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Business Lessons From The Wire

March 11th, 2010 | Small Business | No Comments »

As a die-hard Sopranos fan, I resisted getting to involved into another t.v. crime drama.  So I’ve been avoiding watching The Wire for the past 8 years.  Not because I didn’t think it would be good, but because I knew it would be.  The last thing I needed was another drawn out man-soap-opera that sucks away my time.  Of course this past Saturday, with nothing good on my DVR, I got hooked.  But I noticed an interesting thing about the show — it’s mostly about small business.

Ok, the small businesses involved are necessarily legitimate or savory, but that doesn’t mean lessons can’t be learned.  If you think about it, the fact that the Barksdale gang is being constantly pursued/monitored by the police makes their success even more impressive.  If you’re running a legitimate business, all you have to worry about is the marketplace and your competition undercutting you.  The Wire entrepreneurs had to face the prospect of being wiped out (literally) by other gangs (Omar included) and/or going to prison.  Now they really didn’t have to worry about a market, as they were selling drugs to junkies, but still it’s impressive.  Now what are the actual business lessons?  I see a few of them:

1.  Clear Roles:  While flexibility is good, with lean operations, it’s also important that everyone on the team knows what they are supposed to do.  You never see a street-peddler trying to figure out what his job is.  He’s there to sell drugs to the entire neighborhood.

2.  Nothing Beats Face-To-Face Communications:  The Barksdale Crew stayed off their cell phones and resorted to pagers.  But most of the real conversations about business were done in person.  Of course it was done to avoid being tracked by the police, but the practice still seems to be a good one.  Take the time to talk with your employees/partners in person.

3. Ride out The Bad Times: Just because you’ve been convicted and sentenced to jail doesn’t mean you should give up.  Not universally applicable, but for some of this, this is great advice.  Seriously, though, business may be down at a given moment, but if you keep working on the product and marketing, good things are bound to happen.

Of course, if I’m missing any other vital business lessons, please feel free to let me know.

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