I know, I know, I’m extremely late to Breaking Bad but Covid19 is good for some things. Having worked through Luther, we’ve moved on to the Breaking Bad boxset, courtesy of Netflix. While I’ve been on the edge of my seat, loved then hated then loved the main characters more times that I can remember (you know, the usual roll-coaster of workplace relations), watching the 5th season, this post came to me – what Breaking Bad teaches us about business. Here’s my top 3 lessons:
- What business are you in?
- What are your business’ limiting factors?
- How do you keep it authentic?
1. What Business Are You In?
The episode when Jessie asks Walt if he’s in the money business or the meth business was the episode that prompted this blog (blame Jessie, I say) . Walt’s answer, for those of you who forget or haven’t seen it, was “neither, I’m in the empire building business”. It sounded very profound and well-thought-out (kudos to the writers) but what struck me was that Walt wasn’t in the money, meth or empire business, he was in the regret business.
Moving on from Walt and onto you and your business, can you answer the following questions:
- Are you clear what business you’re in?
- What value do you bring to your clients?
- How do you deliver that value?
The Value your business delivers and what you do are two totally different things. Products and services are outputs, building blocks, tools that enable your business to bring value. Value is the difference your business makes to your customers and clients. It is an outcome. Walt’s outcome was the business assuaged his regret (and, literally, sod everyone else!). So, in 5 words, what business are you in?
2. What Are Your Business’ Limiting Factors?
Breaking Bad is a brilliant study of Limiting Factors and how they constantly change, depending on circumstances. Walt and Jessie’s limiting factors ranged from:
- Premises: ranged from a camper van to a lab
- Inputs: key ingredients were a recurring theme
- Key skills: being a talented cook provided a lot of power, and protection
- Distribution to market: the whole series tracks Walt and Jessie’s increasing control on the distribution chain
Stepping back from the day-to-day of your business, are you clear on your answer for following questions:
- The key drivers of my current business model are…?
- We track changing access levels to them by…?
- Our continuity contingency plans for each limiting factor, if access changes, is…?
If your’re pivoting your strategy and business model, due to Covid19 or because you were doing it anyway, how are you answering the following questions:
The key drivers of our future business model are…?
The new skills and knowledge we need to access to are…?
For example, if you’re pivoting to an online solution, do you have the knowledge and skills needed to design, implement and support your new ecommerce website? In this case, it could be technical IT knowledge but it could also be Innovation and Strategic Thinking, to be able to see the potential in the pivot.
3. How Do You Keep It Authentic?
I loved the way Skylar thinks through the authenticity of their money laundering racket. The story needs to make sense to people. If it doesn’t, people move onto the next provider, product, option. We’ve over 400,000 years experience of reading non-verbals and we excel at it, whether we realise it or not and we’ve often reacted and made our decisions before we’ve even had time to register the non-verbals.
Skylar knows this and has the awareness to take time to step back and asks what would make sense to others. This authenticity is also alluded to in Jim Collins’ Good to Great. with the concept of having a Culture of Discipline. It’s very easy to run after the next shiny, new thing but does it make sense with the business you’re in? Gus is another great example of the Culture of Discipline. As he said so himself, he hid in plain sight, he was so disciplined.
Jessie’s “what business” question was an attempt to highlight, to Walt, the Culture of Discipline point. If he was in the meth business, it would have made sense to stay cooking. If he was in the money business, selling up and realising the money would have been the right decision.
Sometimes, its hard to figure out what’s driving Walt. You’d think $5 million would be enough but it isn’t because it doesn’t erase his regret. However, when we view his actions and ambitions through the lens of regret, we can see he is behaving authentically, if a little recklessly, much to Jessie’s despair.
Getting back to your business, following on from clarifying what business you’re in, do your current services and products support that business or are you selling products and services that make no sense? Do you need to cull some of them? Do you need to introduce others?
A combination of having a clear vision about what business you’re in and the value you bring to your clients, an understanding of your business model, drivers and potential limiting factors, and being authentic in your decisions, delivers a very powerful business strategy, inspiring your employees and clients alike.
Before you go, share what you think your organisation’s top limiting factor is, in Comments. Feel free to Like or Share this blog and Subcribe to my blog. Enjoy your day.
These are the top 3 leadership lessons I took from Breaking Bad. Having had a seek peep at similar blogs, though, other people took different lessons, that you might enjoy.