It’s a Wonderful Life, but a Terrible Business

Written by Todd Liles 


George Bailey is perhaps the worst businessman in movies.

Just look at the honeymoon scene. George used his honeymoon savings to keep the people from taking their shares and selling them to Mr. Potter. It was a lovely scene in the movie, but he didn’t even get a signed receipt for the money. In fact, he told the lady not to sign anything. That’s charming, but there is no way he will remember the amount given and to whom.

(Building and Loan Scene: Chaos)


His wife was also complicit in this act. She was the one that brought the money out and handed it to George.

(Building and Loan Scene: Wife handing over money)


Instead of firing his incompetent uncle, he puts him in charge of an $8,000 deposit. In a moment of absolute buffoonery, his uncle gives the money to Mr. Potter!!

(Bank Scene: Uncle handing over money)


He is not the best family man. In service to the community, he puts his family in a terrible situation.

After his uncle hands over the business saving bank deposit to enemy #1, George is broken. He takes out his troubles on his family.

(Home scene: Girl crying at piano)


He goes out drinking; Gets in a fight.

(Bar scene: Punched in Bar)


Crashes his car.

(Crash scene: Car in a tree)


And he is going to end it all by jumping off a bridge. All of this is on Christmas Eve, mind you.

(Bridge Scene: Edge of the bridge)


Yes, George is selfless. So, we give him plenty of breaks for his bad business decisions. Yes, George has helped many people in his community. In fact, the community needs George Bailey. The community is better for having George. That is made plain and simple when Clarence the Angle shows him his impact on Bedford Falls.

(Major Scene in Bedford Falls: Running through town)


What is not clear is this “Is George better because of his community?”

While the romantic answer is “Yes, of course!” The reality says, “Not really.” By the end of the movie, all of George’s friends give him money to help keep him out of trouble.

(End scene: Money on table.)


And that scene makes me cry. Yes, it’s touching. But, do you think this one moment will be the last moment of trouble in George’s life?

Unless George learns how to have a Wonderful Business, he will repeat his troubles time and time again. He will pull his children into the unrewarding chains of the Building and Loan. Like his father before him, George will die of a stress-induced stroke.

Here’s the part that worries me the most about this movie . . . it’s not a movie.

It’s real life.

Sadly, it’s the life that many contractors live day by day. Many of you are serving your community and not of service to yourself or your family. Many of you have made similar mistakes as George.

So, when I give my next piece of advice to George, feel free to pass it on to the person that may need to hear it.


How to Have a Wonderful Business

George, I’m your Business Guardian Angel. My name is Todd. I’m an angel first class. I earned my wings helping businesspeople Have a Wonderful Life and a Wonderful Business.

Clarence came here to help you see the value of your life. I’m here to help you change your life by improving your business.

I have five simple rules for you to follow, George.

Rule #1: Get a business coach

George, you learned how to run a business from your father. He was a wonderful man, but he didn’t know business. He taught you poorly.

No, no, George! Business coaches are not like Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter was a miserable old soul. Good business coaches serve everyone. Mr. Potter was only self-serving.

Rule #2: Earn a profit of 15% to 20%

George, you need to pay yourself more money than what you do. And, your business needs to earn a respectable 15% to 20% profit at the end of the year.

George! You think that profits are evil. Why is that, George?

Do you think it is better to struggle every night wondering if you will make it through the next day?

George, if you went out of business, who would serve Bedford Falls?

See George; profits aren’t evil. Profits allow you to weather the storms, George. They allow you to fight against Mr. Potter. They keep you in service to your community.

Rule #3: Surround yourself with the best talent

Let’s talk about your Uncle George.

Oh. Do you know that it’s a problem?!

Then, George, why do you let him handle such important tasks?

You can keep him at the Building and Loan if you like, George. But don’t you think there might be other jobs he would be more suited for? Jobs that he would enjoy more. Jobs that wouldn’t set him up for failure.

Yes, George. That’s right. Keeping your uncle here is unkind.

Rule #4: Relax and enjoy your life

Work is not your entire life, George. Relax and enjoy your life.

Do you remember when you wanted to travel the world? 

You can still do that, George! And, you should do that, George.

You’ve been treating your business like a prison. Oh, my dear boy. It’s not a prison! No, your business is a magical transportation machine. It can take you anywhere you want to go, George!!

And, you need to go, George. You really need to go. It’s time to relax. It’s time to enjoy a little of this wonderful life! It’s time to see the world, George.

Rule #5: Make it happen in 12 months

Here is my last rule, George. And it’s the most important rule of all. Listen closely, George!

Make it happen in 12 months!

Yes, yes, yes, yes, you can.

You can make it happen in 12 months, and you must make it happen in 12 months, George!

Listen closely, my boy. Your time is running out. You will either make these changes this year or….. 

George! Do you know why you must make these changes!?

Then go, George! Go do it now! Don’t wait, my boy!!


Question: Do you have a Wonderful Life and Business? 

Are you ready to make a change?


Todd Liles is the CEO of Service Excellence.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service to see if there are Success Days in your area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *