Business Lessons from “Ghostbusters”: an Ode to Harold Ramis

To excel as a business Keymaster, sometimes you DO have to cross the streams...
To excel as a business Keymaster, sometimes you DO have to cross the streams…

This blog post celebrates the brilliant Harold Ramis, who passed away much too soon on February 24. I just can’t resist focusing on one of his most successful films (and a marvelous screenplay), the original Ghostbusters. To the untrained eye, Ghostbusters I is a silly (and paranormal) 1980s romp through New York City.

But this “love letter” to NYC is also an audacious business plan regarding how to recover from losing a research grant (or your job). Although I doubt Columbia University actually has a Department of Paranormal Studies

I love that the storyline pivots on three undervalued “parapsychologists” getting fired. The subsequent manner in which they rebound is both entertaining and educational. Here’s how you avoid “a disaster of biblical proportions”:

Just Like Dr. Ray Stantz Says, Your Clients and Customers Expect Results: Early in the Ghostbusters storyline, our three amigos are informed by the dean of Columbia University that their research grant has been terminated. The reason why is well demonstrated during Dr. Peter Venkman’s infamous ESP research study.

Ray bemoans his jobless status. But Peter suggests they start their own paranormal “investigations-and-eliminations” firm, which causes Ray to share a moment of truth (before mortgaging his childhood home for start-up collateral):

“Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn’t have to produce anything! You’ve never been out of college! You don’t know what it’s like out there! I’ve ‘worked’ in the private sector. They expect ‘results.'”

Truer movie lines never scripted. Whether you’ve been an entrepreneur for a while or you’re kicking around the idea of starting your own company, as a business owner, there will be no one to coddle or protect you. Always be one step ahead by expecting more of yourself than your most demanding client.

Follow the Ghostbusters’s Lead When Advertising on Television or Radio: You think I’m joking, but I’m not. The scene in which Dana Barrett happens to view the Ghostbusters’s 30-second commercial demonstrates their poetic instinct for connecting with a target market.

When the Ghostbusters ask a series of questions (“Are you…Do you…Have you…?”) for which at least one of the expected answers is “yes,” they artfully use several of Dale Carnegie’s golden human-relations principles.

The closing copy delivers the promise of empathetic listening at its best:

“Our courteous and efficient staff is on call 24 hours a day to serve all your supernatural elimination needs…We’re ready to believe you.”

Promote your business accordingly so that your clients and customers reciprocate by being ready to believe and trust in YOU!

Never Scare Your Clients with Dr. Egon Spengler’s Twinkie Analogy: I don’t like to assume, but I’ll speculate most of you have seen the first Ghostbusters movie. Anyway, Harold Ramis’s character senses a big paranormal “something” is coming to New York City (i.e., the rooftop confrontation with Zuul’s master [Gozer the Traveler] and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man).

Dr. Spengler explains to the other Ghostbusters he’s concerned his data is pointing to a catastrophic event by comparing it to a Twinkie:

“Well, let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie… thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

I think the quote says it all–don’t ever tell your clients or customers you have bad news for them by using the Twinkie analogy. But don’t use these euphemisms either…

You Are a Business God (or Goddess)–Never Doubt It: Toward the end of the movie, as the Ghostbusters are “…saving the lives of millions of registered voters,” their nemesis, Gozer, asks Dr. Ray Stantz if he’s a god. When he replies “no,” our heroes are on the receiving end of some special-effects lightning flying from Gozer’s fingertips.

That’s when Winston (Zeddemore) snarls, “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘YES!'” Amen to that. Never belittle or doubt yourself when proclaiming your expertise at a networking event or pitching your value proposition at a sales meeting.

By visualizing yourself as an almighty deity, you will assuredly fulfill your own leadership prophesy.

Other Words of Business Wisdom from Ghostbusters I: Here are a few other pieces of dialogue for you to ponder regarding your professional life:

“Don’t cross the streams.” (Dr. Egon Spengler)

“Ah, if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.” (Winston Zeddemore)

“I’m givin’ this whole thing [his party] as a promotional expense, that’s why I invited clients instead of friends. You havin’ a good time, Mark?” (Louis Tully, accountant and Gozer’s Keymaster)

“You know, you don’t act like a scientist…You’re more like a game-show host.” (Dana Barrett, cellist and Gozer’s Gatekeeper)


Now that I’ve interpreted the original Ghostbusters film through an entrepreneurial peephole, will you ever again be able to watch the movie for comedic relief? Which Harold Ramis film or screenplay would you like me to tackle next (in a future blog post) regarding business advice?

You have some glorious options to choose from: Groundhog Day, Caddyshack, Stripes, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Analyze This, Meatballs… By All Writes LLC salutes the prolific writing and acting talents of Mr. Harold Ramis–farewell, dear Egon.

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Please call Lori Shapiro at 856-810-9764 or email By All Writes LLC at  for a no-obligation project quote today!

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