9 business lessons from Breaking Bad


Breaking Bad, AMC’s award-winning drama, is dark, violent, gritty – and it offers 9 essential business lessons.

1.  Don’t cut corners; quality is paramount

Look, I like making cherry product, but let’s keep it real, alright? We make poison for people who don’t care. We probably have the most unpicky customers in the world.

You can make a million excuses as to why cutting corners is ok, but the reality is that cutting corners is not okay. Quality has a direct impact on your company’s productivity, profitability, costs, image, and customer satisfaction. Strive not to meet your customers’ expectations, but to exceed them.

2. Know your competition

While it is unlikely that knowing your competition is a matter of life and death as it is for anti-hero Walter White, it is necessary that you know who your competition is, what they are up to, and gain a competitive advantage. The company that is consistently first to the marketplace and is the best in the marketplace is the one that is noticed by customers.

3. Create strategic partnerships

You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I am in the empire business.

Throughout the series, we watch Walt determine which partnership(s) will best serve to further his empire and then he does whatever necessary to establish those partnerships.  Walt takes things to extreme, but he does offer a lesson – strategic partnerships are an essential component to a successful business.

If you are interested in learning how to choose a potential partner – you can check out a previous post I wrote on Find[ing] Your Perfect Outsource Mate.

4. Stick to what you know

Look. Let’s start with some tough love. You two suck at peddling meth. Period.

It is important to know and respect your core competencies. As I wrote previously, you need to determine your company’s core competencies and how you can deliver the best value to your customers. Are there services at which your company does not excel, or non-critical services which could be carried out more efficiently/effectively if the service were outsourced? If so, you may want to think about outsourcing.

5. Right person, right position

You may know a lot about chemistry man, but you don’t know jack about slangin’ dope.

Want to be the best? Make sure you hire the best and that you have the right person in the right position. This means instilling a rigorous performance plan and communicating with employees. This also means thinking outside the box – moving people within the company, hiring from outside the industry, and even firing people.

6. Establish a culture of innovation

Innovation is essential to Walt’s quest to establish an empire.  While I don’t condone Walt’s murderous and vindictive actions,  the guy does think out of the box and does recognize an innovative idea when he sees one.

A culture of innovation is essential to a successful business. Establish a culture that encourages employees to aspire to innovation and rewards innovation.

7. Have a contingency plan

Did you not plan for this contingency?

It is important that you not just have a risk management strategy for the big events, but that you also have a plan in place to deal with the everyday events that are more likely to occur.

8. Learn from your mistakes

Never make the same mistake twice.

Mistakes happen and, as James Joyce points out -“Mistakes are the portal of discovery.” That being said, learn from mistakes, do not repeat them.

9. Motivate your employees

I don’t believe fear to be an effective motivator.

An Inc. article astutely points out: “When you think about it, the success of any facet of your business can almost always be traced back to motivated employees. From productivity and profitability to recruiting and retention, hardworking and happy employees lead to triumph.”