The AMC series, Breaking Bad, staring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as the unlikely-partnered methamphetamine-cooking protagonists, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, has just come to a climactic close after 6 seasons. While you are watching old episodes on Netflix or downloading the final episode from iTunes as you are contemplating a fitting end to Heisenberg, here are 7 small business management tips from Breaking Bad.
1. Innovate: Provide a Superior Product to the Market
Thanks to Walt’s background as a chemist, the meth that Walt and Jesse cooked was 99% pure. Until that point, the best stuff on the street was 70% pure. Their product was the best any Albuquerque Meth-Head could get. That increased the market demand for their product because it was better than the rest. Innovation brings superior products to market. Is your product superior to your competition? Are you even close? If not, make a better mousetrap.
2. Branding Differentiates You From Your Competitors.
When they made their first batches of product, they used a type of Methylamine that turned the final product blue. This coloring made it different, and easily recognizable. Users questioned the product’s new coloring at first, until they experienced the high from 99% pure meth. The demand for the “Blue Ice” caused competing products to tint their products blue to resemble the real thing. The blue meth quickly demanded a premium in the marketplace. Your brand identity can set you apart from you competitors in a visual way that makes your brand instantly familiar. Spent time developing your brand and your customers will reward you.
3. Focus On Your Strengths
Walt and Jesse learned very quickly that their strengths lie in the production of the meth, not in the distribution of the product. Distribution was unpredictable and dangerous; more dangerous than cooking in their mobile meth lab. They found Gustavo Fring (Gus) at this point. Gus was able to provide a safe, modern lab for them to work in as well as a legitimate business cover to conceal illegal activities. This enabled Walt and Jesse to focus on perfecting the art of their meth cooking craft. There are 3 areas you need to focus on in your small business: Marketing, Operations, and Finance. Decide which of these areas are strengths and which you will outsource.
4. Use Professional Advisors
Better Call Saul! Saul Goodman is everyone’s favorite bus-bench, criminal-attorney. Saul becomes a needful and trusted advisor for Walt and Jesse as their criminal empire begins to grow. Saul provides business and legal advice that is invaluable to Walt and Jesse, as they are unfamiliar with the complexities of running this type of criminal organization. Not only does Saul keep the police off of their back, he also helps them launder their money. He is a criminal who happens to also be an attorney. Saul also knows a guy that can take care of any situation that they may encounter. Saul arranged for the original meeting with Gus as well as working with Mike. He also arranged for the relocation specialist that helps establish new identities for people wishing to disappear. Every time they come to a difficult hurdle, they call Saul. This might be the reason that we will see a Saul Goodman spinoff in the future. You need many professional advisors for your small business. Pick good CPA’s, Attorneys, financial, business and tax advisors for your company. Let referrals from other small business owners guide you to the best advisors for your business.
5. Choose Your Partners Wisely
Walter White and Jesse Pinkman appeared unlikely partners from the beginning. I wouldn’t advise partnering with a meth addict or a terminal cancer patient that has 6 months to live anyway. Their partnership survives because Walt needs Jesse to distribute the product and do the “street” minded work of their venture. Once Gus handles the distribution end of the business, Pinkman becomes unnecessary and someone that Walt needs to manipulate to control. Partnering with Gus was a good move for Walt and Jesse. It provided stability in a crazy business for the partners. The partnership between Walt, Jesse, and Mike seemed to be a good, logical move, however Walt and Mike were at odds with each other from the beginning with Jesse forced to play the referee. The partnership with the Arizona syndicate group was doomed from the beginning. They only wanted to partner up in order to get the blue meth off of the street so their inferior product could sell better. The partnership with the supremacists was a bad decision that led to bad consequences. Choose you partners carefully or your business life can get extra-complicated.
6. Negotiate From A Position of Strength
Walt goes into a negotiation with Mike and Jesse where Mike has arranged for the three of them to sell their remaining supply of methylamine to the Arizona Syndicate for $5 million. This negotiation takes place in the desert away from town. It is a dangerous situation, however, Walt realizes that he has a position of strength in the negotiation and instead of selling the chemical to the competition; he offers to partner with them, allowing him to supply them with his sought-after product at a higher price per pound. In a stroke of negotiating genius, Walt ends up leaving the negotiation with a $5 million to buy out Jesse and Mike and a new distributor who agrees to purchase all of his premium product he can produce each week at an inflated cost. Negotiation favors the position of strength. Avoid negotiation when you do not have the position of power.
7. Have an Exit Strategy
Know when to say when. What type of benchmarks do you have in place to indicate when you should sell or close your business? How much money do you need to have in the bank before you sell your business? How bad does business have to get in order to convince you to close it and find a day job? Walt has a difficult time deciding when. Jesse tries to get out of the business at different times because he fears for his life. This is not a strategy, but a reactionary measure. If you don’t have an exit strategy, then you will not be prepared to take it when one presents itself. This leads to the ultimate downfall of Walter White. Stephen Covey wrote “Begin with the End in Mind” in his popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. This is sage advice to follow.
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