5 Entrepreneurial Lessons Startups Can Learn from Narcos - Mexico
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Narcos: Mexico, the companion series to the successful Narcos, portray the rise of the drug lord Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo and the hard battle by the protectors of law to ultimately bring justice. The growth of Gallardo and the way he organized the entire drug racket can be a major management case study if you can manage to forget the criminal aspect.
Without glorifying or justifying crime, violence and any illegal activities, let’s analyze the top 5 entrepreneurial lessons startups can learn from Narcos: Mexico. Read on
1. Build a Product That’s Not Easy to Say No
Marijuana is a dangerously habit-forming drug, it’s addictive and subsequently dangerous for your health. People say it’s not safe even to try it once – chances are you’ll get hooked. That way, the drug-lords portrayed in Narcos: Mexico had a clientele that was always ready and the demand would never go down.
But making “high-quality” habit-forming Marijuana is not easy. The drug-cartel had to master the entire process of making Sensimilla - A highly concentrated type of cannabis. Unlike other types of cannabis, sensimilla contains no seeds, and they mastered it right from plucking leaves to processing to storing and packaging to dominate the drug trade.
Your product needs to be like a Drug - It should be addictive. If someone were to try out your product once, it should perform so well users would want to continue using it.
And that won’t happen overnight. No matter how bright your idea, you’ll need to go through a number of iterations, collecting user feedback, fixing bugs and improving the product to perfection. Product validation is something entrepreneurs should not be ignoring.
The first, and perhaps the most important, lesson is that if you’re a budding entrepreneur, you’ll need to build an absolutely kickass product. No sales skills can ensure success for a substandard product.
2. Founders Must be Passionate and Distribute Roles
While Narcos: Mexico appears to revolve mostly around Felix Gallardo, there are at least two people who played a critical role in Gallardo’s rise.
Gallardo did not grow so large and powerful all by himself –in fact, he couldn’t have. He partnered with Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero (Rafa), and the three had clear-cut roles for themselves. Gallardo focused on sales, Carrillo took care of logistics and Rafa focused on production and farms.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll want to have a co-founder or two who’s as excited about the product as you are and brings complementary skills. So if you’re good at people and sales, your co-founder should ideally be great at product development.
Why is that so important?
One, you cannot be great at everything yourself. Two, even if you are, you’ll quickly be spreading yourself thin and will likely wear out. And that’s not going to help your startup.
There’s a saying which goes like this: If you wish to go far, walk with others. To achieve major success, you’ll have to work with people.
3. Make Sure You Keep Sales a Top Priority
Successful entrepreneurs, even the ones that are nerds, can be charming when they wish to and sell you almost anything. (Remember Steve Jobs?). When they can’t do it, they realize sales is vital to surviving and find great sales guys to take care of sales and marketing.
As portrayed in Narcos: Mexico, Felix Gallardo takes the role of Sales. Using all the fair and unfair means, he not only brought great sales but also ensured they got the price they were demanding. Gallardo’s idea was to organize them all into a consortium — “OPEC for weed”
At your venture, you’ll need the same vision to keep selling more, keep selling better.
But as you grow, you’ll begin seeing an important facet of sales: distribution and logistics. Gallardo, and one of the earlier drug-lords Pablo Escobar, fully understood that. Each set up distribution networks that could be the envy of a professional MNC operating on the correct side of the law.
Even while you struggle to close the first sale, keep your eyes open to learn how you could have done better in terms of sales and distribution. Learn how you’ll sell as optimally as possible.
4. Be and Remain a Hustler – Beat All Odds
Mark Bowden, in his book Killing Pablo (which is based on the operation to kill another Colombian drug-lord Pablo Escobar), writes that Escobar had the unique ability to remain “calm, deliberate, even cheerful when others grew frightened.”
Felix Gallardo’s rise from being an agent of Federal Justice Police, Mexico to the head of one of the largest drug networks ever couldn’t have been possible had he not been what entrepreneurs would call a hustler’s attitude.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll need that iron will to overcome all challenges. You’ll need to develop the “can do will do” spirit that can lift you from your low phases and see you through tough times. In short, you’ll need to constantly focus on solutions rather than worry about problems on hand.
5. Fight Relentlessly; Don’t Give up
As said at the beginning of this post, we aren’t trying to glorify criminals. Narcos: Mexico has the drug-lord Felix Gallardo as one of the lead characters.
But he’s not the hero.
The hero of Narcos: Mexico, and in real life too, is Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an agent with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, who fearlessly fought all these drug-lords, not worrying about his life. His single objective was to bring the criminals to justice at whatever cost, overcoming every single obstacle in his path.
Entrepreneurs, at least the ones who turn out successful, virtually set themselves on fire to achieve whatever they had sought out to. You will need to develop this one great trait, the never-say-die spirit.
Don’t give up, don’t sit still, don’t take no as the answer and you’ll reach your goal sooner or later.