7 Business Lessons for Entrepreneurs From 'Parks and Recreation'
After seven seasons of civil service, great friendships and all manner of breakfast food, NBC's Parks and Recreation series finale airs tonight.
Through the years, we've watched the personal milestones and career highs and lows of the members of the Pawnee Parks Department and seen Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) grow from a determined city hall employee to a recalled council person to a regional director for the National Park Service.
As we say goodbye to the deeply weird denizens of Pawnee, Ind., here is a look at some of the lessons we can take away from the series.
1. Hire people who have different points of view.
On paper there are no two people more different than Leslie Knope and her supervisor Ron Swanson. Ron is a curmudgeonly, frighteningly self-sufficient libertarian who thinks that the less involved government is in people's lives the better. Leslie is an endlessly positive, absurdly hardworking liberal who prides herself on being a great friend and public servant. Though they are an unlikely pair, they bring out the best in one another and their combined strengths have made their town better, whether the townspeople (or Ron, for that matter) wanted it to be or not.
2. Grab opportunities even if you aren't sure it's the right time.
To put it mildly, Leslie Knope is a planner. She can make charts and binders in her sleep and put on a stellar presentation even when she was felled by a nasty flu bug – but she also knew to look for the value in an unexpected opportunity. When she was asked to run for a vacant city council seat in her hometown, she wasn't sure if she was ready, but rather than regret not giving it a shot, she trusted that she could handle it, no matter the outcome.
3. Look for potential in unlikely places.
The series was set into motion with a plan to make something great out of nothing. When a dangerous pit behind the home of local nurse Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) led to her musician ex Andy (Chris Pratt) falling in and breaking both his legs, it inspired Leslie to turn it into a park for everyone to enjoy. In another spate of episodes, Pawnee's financial situation was dire and the Parks Department was at risk of closing for good, the team rallied to revive a dormant town-wide festival to raise morale and funds -- and ultimately save their jobs.
4. Don’t let setbacks stand in your way.
Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) was introduced to the show as a hardline state auditor who was working to redeem himself. Elected the mayor of his small Minnesota town at 18, he was ultimately ousted in disgrace after pouring the town's resources into a giant winter sports center called Ice Town. Hoping to one day get elected again, he set about slashing budgets to prove his responsibility. Several years and careers later – startup CFO, president of a charitable foundation, city manager, accidental game developer and almost-accountant – he is campaigning for Congress, because he decided he wouldn't be defined by failure.
5. Think big.
Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) began the show as Leslie's reluctant subordinate who was always working a side hustle, no matter how small. He eventually left the public sector to pursue his entrepreneurial interests full time, and flamed out a few times (his vague yet ambitious entertainment business drowned under the weight of some iffy financial planning, his signature liquor was a health violation, and he was eventually forced to sell his clothing rental business), before opening a successful restaurant. Though there were missteps along the way, Tom was undeterred in his search for the next great big idea.
6. Treat yourself.
Give yourself a break every once in a while -- while you work hard, don't forget to do the things that make you happy.
7. Find a great support system.
The benchmark of Parks is that the characters will do anything to help a friend, whether it's finding a new job, getting over a break up, pulling together a campaign or making sure that their family members don't kill each other at major life events. The Parks Department will make a mentor or mentee out of you, no matter how hard you resist. Ultimately, they have each others' backs, which is their recipe for success.