Movies with Meaning – GDPR and Tough Decisions

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

Later this month, a law known as GDPR comes into effect, with highly stringent requirements for businesses to have audited confirmation that people still wish to be on their email lists. Those of us in the EU are deluged with emails asking, nay, begging for us to confirm we wish to remain on lists. Reports in the UK are that only around 10% of email subscribers are actively reconfirming, and some businesses will go ahead and delete all information on those who do not take time to reconfirm, irrespective of the nature of their relationship. They are doing this to be in strict compliance with the law, the intention of which is to protect people from misuse of data.

What, however, if you have an email list (umm, mine) where a) over 40% of subscribers routinely open and read your emails, b) you get lots of positive feedback from them from those emails, and c) you aren’t actively selling anything (but hey, perhaps a compliance officer could construe otherwise, so you are still at risk). Are you really acting in service of your subscribers to wipe them out of your business memory ? What decision will I make ?

Sometimes business owners have to make tough decisions based on the advice they are given, and sometimes what makes it tough is that it goes against conventional wisdom.

Steve Jobs often did this, Henry Ford built a car, not a faster horse.

Sometimes leadership is about sticking to your commitment, your context, and then making tough decisions.

One real story from my past then our three movies this week, each featuring tough decisions. 

About 14 years ago, I had responsibility for a resort that was an early adopter and successfully using online reservations. Each Saturday we would have up to 50 checkins within an hour or so, and a key thing that made that experience tolerable for our guests was that they had already fully prepaid and we had their credit card on file, so we simply handed them a key and off they went to their beachfront room.

Pretty normal in 2018, but not back then. So, one day our bank told us that they had realised we weren’t getting physical signatures on credit card authorisations, so in the event of any customer disputes, they could not help us if a customer disputed a credit card charge. They insisted we started to use old fashioned credit card carbons (forgive me if you are under about 35 and have no recollection of such archaic things!).

Imagine, 50 checkins all then needing to add at least one minute to their check in process. Yikes !

I had our financial controller to calculate how much we might lose on such potential disputes and their answer was “perhaps between $20,000-$30,000 per year”). I then told them “ok, tell the bank we won’t be complying with their instruction”. The financial controller could not compute this, saying “but..but.. it will cost us at least $20,000!”, to which I replied “$20,000 out of several million dollars of annual revenue is a tiny amount to risk compared to the risk of having so many guests start their experience at our resort with a negative like waiting for ages to check in. We’ll take the risk”.

Yes, we had one or two (only) such credit card charges, but we also maintained a record of being the highest rated hotel in our market through such unerring focus on customer service.

What will I do with the 1000 or so people on my email list ? Hmm

So, to movies, and I start with a great example of this from The Post.

The Post (2017)

On given legal advice by a friend and one of the most powerful men in the country, Kay Graham, who had inherited the Washington Post from her father and was very much a woman in a world of “pale, male and stale” business leaders, had her “tough decision” moment.

Her answer to him ? : “I’m asking your advice, Bob, not your permission.”


Twelve Angry Men (1957 )

So many leadership lessons from this amazing movie, I’ll highlight this blog from Medium for you to click through to and if you haven’t seen the movie, I hope it encourages you to do so.

Leadership lessons to learn from 12 Angry Men — the movie

The premise is a jury of twelve men, who have to reach a unanimous decision. To eleven of them, the decision seems easy at first, an open and shut case, but one of them choose to do what is right rather than what is easy, he makes the tough decision.


The Adjustment Bureau (2010)

As is my wont, sometimes I go off at a tangent, and my third one is a little less obvious, and speaks to my love of movies and that I am far more a romantic idealist than a classicist !

{plot spoiler ahead!)

I love this movie. The premise is of a man from a tough background who is fated, in a world where we only have the illusion of free will, and the Adjustment Bureau, the men in hats, are there to make sure he follows that path. Ah, but then he meets her, and everything changes.

They give him a choice. Choose to never see her again, or choose not to and the consequences will be grave for them both. A tough decision.

His answer is one of the most romantic lines in movie history :

“All I have is the choices I make, and I choose her”


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