider what might happen to your valuable business records and resources without a contingency plan. If I hadn’t rewatched this movie, I might never have thought these things through.

In an earlier scene, nine-year-old Cataleya complains to her uncle that school can’t do anything for her, reminding him that she wants to be an assassin. He tells her that without school, the business will kill her in five years. If she wants to be a killer and survive, she has to be a smart one. Her uncle explains that there is more to killing than pulling the trigger. She must learn how the world works, and how people think.

Even a killer needs to plan and prepare to prevent jail time and an early death. The same rule applies to you and your business, if you want to stand the test of time. It took Cataleya 15 years to become a master killer. How much time have you invested in your business’ growth and development?

I will answer first. I am proud to say that over the last four years, I have invested thousands and thousands of hours in my growth as an entrepreneur. I have read countless business books, sought out high-ranking mentors, binge-watched hundreds of YouTube videos, and lastly, I went back to school. I did all of this to plan and prepare for the launch of Brown Career Labs (, which has been in the works since 2018.

Careful planning in your personal and professional life will help you survive, thrive, and navigate disastrous and unexpected events. This movie will definitely inspire you to think ahead. One of the best lines was, “Never expect the expected.” I couldn’t agree more.

Columbiana is case study material, and I HIGHLY recommend it to all BBA and MBA students, as well as aspiring and established entrepreneurs. If you know anyone starting a business, tell them to watch this movie. They may learn more than they expect.

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