Breaking Bad, one of the most beloved television shows of all time, came to a close this year after six successful and gripping seasons. Viewers finally got to witness Walter White’s unforgettable exit and find out which of the key characters made it out alive.
For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, the series is set in a post-GFC, recession ravaged America. The protagonist Walter White is an understated high-school chemistry professor who is forced to take on a second job at a car wash to make ends meet for his young family. After being diagnosed with lung cancer and realizing that he does not have enough health care to cover his treatment, he puts his expertise in chemistry to use and begins cooking the most pure crystal methamphetamine (meth) on the market. But as this career teacher quickly realizes, starting and learning to grow your business successfully, isn’t as easy as it looks.
But there’s more to Breaking Bad than exciting science, shocking drama and riveting character development – there’s plenty here for you to take and apply to grow your business. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur and be even more profitable than you are right now, you should consider these practical lessons from Walter White at Heisenberg College.
1. Technical Expertise is Not Enough
When faced with insurmountable medical bills, Walt realizes that he is never going to make enough money working as an employee. Like so many other entrepreneurs, Walt is passionate about his technical skill (chemistry) and he starts a business that has the potential to maximize the return he can get from that expertise, albeit in this case, an illegal activity.
What he quickly discovers is that he knows nothing about actually running a business – inventory, distribution, marketing, collections etc. So he does what most entrepreneurs do – he wings it and finds out with disastrous consequences that he needs to educate himself quickly on how to operate a successful business and how to outsource the things that he does not have the skill or the time to do himself.
The Lesson: If you really want to grow your business, you need to invest in your development, put a good strategic plan in place, outsource tasks to others who can do them well and learn to manage your team members properly. Don’t expect success to be easy. Every business faces its own obstacles and challenges. Those who succeed, do so because of their ability to adapt quickly and take responsibility for their actions.
2. Establish a Premium Brand Then Establish a Premium Price
Walter White was a world class chemist and as a result, he consistently produced the highest quality crystal meth that you could buy. In fact, his trademark “blue sky” was widely recognized by both the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and drug users as “the bomb”. Walter could easily have cut corners and produced a mediocre range of product that appealed to the mass market at a discount price, but he didn’t. His pride in his own expertise and his commitment to excellence meant that he owned the upper end of the market.
By creating unprecedented demand for his unique formulation, he could dictate the terms his product was sold under and the price consumers would have to pay. In Walter’s own words – “Corner the market, then raise the price,” White says. “Simple economics.”
The Lesson: If you insist on competing based on price, you are doomed to failure. Anyone can cook crystal meth (or make a mediocre version of the product/service that you are currently selling) but only one person can truly be the best in the world at creating the most pure version on the market. To grow your business and succeed, you must be willing to do what it takes to cure the #1 pain that your customer has with buying your product/service.
3. If You’re Good Enough, You Can Get Away With Murder
There is no denying the fact that Walter White was the best in the world at cooking crystal meth. This fact rendered him virtually untouchable. Walter’s unparalleled cooking skills kept him alive over and over again. Even Gus Fring (the chicken man and notorious drug lord) could not afford to kill him after it became clear that both Walter and his junkie sidekick Jessie, were loose cannons. When Gus came close to finding a replacement, Walter was quick to eliminate his competition, thus restoring his own unassailable status.
Even Jessie, as flawed and messed up as he was in his personal life, was excellent at distribution and sales, thus making it difficult for Walter or Gus to eliminate him easily.
The Lesson: If you are without question, the best at what you do, you cannot easily be fired or replaced and you can charge a premium for your expertise.
4. If You Can’t Decide, You Won’t Succeed
Throughout the fast paced six seasons, Walter was continually forced to adapt to changing circumstances and make decisions. When Gus hired a hit man to kill Walter in Season 3, the only thing that saved him was his clever last minute call to Jessie. Armed with the address of Gale Boetticher (the chemist that Gus had hired to replace them), Jessie was then forced to put a bullet into Gale’s head.
