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Mind Your Business: 'Gilligan's Island' Style


As I write this, I am stuck on an island. Not a spiritual, not-sure-what-to-do-with-my-life kind of island. An actual, sand-covered, lizard-loving, coconuts-hanging- overhead kind of island. On the day I was to return home from a week’s vacation in this tropical paradise, local workers went on strike, shutting down the airport.

This, naturally, has me pondering the deeper meaning of things. Not things like life, love and the universe. Things like “Gilligan’s Island,” actually.

Gilligan and his shipmates were stuck on an island, right? And yet, in spite of all their quirky personalities, they made it work. In fact, when you really think about it, the Gilligan’s Island gang had exactly the right mix of people to make a successful go at their survivalist adventure.

Whether your business has several employees or just you and some outside help, making sure you’ve got a well-balanced cast of characters could determine whether your business sinks or swims.


If you own your business, then, whether you like it or not, you’re the Gilligan. Don’t think so? Are you the one who always comes up with the crazy ideas? Do you sometimes get a little nutty and your team has to rein you in? Do you get distracted from the task at hand by your next big idea? See, you’re a Gilligan.

But don’t feel bad. Every business needs a Gilligan. On TV, the show revolved around him. In life, your business revolves around you. And if you’re smart, like Gilligan (really, he was!), you’ll tether yourself to a sturdy skipper who can help you chart a successful course through rough seas. Well, most of the time, anyway.

The Skipper

Now, maybe you are also The Skipper of your business as well as the Gilligan, or maybe you have a right-hand person who does your skippering for you. Either way, you’ll always need to have a member of your team who can bring you back to reality, keep you from going off the deep end and give you the straight talk when you need to hear it — though, maybe they should refrain from repeatedly pummeling you with your sailor hat.

Whether it’s your spouse, your lawyer, your accountant or your business partner, what’s important is that you have one person who is focused on the task at hand … surviving day to day while someone else dreams of what could be.

The Professor

Let’s face it, the Professor is your IT guy. He’s may not be the life of the luau, but you can count on him to solve every problem, no matter how challenging. He’s the one willing to take the long shot even if it risks failure. He’s the one up all night trying to figure out what brilliant solution will solve your company’s technical challenges. He’s the one that makes the whole thing work.

Your Professor shouldn’t be weighed down with the minutia of day-to-day operations. He should be free to experiment with empty coconut shells and discarded chewing gum and see if he can come up with the idea that’s going to be your company’s salvation. IT is more important now than ever, and if you’re not treating your IT person with as much respect as you would an actual Ph.D.-carrying professor, you should rethink your priorities.

Your Professor needs a lot of room to operate without too many distractions. Remember how the Professor on Gilligan’s Island was always telling Gilligan to be quiet. He was trying to think. Give your Professor some space to do the same.


More than a glamorous airhead in a remarkably well-preserved gold lamé gown, Ginger was the face of the organization. Her glamour, charm and sex appeal came in handy on more than a few occasions. Your team should have a Ginger, too.

Your marketing and PR should be handled by a person who has as much personality as they do know-how. No one would have sent Gilligan or the Professor to calm the angry cannibals or woo the shipwrecked millionaire. Nor should you let your idea person or you technical guy manage your company’s marketing and PR. Send in a pro and give them a stage on which to shine.

Mary Ann

Ah, Mary Ann. Everyone’s favorite castaway. Why? Because we could all relate to her. She’s the worker bee who never gets any credit, never stops trying and never hogs the spotlight. If you started your own company, then you’re probably not likely a Mary Ann. But you’d better make sure you surround yourself with one or two.  They are the people who will keep your company running, even when you’re not at the helm. Just make sure they get a copy of the company dress code.

The Howells

Like it or not, most companies have them. The Howells. The wealthy benefactors who spend most of their time with their heads up their huts but who command a certain level of respect.

Though they rarely contributed to the group’s survival on the island, the rest of the castaways lavished them with attention and waited on them like servants.

Why? Because the rest of the rest of the Gilligan’s Island gang knew on which side their pineapple leaves were buttered. If they ever got off that island, they all hoped the Howells would be willing and able to help them out.

They could produce Ginger’s shows, finance the Professor’s research and maybe even buy the Skipper a new yacht. Your investors, whether current or future, will require the same amount of attention and legwork from you.

Just don’t offer to take them on any trips.


Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.