Business Lessons From the Pelican Brief

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Spoiler alert!

Written by John Grisham, The Pelican Brief is a thrilling novel about a woman who discovers the secrets behind the deaths of two Supreme Court Justices. She writes a brief on it, dubbed the pelican brief, which ends up being passed around Washington, D.C. – and causes more deaths along the way.

I first read this book just a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. As I was reading, I started taking some mental notes about how it can be relatable. I found quite a few lessons that we can all learn from the characters in the book, particularly about business. Here are a few business tips from The Pelican Brief:

  • Don’t pass around critical information. The pelican brief, an informative piece discussing the murders of two Supreme Court Justices, was a simple brief written by a law student. It later ended up in the hands of the FBI. From there, it went to various groups of people – even making its way to the White House. The information in the brief was too important to be passing around like candy at Halloween. Besides, it eventually fell in the wrong hands. Whenever you’re running your business, make sure that you are being intentional when you are giving information. Things such as financials and secrets of the trade can be detrimental to business if they end up being seen by someone else.
  • Know when to stay put and when to leave. Darby, the law student who wrote the brief, was chased all over the country because of what she had discovered. During the pursuit, one thing she had to learn quickly was when to go and when to stay. Sometimes she would stay in town for only a day, other times she may stay three or four days. Likewise, business owners should know when to leave a situation that’s not good for business. Some things are simply bad for business and you’ll need to head out quickly.
  • Change your style when needed. In her efforts to remain under cover, Darby was constantly changing her looks. She bought clothes in several different styles, would dye her hair, and cut it shorter and shorter throughout the book. No matter the reason, sometimes you will need to change your style. Technology changes, customers’ needs change, and employees’ expectations change. You may need to rebrand or update your employee handbook. Be adaptive.
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AJ Jewell

Amber "AJ" Jewell started at in 2016 as a part-time admin assistant, quickly moving to be the 'Duchess of Flow" - making sure that the office is flowing smoothing. AJ is also an award-nominated author, homeschooling parent of three, an avid reader, and a college student.
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