Movie B-School: Progress, as told by Tommy Boy

4 minute read


The one, the only, Chris Farley. His legacy lives on in the hilarious characters he created in his time as a star, including Tommy Callahan, a lovable, walking “derp.” He stumbles through the first half of the movie as he has through life: coasting on his family’s wealth and beloved by everyone but David Spade’s Richard. The movie is a coming-of-age story where Tommy grows into a newer, better version of himself. He learns to approach selling in a different way, to fight for his company, and eventually engages in deep personal growth.

Naturally, industries change and progress, and sometimes businesses get left behind as these changes take hold. These progressions run the gamut of small updates to the way an industry has always done business, to differences that can vastly change the face of a company. The only way to combat progress and trends is to keep up and prepare yourself with knowledge. Let Tommy Boy teach you how.

New map 1. Get yourself a new map

The refusal to progress has already happened in the music industry, is currently taking hold in Hollywood, and has finally trickled down to broadcast television. Television and cable companies have had a hard time figuring out what to do with online viewership and fought it, just as record labels were slow to trust iTunes when it debuted.

This is because these industries are working off an old model…the model they know and are used to, and seemingly have a hard time looking past. When you’re so involved and mired in the way things were, and it’s the only map you own, it’s easy to get frustrated that the answer you need isn’t written in it. Sometimes you need to put the old one down, ask someone for directions, and then get yourself a new map.

For inspiration to evoke change, check out excerpts from Kevin Spacey’s keynote speech at the 2013 Edinburgh International Television Festival.


2. It’s never too late to learn

Often the only way to move your business forward is to learn some new skills. Once you’ve figured out your “new map,” you may need to acquire the skills to propel it forward. It’s never too late to invest in yourself and your business by challenging yourself to learn a new skill. For some it’s learning how to handle social media, and for others it’s how to switch from a traditional cash register to a mobile register. It may have taken nearly the whole film, but Tommy eventually learned how to sell, how to take charge, and what it means to be a friend.

If you’re looking to learn online, there are many sites that offer classes with either membership-based or per-class fee structures. Here’s some of our favorites:




Or, try a local Community Education class. They often cover valuable business topics at a minimal cost.

Chicken wings

3. Chicken wings

Tommy has a moment where his sales strategy starts to click, all in the name of food. His delightful (and violent) monologue on how he ruins everything gains sympathy from a tired waitress, who offers to turn on the friers and throw in some chicken wings. The waitress’ turnaround prompts Richard’s line, “Did that board to the head knock something loose?” All of a sudden, Tommy was relaxed, being himself, and it paid off in his desired lunch.

Richard was able to guide Tommy’s newly realized sales skills, resulting in a meeting of their sales goal. Using what you already know (your business) and combining it with your new map and new skills, you can figuratively knock something loose in your head. Find your footing in the new and improved version of your company, while retaining the core of its personality, and go for the chicken wings!


Tommy Boy

Action steps:

In what ways has your industry transformed in the past five years, and how can you change the way you view it? What steps do you need to take to modernize your business and its operations? What elements of your company must you keep to stay true to it and yourself? Answer these questions to create a stellar plan for progression.


steph profile for web

About the Author
Stephanie Norell is the Marketing Director for North by Northwest’s Boise office. She loves horror movies and Pinterest, adores the classic film Xanadu, and “enjoys” disseminating her thoughts for trolls to discuss online.


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