This episode and in fact the one that followed were not for the faint hearted or the squeamish but they illustrate one important point very clearly for you as an entrepreneur – your success or failure relies solely upon your ability to make quick and good decisions… and then take action immediately, based on those decisions.
The Lesson: In order to be the boss and grow your business, you have to be willing to make decisions and do whatever it takes to achieve your goals. You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines of your business hoping and praying that things will change. You need to be the change that you want to see and you need to get good at making decisions today.
5. No One is Ever Successful Without Help
Nothing is impossible when you have the right team around you. As flawed as they were as individuals, Walter and Jesse were successful together because they each brought different skills to the table, they divided up the tasks and they trusted each other to deliver on their responsibilities. On their own, neither one of them would have survived two weeks in the meth business but together, they thrived for years and built a multi-million dollar enterprise.
The Lesson: If you want to grow your business and build a scalable, robust business that runs without you (or is saleable), you need to stop trying to do everything yourself and learn how to delegate and lead others.
6. If You Can’t Negotiate, You’re Doomed to Fail
Ever wondered why most people don’t say “yes” to your product/service? Without a doubt, it’s because you have no idea what they need to hear in order to make a decision in your favour. Walter White started off with absolutely no clue how to run a business or negotiate with suppliers, colleagues or customers. And more than once, this shortcoming almost cost him his business and his life. He stumbled upon a universal truth – that if a person’s pain is bad enough and you provide the only solution, they will decide immediately and won’t need “time to think about it”.
The Lesson: The best negotiators know how to persuade others. In order to succeed you need to master the art of identifying, quantifying and curing your customer’s (employee’s or supplier’s) #1 source of pain. If you do this well, you immediately disqualify your competition and are much more likely to get a “yes” today.
7. Distribution Can Make or Break Your Business
As phenomenal as Walter’s blue sky crystal meth was, he would never have achieved market penetration, leading brand recognition and phenomenal sales without Jessie’s distribution efforts. Jessie’s ability to build relationships, enforce collections and find distributors who were willing to do the hard yards to reach customers, was integral to their commercial success.
Walter didn’t know the first thing about pricing, competitive analysis, money laundering or channel management; he needed to connect with the right people – Jessie, Saul Goodman, Gus Fring et al.
The Lesson: If you insist on doing everything yourself, then you must be prepared to accept the fact you will never have a scalable, successful and saleable business.
8. First Impressions Are Everything
Gus Fring was by all outward appearances a legitimate, respected member of the Albuquerque business community. He owned a chain of successful fried chicken restaurants and he was a vocal and public supporter of the DEA. He was also the most feared and successful drug lord in the southern states. Even though he was targeted and questioned by the DEA, Gus avoided investigation and culpability by always putting his best foot forward. He was articulate, well-dressed, outwardly legitimate and successful. He made it difficult for anyone to identify and convict him as a drug trafficker. Both Gus and Walter understood that first impressions are everything.
The Lesson: You only get once chance to make a good first impression. The part of your customer’s brain that decides is highly visual and hasty. If you don’t appear credible and trustworthy, it will be infinitely more difficult to influence and persuade others to do business with or believe in you. Fail at making a good first impression, and you will never grow your business successfully.
9. It Pays to Manage Your Liabilities
Slowly over the six seasons of the show, Walter and Jessie go from being small time players (much like the typical consultant or start up) to fully fledged business owners of a manufacturing and distribution empire. But there’s just one problem. No matter how much they make, it seems that the overheads (fixed costs of running the business) just keep getting bigger and bigger. Sound familiar? Not only does Walter have to pay Saul Goodman for legal protection, but there’s also plenty of money going towards collections, enforcement and dealers who “know too much”.
While Walter is initially disgruntled about all these expenses he learns an important point – while it’s important to keep your overall expenses as low as possible, you should never skimp on items that are crucial to your success. Although you might be frustrated with fixed expenses, you can afford to pay top dollar for the best employees, legal services to keep your business on the right side of the law, or an advisor/coach to help you grow your business profitably.
