Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Study Guide 1: Entrepreneurship

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This Guide looks at the beginnings of businesses: where ideas come from; how they are developed; how they stall on the runway, crash on takeoff, or go soaring to the heights of success. The Guide starts with a brief introduction, followed by close-up examination of Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

Guide opening:

So you want to be an entrepreneur? Get ready for long hours, cash-flow problems, supply shortages, the loss of your friends and, possibly, your family. Prepare to have your idea copied, your business practices imitated and your nights robbed of sleep. Key employees will desert you at key moments. Stealthy competitors and their lawyers will fight you every step of the way for market share, patent rights, money and control. Entrenched interests will battle to keep you from getting started. Prepare to lose faith in yourself and your idea. If you’re lucky, the faith of a key family member or investor will pull you out of despair and send your enemies flying. If they can’t crush you, they’ll try to buy you out. You may even let them. People will call you impractical, crazy, a dreamer.

An excerpt from the plot summary:

Tucker: The Man and His Dream is Francis Ford Coppola’s tribute to the inventor of the Tucker automobile. The film’s subject, Preston Tucker, was one of the most flamboyant entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Coppola’s film deals with Tucker’s attempt to build an innovative and futuristic automobile, characterized by safety features Detroit held back for another 40 years. Tucker’s automotive enterprise was ill fated and nearly landed him in jail. Tucker himself was a man of mixed talents and often tested the line between genius and confidence artist. In a series of short takes, the Guide looks at Tucker’s strengths and weaknesses.

Summary of the commentary:

Okay. You’ve seen the movie, heard Tucker’s impassioned closing speech to the jury, been inspired by his idea for small refrigerators, and you’re thinking about that little invention you once tinkered with in your garage. Tucker’s infectious enthusiasm has inspired you to tap your own entrepreneurial talents and be your own boss. Don’t (repeat, do not) use Tucker: A Man and His Dream as your textbook for entrepreneurship. While movies often inspire, they seldom inform in ways that are applicable in the rough and tumble world of real business. Let’s look at some key entrepreneurial pitfalls that Tucker can help you avoid.

First, there’s the question of corporate structure and personnel selection. While you need the active moral support of friends and family, you will also need financial and professional assistance from proven rainmakers. Throughout the film, Tucker’s most pressing need is money. More than anything else, he needs a money-raiser. Enter Abe Karatz. We don’t know where or how Tucker found Karatz, but clearly he did not spend much effort on screening the former convict’s background. Karatz knows how to raise money directly from the public, but his methods are questionable and require the company to answer legal challenges when it needs to be building cars. In the movie, we love old Abe. (The Motion Picture Academy loved him so much it gave Martin Landau an Oscar for supporting actor – but you want to market a product, not win an Oscar!) Karatz does provide Tucker with sound advice on the need for proven management as a prerequisite for raising cash. Unfortunately, the proven manager Tucker selects – the cryptic Bennington – is wrong for the job. Bennington might have been a good candidate for the top job at an established company. He has a track record as maintainer, but he lacks the key credential for a startup company: success with previous startups. It is one thing to preside over an established corporation with long lines of credit, market position and powerful alliances; but it is quite another to raise money from scratch, challenge existing institutions and work with a small staff while betting on the come.

The commentary is supplemented by BREAKOUT BOXES on these topics:

  • Parts are Where You Find Them
  • Alex Tremulis: The Real Story
  • Tucker’s Defense

Movies for Business book now available!

The Study Guide for Tucker: The Man and His Dream is also available in trade paperback book format under the title of MOVIES FOR BUSINESS: Big-Screen Lessons in Corporate Vision, Entrepreneurship, Logistics and Ethics.

Information on how to purchase your copy of the book can be found here.