Alright, I admit it. I love Dame Angela Lansbury, particularly for her iconic role as Jessica Beatrice Fletcher on the long-running series, Murder, She Wrote. Blame it on being a product of the 80s, or mass syndication I can’t help but watch when an episode comes on.
To be fair, I have never completely bought the premise. How can a humble widow from Cabot Cove, Maine, know so many people from all over the world, afford to travel on a writer’s salary (even a famous one, at that), and find so many people murdered? Mrs. Fletcher is like a canary in a coal mine; when she’s around, someone is gonna die.
Despite this, I tend to suspend disbelief and enjoy the show. After some recent late-night binge watching (I found the first few seasons on Netflix), I realized that Jessica Fletcher is a brilliant example of a successful entrepreneur. She’s incredibly smart, meticulously detail-oriented, self-motivated, and knows how to work with people to get what she wants. She’s a remarkable role model for the budding business person, and I have learned so much from her just by watching the show.
Take some advise from the legendary J.B. Fletcher. You know she’s right.
Do What You Love
It wasn’t until Jessica’s beloved husband, Frank, died that she started writing her first novel. It originally served as a way to pass the time (when she wasn’t teaching English at the local college), but it quickly became her passion. She was prolific, writing more than thirty books over the course of twelve years.
If she didn’t enjoy writing, I doubt Jessica would continue typing away. If you want to try your hand at something you love do it. The results may far exceed your expectations.
Your Network is a Priceless Resource
Never underestimate your existing network of friends, co-workers, and family, especially when first starting out.
Even Jessica’s bumbling nephew, Grady, jump-started his aunt’s writing career by secretly sending her first manuscript to a publisher. It was accepted, and the rest is history.
The risk of being injured or killed never stopped Mrs. Fletcher from solving a murder. She challenged authority figures, questioned everything, and persistently stood up for what she believed to be right. She didn’t let anyone stop her from finding out the truth
No matter what challenges you may face, have the courage to work through them. You may find road blocks at every turn as a startup. Be fearless, and don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your dream. If one strategy doesn’t work, find out why and improve things from there.
Call Out BS When You See It
In every episode, Jessica Fletcher stood for justice and truth, regardless of who the guilty party may be. She could tell when someone was lying to her, and found a way to get them to tell her the real reason why they weren’t in their hotel room at 7 o’clock last Thursday.
In business, there are plenty of people with their own agendas, and the unscrupulous will try to sell you something you do not need nor want. The longer you’re in business, the better you will be at recognizing truth from fiction. It is a priceless and necessary skill, regardless of what you do.
Confidence is Key
How did Jessica consistently convince authority figures to re-evaluate an overlooked piece of evidence? Confidence. No one will believe you, otherwise.
Exchanges between Mrs. Fletcher and Harry McGraw, P.I. (played by Jerry Orbach before his Law & Order days) are great examples of J.B. confidently proving her point. The stubborn private investigator found Jessica to be nothing but a nuisance, until he finally took a second look at an old murder case as Jessica insisted. I highly recommend re-watching the episode, “Tough Guys Don’t Die” to see J.B. Fletcher in action.
Keep Your Cool
Jessica is always calm but firm, even when confronting a murder. She never acts irrationally, or gets too emotional, which is a difficult task considering the riffraff of authority figures she often works with. For example, in the episode “The Error of Her Ways”, when J.B. offers to help with a murder case, the main detective tells her, “Ma’am, do us both a favour. Go back to your hotel, relax for a day or two by the pool until I sort this out.” Seriously, how can a detective be so blatantly offensive?
Even in outrageous circumstances, Jessica always manages to stay calm. This is a great skill to develop, particularly when negotiating pricing with a client, or trying to solve a complicated problem.
When J.B. is traveling, it is often for “research” for her upcoming mystery novel. Jessica is acutely aware of the intelligence of her readers. She wants her fictional story to be believable, even to the most astute literary critic.
Starting or running a business is no different. The more you research your field and target audience, the better you will be able to serve your clients.
Pay Attention to Detail
Jessica’s innocuous catchphrase, “I couldn’t help but notice” cuts like a knife. Some minute detail will cause everyone to suspect the real killer, and bring them justice.
Being detail-oriented is an asset, regardless of your field of work. Take pride in what you do, and never overlook small details.
Get a Move On!
If you work in front of a computer all day (or a typewriter, for that matter), it is incredibly important to take breaks and move. Mrs. Fletcher’s morning routine involved going for a brisk jog along the coast, and she rode her bike to run errands (J.B. doesn’t drive).
When I’m working on a big project, I tend to lose sense of time, often finding myself glued to a screen for hours on end. I’ve found that setting an alarm helps, so I get up and move at scheduled intervals throughout the day. A great little app to help with this is Stand Up!, available for iOS. There is also Twenty for Android, a free app that makes you get up from your desk every 20 minutes.
We live in very strange times
Finally, always take time out from your busy schedule to spend time with your friends. Cabot Cove would be pretty lonely for the widowed Mrs. Fletcher if her friend Seth didn’t come over for dinner, or Sheriff Amos Tupper didn’t snatch a few cookies from the kitchen during an “investigation”.
Cherish the friends you have. They will get you through the tough times, and maybe even help you solve a problem (however unlikely).
There are so many more things I could say about J.B. Fletcher. She’s a remarkable, persuasive, graceful, brilliant example of what is possible when we believe in ourselves and follow our dreams.
Except for, you know…that whole murder thing.