The Lesson: If you want to grow your business you cannot afford to be penny wise and pound foolish. If someone or something is integral to your success, ensure that you invest your time and money here. You can always find money in the budget for everything that is worth spending on or investing in.
Breaking Bad was poignant, provocative and powerful on many levels. And the genius of the show is this – despite all his shortcomings, killings, and character flaws, Walter While has longevity and likeability as both a character and successful business man. When it comes to learning how to grow your business, these 9 lessons from the Walter White School of business, are a whole lot more applicable, memorable and engaging than a boring, introductory business book like the eMyth.
**This blog is taken from a series of posts and press releases on this subject by Rhondalynn Korolak. She is a lawyer, chartered accountant, media commentator, keynote speaker and best-selling author of 3 books, the most recent of which –Sales Seduction–is in theTop 20 Sales and Marketing Books on Amazon.com
Everyone knows there is a huge gap between what customers do and what they say they will do. This is the single, most important reason why focus groups are inherently unreliable in predicting the commercial success of an ad, idea or product. And British Airways knows this better than most as this one simple mistake – of believing what customers said they might do – meant they had to throw away thousands of dollars worth of fresh produce.
Several years ago, someone in the marketing department at British Airways had a crazy idea. He thought it might be a great idea to introduce a private, fully stocked mini-bar in the first class cabin. British Airways of course conducted lots of focus groups to find out what their customers would most likely want when they woke up in the middle of the night craving a snack. The research was pretty clear – fresh fruit and healthy snacks like salads were the most sought after.
The cabin crew were sceptical when they heard about the health conscious proposal and one experienced stewardess was very vocal in her critique. So much so, that British Airways agreed to her suggestion that they also add a selection of chocolates and cakes to the mini-fridge. Perhaps not surprisingly, when the first planes to stock the self-serve mini-bars touched down and were checked and re-stocked by the ground crews, an interesting truth came to light. Without fail, the cakes and chocolates had been devoured but all of the salads and fruit were left untouched.
Do you know why?
The answer lies in the way that our brains are hard-wired.
Neuroscience has proven that there are many distinct parts of the brain and each of them performs a different function. However, only 1 of them is responsible for decision making and it fires up long before you are consciously aware that you have made a decision.
The biggest part of brain – the neo cortex – is where you think and reason. So when your customer says “I need to think about it” or “is this the best price I can get?” this part of the brain is firing up and looking for data. Not surprisingly, this part of the brain reacts slowly and uses up tons of your body’s energy – in order to keep you safe and alive, the body is hard wired not to rely on the thinking part of the brain to assess and evaluate all the data and information.
At the top of your spinal cord, there is a collection of neurons – which are commonly referred to as the old or reptilian brain. It is your fight or flight brain – and its sole responsibility is to ensure your survival. It’s the part of the brain that lights up when you DECIDE.
It lights up even before you have conscious awareness that you have made a decision. Now, while it is very true that this is the most primitive part of your brain, the good news is that it is very predictable. By understanding how this part of your brain works, you will discover why you should never offer your customers fruit when what they really crave is chocolate.
The old or reptilian brain of your customers is an automatic mechanism – it does not think, it only DECIDES and ACTS. It is always at work scanning the environment looking for information of value to his survival.
So how does this apply to your customers and your product/service?
Just for a moment, I want you to imagine that you are in the business of selling pizza. Now, it doesn’t matter whether you are Pizza Hut, Dominos, Eagleboys, or Pizza World… you’re basically selling a commodity and the market looks fairly price conscious, doesn’t it? The reason for that is simple – the consumer finds it hard to distinguish between your pizza and the next guy’s.
In your mind, you might think yours is better because your crust is thicker and you provide more toppings and value. But in the eyes of the consumer, your pizza isn’t really worth much more than your competitor’s. Why is that?
Even though you think there is a difference, in the eyes of your customer, there isn’t. 95% of what you and the next guy offer are essentially the exact same thing. And as long as you keep operating in that zone with a marketing message that doesn’t stand out and stake a claim, you will continue to compete on price because your message forces your customer to think too hard and evaluate all the options.
So knowing this, what could you do differently?
