Breaking Bad – Business Lessons from Walter White



This week saw the end of quite possibly the greatest TV show ever broadcast – Breaking Bad.   If you’ve been living under a rock (of crystal meth)  and don’t know what this amazing series is all about, let me fill you in – and this doesn’t make for light reading

The main protagonist of Breaking Bad is former science teacher Walter White.  Walter has led a fairly mundane existence his entire life having turned down the opportunity to invest in a multi million pound scientific research business called Grey Matter to devote his life to his family.

In his late 40’s, Walter receives the dreaded news that he has contracted terminal lung cancer and, to provide a financial legacy for his family, decides to use his science knowledge to start producing crystal meth with one of his former pupils, Jessie Pinkman.   5 seasons later, Walter has made millions from his venture and, as you find out later in the series, caused all manner of death and destruction in the process – as you’d imagine if you’re creating illegal substances for a living.

Clearly I’m not stupid enough to give away any spoilers here (I made that mistake with an episode of Walking dead a few months ago which annoyed a lot of my friends) so I won’t tell you how it all ends (clue:not well) but, given that Mr White made millions of dollars doing something he loved (even though that was highly illegal, morally questionable and very dangerous) I feel there are lessons to be learned from Mr White which can be applied to the legal and morally sound world of business.

1 – If you feel your life is going nowhere, change it.    Walter had got to his 40’s and realised, as a result of his devastating cancer diagnosis that the life he was leading wasn’t the life he wanted to lead and, against all of his better judgement took steps to change that.  He called upon what limited resources he had and started a business empire from scratch.  Had he have known what that might lead to at the start he may have not bothered starting at all but, motivated to provide financial stability for his family and his passion for what he loved doing (science) – he went for it!

2 – Be better than the competition.   Right from the start, Walter knew with his knowledge and skill he could create a product that was better, purer and of a far higher quality than his competition.  His product had it’s own trademark (the colour) that further separated it from his competitors.  Be the best you can be – trust me, few of your competitors will be able to maintain that level of quality for long

3 – Build up a strong network of associates.   No business person can do everything.  We all have areas of expertise – Walters was in the production process but, to truly succeed he needed people with skills in distribution, promotion, security, sales.  Yes, murder may be one of the areas that most business owners don’t need help with (although we might feel like it at times) but every successful business relies on it’s people to deliver a quality service time after time.  Make friends, make partnerships, call upon the skills of those you know

4 – Do what you love and love what you do.    There’s been much written about the fact that, if you’re following your passion, it doesn’t feel like work.    Throughout the whole series, Walter has said that he’s done all of this for his family whereas, in reality he was doing it because he loved it.  His business gave him power, gave him money, gave him opportunity.  If you can’t do what you love, love what you do, put some passion into it, aim to do the best you possibly can and the money will come rolling in

5 – Change and adapt.   Things will rarely run smoothly in business, as with running a multi million dollar drug empire.  Whatever gets thrown at you, ensure you have the means of continuing regardless.  If your premises burn down, find somewhere else to work, if half your workforce get shot in the desert, get some new people on board.  There’s always a solution – find it rather than focusing on the problems

And, lastly, a quick disclaimer that I do not in any way endorse the activities of Walter White but, as a businessman, you can’t deny he did a blummin great job!

I’ll miss you Breaking Bad – if anyone’s got any suggestions for good TV to replace it, I’d welcome them!


Dan Smith 
Inspired Business Development
Unit K9 Cradley Enterprise Centre
Maypole Fields
B63 2QB
T:01384 566 078


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