What will Breaking Bad teach you that a typical MBA program will not
Breaking Bad has been rated one of the best drama series of all time. With 42 Emmy nominations and 10 Emmy wins including Outstanding Drama series in 2013, it’s not hard to see why. I was introduced to Breaking Bad when the show was in its 4th season. Almost immediately, I was hooked on to it. I binged watched all 4 seasons but not for typical reasons. Needless to say, the writing, the acting, the direction, and the screenplay was impeccable but I was hooked on to it for a different reason.
You see, 2012 was a year when I was warming up to the idea of being an entrepreneur and I saw in Breaking Bad all the challenges a typical startup might face. So here’s my analysis of Breaking Bad as a startup.
AMC, the network that picked up Breaking Bad, was a relatively unknown name before Breaking Bad took off. After all, a basic cable channel that just shows the reruns of Hollywood films is not exactly at the top of people’s minds. The premise of the show, in which a chemistry school teacher turns a drug lord, must have raised a lot of eyebrows. But, you’re not much of an entrepreneur if taking risks scare you. Innovation is a wasteful process. It takes a lot of trial and error to really nail the idea that not only has a novelty factor but also a commercial value. When the creators of Breaking Bad pitched the idea to AMC, there wasn’t a show like that on the television. It really filled a void as it was an unconventional look at a typical drama series. Like many other shows, Breaking Bad wasn’t a typical police or hospital or lawyer drama. Also, as the show unfolds, it managed to keep the audience hooked as the character of Walter White keeps getting progressively darker. Imagine Batman gradually turning into Joker! That’s a show I would pay to watch.
There’s something very intriguing about a good person going bad. The systemic breakdown of a good character and the transformation into evil one is weirdly satisfying. They say villains make the story. I agree. To have a loving good guy, make the bad guy the center of the story. We saw that recently in Avengers: Infinity War. From a writing perspective, make your villain charming and make the hero rise to the occasion and you have a perfect yin-yang dynamic. A perfect villain is a necessary ingredient to having a great hero.
Like many startup founders, Walter White, too, found a way to stretch his skills and apply them to earn the maximum return on investment. Rather than applying his expertise in Chemistry to being a school teacher, Walter White uses it to cook Crystal Meth which allowed him to build a multi-million dollar enterprise in just 2 years. Now, of course, I am not encouraging anyone to start cooking meth but it’s important to channel your skills to an avenue where you can earn the maximum return. It is for this reason that education serves only a limited purpose. Education might get your foot in the door of the new industry but how you apply these skills to really grow is up to you. I haven’t studied filmmaking formally, but given my background in Finance and Management, I’m extremely good at controlling costs which allows me to earn a healthy ROI.
An entrepreneur, especially when he or she is bootstrapping the venture, it’s imperative to keep the cost down. A lot of productivity and optimization come from careful planning. Walter White too carefully anticipates the scenarios that might hurt him and is always prepared with an action plan that says the day for him. Jesse Pinkman serves as a perfect aid in Walter’s effort to build a drug empire.
In the show, Walter White emphasizes that he won’t compromise on the quality of the product. This allows the meth to have the distinctive blue look given its near 100% purity. Such deep focus on quality was the reason that blue meth was constantly in demand. This is also true for Entrepreneurship. A startup looking to stand out in an overcrowded market has to figure out its competitive advantage which will enable them to command higher prices. Positioning yourself uniquely is imperative to succeed in today’s competitive market. Playing to your strengths is important but at the same time, one needs to keep delivering consistent value to maintain customer loyalty and the brand recall value. Companies all over the world have been embracing the dynamic nature of their industries and have been designing innovative approaches to capture larger share of the market.
Moving on, let’s talk about the co-founders. In the show, Walter White partners with Jesse Pinkman to build a meth enterprise. Unfortunately though, Walter doesn’t give Jesse the respect he deserves or treat him like an equal partner. Walter looks at Jesse as a mere errand boy. This strains their relationship and puts it to the test multiple times, affecting business in the process. It’s important to choose the partners that bring in complementary skills and to treat them as an equal partner. In my upcoming venture, there’s a good mix of co-founders who compliment my risk taking and hustler mindset.
So for all the fans out there, I hope that you enjoyed reading this unique perspective on Breaking Bad. If you find more entrepreneurial concepts that relate to Breaking Bad, feel free to share them in the responses.
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