Nine documentaries business owners should watch

Rare are the opportunities for busy entrepreneurs to lay low and binge-watch a little (or a lot of) Netflix; at least not without some measure of guilt. But what if you swapped out “binge-watch” for “engaging in professional development”?

Now you’re talking. Pass the popcorn.

Sharpening your business knowledge and improving your skills as a manager or marketer doesn’t necessarily mean finding time to read the latest business bestseller (although Bill Gates’ annual book list is an excellent resource). Thanks to entertainment giants like Netflix, HBO, Apple and others, who not only purchase content but also create it, the amount and variety of business-related documentaries is growing rapidly, making it easier than ever to sharpen your business acumen through your TV or your iPad.

Here are few recommendations:

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing

Imagine life today if Apple had never existed. Imagine if you could have even half the influence on shaping the world that Steve Jobs had. This 2011 documentary tells the story of the former Apple CEO, how he became who he was and how he changed the world.

Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru

World-famous life and business coach and super tall guy (6’7”), Tony Robbins has influenced millions. This 2016 documentary takes you behind the scenes at this annual Date with Destiny seminar for an up-close look at the (not-your) guru and the people whose lives are transformed during the event.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Ono may not be a household name like Jobs or Robbins, but this 85-year old sushi master is no less inspiring in his approach to his passion: owning and operating a Michelin three-star, 10 seat sushi restaurant where loyal patrons happily pay nearly $300 a plate.

Beer Wars

It’s a David and Goliath story…with beer! Released in 2009, this documentary takes you inside America’s beer industry as it follows two small independent brewers struggling to make a dent in an industry dominated by corporations.


Originally published in 2005, the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything sold more than four million copies. The documentary is based on the book and challenges its viewers to look at problems in a different way. It’s both entertaining and educational – who knew economic principles could be this fun?

Dirty Money

Released in 2016, Dirty Money is a six-episode docuseries that exposes some stunning examples of corporate greed. If you’re up for some business scandal and corruption, Dirty Money delivers the goods through firsthand accounts by both the perpetrators and their victims.

American Factory

What happens when a Chinese billionaire opens a glass factory on the site of a shut-down GM plant? Sounds like the premise for a sitcom, but it’s real-life: Fuyao Glass rehired about a thousand laid off former GM employees, bringing together Chinese management principles with American work practices. The ensuing culture clashes are both entertaining and eye-opening.


You might want to break out the Merlot when you settle in to watch Somm, a 2012 documentary that follows four men preparing for the master sommelier exam – known for having one of the lowest pass rates in the world. It’s a look at the mysterious world of wine and sommeliers, and an inspiration for anyone chasing lofty goals.

Generation Startup

Take a break from your own business-building struggles by watching six recent college graduates attempt to build their own startups from the ground up. This 2016 documentary follows six Detroit entrepreneur wannabes over 17 months as they try, fail, succeed, fail and try (you are probably familiar with all the highs and lows) as they pursue their business dreams.

So don’t let anyone chide you about your couch time. You’re not watching mindless television, you’re working! And you should probably claim overtime! Except you’re the boss and there is no OT, let alone a salary, so…


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