In 1973, one company identified a way to stand out and grab market share in this highly competitive market. It didn’t claim to have the best, the thickest crust or even the cheapest pizza, it just made you a promise that if you ordered from them, you would get it in 30 minutes or your pizza was free. It was the most successful campaign in the history of the industry – for good reason.
Think about it, when you order a pizza, what is the #1 burning question that you have in the back of your mind? —– “I wonder when the pizza will get here?”
Dominos answered that question for you. They didn’t offer fruit when all you really wanted was chocolate. Their offer, which was different from everyone else’s, solved your #1 source of pain, didn’t make you think too hard and it triggered the part of your brain that decides and dials.
This is the power of Sales Seduction – understanding why your customer says YES and helping him to say YES to your product/service. When you discover “what the chocolate is for your specific customers and prospects”, you will accelerate your sales process, close more business, trigger decisions and be able to charge a premium price for your product/service.
Spend some time today to identify how you might be offering fruit instead of chocolate and therefore, boring or overwhelming your prospects. The key to offering what they really want, is in identifying the # 1 source of pain and proving that your solution will cure it today!
14 Nov 2012
Can I Get a Discount?
Which question from your prospects and customers scares you the most?
If you are like most business owners we work with, you will probably answer:
- How much does it cost?
- Can I get a discount?
- Why should I choose you and not your competitor? or
- Can you provide a guarantee?
While all of these are intimidating and sometimes difficult to overcome, they all have one positive thing in common – your prospect is giving you a signal that she is interested in buying from you but she needs for you to help her overcome her objection. She has already started to think about trying your product/service but she is unsure about at least one aspect.
And for that reason – you can take those questions as a sign that a sale is in fact still possible.
However, the question that should frighten you more than any other because it is by far the worst one that you get from your audience is – Can I have some time to think about it?
Thinking is counter-productive to deciding. Whenever you put your prospect into a position where they have gone into the thinking part of their brain, you will not get a decision. Thinking takes place in one part of your brain (the neo-cortex), while deciding happens much more quickly (and automatically) in your old or “reptilian” brain.
Let’s examine where you went wrong…
The biggest part of your brain is the neo cortex. It is the last thing that forms in the womb and it lights up when we listen to music, look at colours, speak, read and process numbers. If you ever hear people talking about right vs. left brain thinking, they are talking about the neo cortex. In a nutshell – this part of your brain THINKS.
So when your customer says “I need to think about it” this part of the brain is firing up and looking for data. Neuromarketing research has revealed that this uses up tons of her brain energy and prolongs the decision making process. So, if you want to drag out the process of getting your customer to decide or compete on price, you want to make sure that your customer has to us this part of her brain. Make sure you give your customer lots of BIG words, numbers, graphs, lists of features and benefits, talk about your competitors and how you stack up next to them – and your customer will NOT decide <that is guaranteed> buts he will do a whole lot of thinking and take up more of your valuable time and energy in the process.
If you want to get your customer to decide, you must tailor and deliver your message to her old (reptilian brain). It lights up even before she has conscious awareness that she has made a decision. Now, while it is very true that this is the most primitive part of her brain, the good news is that it is very predictable. By understanding how this part of the brain works, you will never again bore and overwhelm your customers AND you will never again be lured into the trap of having your audience tell you that they need to think about it.
How will you do this? By understanding how this part of your customer’s brain works, you can help her to use the least amount of mental energy in processing your message which means that she will make quicker decisions. It is important to remember that unlike the neo-cortex (the thinking part of her brain), this part right of her brain is automatic – it does not think, it only DECIDES and ACTS. It is always at work scanning her environment looking for information of value to her survival. In order to avoid having your customers ask for time out to think about whether they need your product/service, you need to grab their attention up front quickly, deliver your strongest claim first and show her how your solution is going to solve her primary source of pain. This is the essence of Step 1 in the Sales Seduction process.
16 Aug 2012
Would You Take Business Advice From Lily Allen?
