Get Gatsby’s Success for your SME With 5 Easy Rules


Warning: Mild plot spoilers herein! ​

Gastby with his successful smile

“He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.”

When I saw Toby Maguire (playing Nick Carraway) give this quote to introduce the mysterious Jay Gatsby to Baz Luhrmann’s latest Gatsby blockbuster, two thoughts rushed into my head:

                 "Wow- I can’t believe they tried to capture that moment on film. That’s so ambitious!”

But it was the next thought that was my takeaway business message from the whole film:

                “So essentially, that’s all Gatsby had to learn to build his multi-million dollar enterprise!”

I was fascinated by the fact that when he was being taught the ways of getting ahead in society and becoming filthy rich, he wasn’t taught to stab people in the back or be competitive with everybody he came across. Rather, it all boiled down to him learning to smile with “an irresistible prejudice in your favour.” To expand, here are 5 rules to make your business (and yourself) as successful as Gatsby’s.

Rule #1: Like people; Like everybody

This doesn’t mean you have to fake smile at anybody who annoys you. Rather, it means deliberately being persistent in looking for things you like in people. It’s okay if you accidently judge something about somebody you just met- just acknowledge to yourself that was your initial reaction, and keep on looking for positive traits.

Ultimately, your SME relies on quality relationships with your suppliers, customers and associates. Whether you’re in a good season or challenging season, you will be supported by the people around you if you have that quality relationship with them.

Rule #2: A little party doesn’t kill nobody

While writing this blog, I’m listening to the soundtrack for the film. One of the songs has a title that I think articulates my next point well: “A little party doesn’t kill nobody.” In this context (other than maintaining a healthy work/life balance), I think it says that: to have quality relationships, you have to start quality relationships.

Whether for you that means starting to use Linkedin properly to acquire clients or grow your network, joining business associations, going to formal networking events or just spontaneously making the most of it when you meet somebody new- go for it!

Rule #3: Understand your customer’s needs first

Successful marketing, and therefore successful business, is fundamentally about satisfying needs and creating outstanding value. That means the first question to ask yourself about customers should never be: “What can I sell to my customers?” Rather, it should be: “What do my customers need? How can I satisfy those needs with pizazz?” 

This extends to all areas of your business that have contact with customers. Whether in social media, sales, customer service or product offerings, think about your customers’ needs first.

Rule #4: Have a remarkable brand

By the time Nick Carraway actually met Jay Gatsby, he had already heard wild rumours and stories about him that led to an absolutely unforgettable moment when he finally got to meet him. Gatsby had been working very, very hard to project the right brand for himself, and that’s something you need to be doing as well.

Try to imagine that with any interaction with your SME, customers are building up a profile of a personality that they attribute to your company. The value of your company lies in your brand. So at every stage of the customer process, you need to be thinking about how this interaction is helping focus a valuable brand in your customers’ minds.

Rule #5: “Fake it ‘till you make it”

Finally, never feel like the ‘personal brand’ you need to project to support your company is too ambitious. As long as that image suits you, just go for it. If you feel like ‘Faking it ‘till you make it’ sounds too superficial, then think about it in terms of ‘Faking it until you become it’- something I got from a video on a different perspective on body language by Amy Cuddy, which I would highly recommend for those of you who like a good TED Talk.


Remember, Gatsby was absolutely obsessed with obtaining success. If he was told that being ridiculously competitive would have got him success, he probably would have done it. But that’s not what he learnt- he learnt to build a network of high quality relationships by authentically liking people. Then he used those relationships as a foundation for a truly remarkable brand for himself that took his “enterprise” towards truly amazing financial success. 

Nathan Moore

Business Development Drone at Marketing Bee

A diligent member of the marketing & communications industry “with peps,” Nathan is keen to bring great marketing to great businesses in his new role at Marketing Bee. It is his belief that by combining strong integrity with varied insights, one can make innovative strategies with real solutions… Which segues to Marketing Bee, a Melbourne-based consultancy whose invigorating marketing underpins great SME businesses, something he would love to discuss with you. Coffee & honey is on us!

Comments (7)
Ling Lee

Ling Lee at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Thank you for great article Nathan! Love it how you tied together Gatsby and marketing :D

Nathan Moore

Nathan Moore, Business Development Drone at Marketing Bee

Thanks Ling! I firmly believe that everything ties in with marketing, let alone the most magnificant brand of Gatsby's :).

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