Lily Allen may not be an authority on business, but she hit the nail on the head with her honest, irreverent spin on a timeless mystery – “how to know what to do when you have no idea and you’re not prepared”. In her platinum selling song, she sings:
I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore,
And I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore,
When do you think it will all become clear?
Everyone knows that we have been conditioned NOT to admit that we don’t know all of the right answers. Even though we know it’s not true, our teachers, bosses, politicians and even the media have modeled this “fake it until you make it” mentality. Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between a real or imagined event, acting ‘as if’ seems like the logical solution to temporary uncertainty, or does it?
“I don’t know” is a simple phrase. Simple and powerful at the same time. While there can be no doubt that to use it denotes uncertainty and the risk of embarrassment, with it comes an attribute that is far more rare and influential…authenticity!
Over the course of my life, I have been asked some difficult questions both personally and professionally – I’ve been put on the spot, caught unprepared and left exposed and vulnerable. Many times, I racked my brain to come up with the answer – a plausible response that hit the nail on the head or got me out of jail [metaphorically speaking] for free! Other times, I just got lucky.
But occasionally I must admit, “I just don’t know!” I simply cannot say for sure. I just don’t have the answer right now.
Sometimes admitting you don’t know can be the most empowering, intelligent, authentic and liberating response that you can offer. Compared to stumbling through a half baked idea, outright lying or trying to pull a cohesive response out of thin air, admitting you don’t know is a sane solution to this diabolical dilemma.
To be honest, none of us has “The Answer” to everything. If you think you do, chances are you know even less than you thought! If someone has taken the time to ask a question, seek your business advice, and placed their trust in your expertise, they deserve pearls of wisdom not propaganda.
In fact, in order to be a true leader and to earn authority, which is the foundation of your ability to influence others, it is simply not enough to be knowledgeable. You also need to be truthful. Therefore, in order to master the power of influence, you must establish yourself as both honest and powerful in your communications.
When in doubt, “I don’t know but I will find out” is the best answer.
21 Feb 2012
Is Botox Ruining Your Communication in Business?
Botox is either a miracle cure for migraines and worry lines or a toxic scam – it all depends who you speak to. Fuelled by our obsession with youth and beauty, it is estimated that more than a quarter of a million injections were given in Australia last year alone.
When did we decide that older does not mean wiser, and in fact, now means unattractive and unwanted?
Somewhere along the line it has become unappealing to let others see our emotions. The smile and frown lines we have come to expect and rely upon, are disappearing. If a person’s appearance is frozen and expressionless, how do we know what they are thinking and feeling? And more interestingly, does anybody even care? Are we trying to mask the facial clues or cover up the underlying emotions?
We now have infinitely more tools to articulate ourselves but do we really have better communication and relationships? More and more we find ourselves relying on highly impersonal means – SMS, Facebook, Twitter and email – to keep in touch, convey information and build relationships.
It seems like we are talking to everyone but not really connecting with anyone.
Only 7% of your communication is attributable to your words and 93% is conveyed by non-verbal means. Even though it is largely unconscious, you rely heavily on body language to discern what is (and is not) being said. Without these vital clues, you must make assumptions to fill in the gaps and hope that you are right. Oftentimes, you may find that you have missed the mark completely.
In essence text messaging, social media and email are the communication equivalent to Botox.
They allow you to defy time and distance by reaching MORE people but connecting with and accomplishing far LESS. What happened to the good old days when you picked up the phone and spoke to the person you needed to be in touch with or met them in person?
Perhaps we’ve all just become far too busy for such primitive means?
Technology does have its place in our personal and business lives – but when is the last time you shot someone an email in order to avoid speaking with them? Have you ever sent a message and later discovered that the person on the other end took it the wrong way? I would bet you can think of a handful of examples where you have used technology in order to sidestep a difficult situation.
My point is this – if you want to build effective relationships and influence others you need to take responsibility for the effectiveness of your communication. While it may be easier to cut corners, inject fillers or hide behind technology, the wrinkles it creates will eventually come to the surface and bite you on the cheeks. Not only is it cheaper to grow old and communicate directly, it is also more beautiful and less addictive.