Breaking Bad and its Business Model
SPOILER ALERT: NO SPOILERS!
I’d lie if I say I am not passionate about this TV program. Generally I am not a fangirl of TV shows. I guess my level of compromise is very low for that. I’ve started some of them without success: I gave up most of them without even reaching the 3rd season or the 2nd. Except for Friends and Gilmore Girls. I’d rather read a good book or watch a movie instead.
The first time I heard about Breaking Bad was a year ago in Amsterdam, in a shopping mall. A friend of mine told me there that she was looking forward to see it. A year later, only with just 2 months, I’ve completed the 5 seasons. This never happened to me. Not to mention for series with 40 minutes long episodes. But I think that I am not the only one mad about Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston or more known as Walter White, is going to write a memoir about the experiences he had during 6 years of shooting Breaking Bad. I know I’m gonna read it as soon as it’s published.
The main theme of this blog is entrepreneurship. And aligned with that, motivation and self-knowledge to come up with an idea, a business. I guess that before continuing, I do not need to mention that I am totally against any type of illegal or distrusted business. But just in case.
Let’s begin. Shall we?
The main character, Walter, is an entrepreneur. He has the necessary capabilities and knowledge to produce the product. The only thing missing for him, at first, was the motivation to do it. Until then, he was a good teacher of chemistry during mornings and a car-washer during afternoons. He was kind of miserable. He decides to produce methamphetamine. He’s such a good chemist that he comes up with the best formula, the purest one in the market.
Motivation comes to him when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. This triggers his worries about money and his family. He is 50 years old without enough money to give to their family in order to sustain themselves good enough without him. He needs to run a business where he can gain loads of money in short-term before he dies.
Obviously, to gain loads of money in short time, the business is going to be illegal. There is no truthful job that allows this. That is why he jumps into producing methamphetamine, as he is a chemist and this is his expertise. Therefore, the message I like to extract from here is that Walt perceives an unmet necessity among drug addicts, and he is the one capable of producing a good enough product to sell to them.
As time goes by, it’s great to see what decisions Walt makes in order to sustain his business alive. Because the essence of every company is to survive. From the beginning, Walt finds a business partner, Jesse, who is a drug addict since he was a teenager. Besides, he was Walt’s student back in high school. Now Jesse helps Walt distributing the product in small quantities.
The initial production is small but made with quality. They produce in Jesse’s van in the middle of Albuquerque’s desert for an entire day. Once the lot is produced, Jesse sells it on his own to his friends. The business is steadily growing because they keep producing more. Walter has this sense of urgency that he has to boost his production because of his cancer. He has to make at least $200,000 for his family. But as the show goes on, the family convinces him to do quimiotherapy, so he has to pain his own treatment, as we are in the US guys.
I’d like to outline the 5 most important aspects about Walt’s business model that can be extrapolated to other businesses (but legally, please!)
The business has a good product. At the beginning, the product was white: crystal clear. It was very pure, more than the crap that was then being sold in Albuquerque. However, when Walter produces a component by his own, melanina, because he run out of it, the product got a characteristic blue color. It was even more pure, with a 99% rate of purity. And the blue color was its sign of quality and differentiation.
Agile and environmentally adaptive. A great example is the already mentioned change of production strategy. Walter follows the same formula but with a different ingredient that he produces on his own (insouring instead of outsourcing). This shows a great ability to adapt to the environment.
Another example in which they adapt is the distribution chains. Many obstacles arise, although not surprising, because is a tad dangerous business. But Walter has the strategy needed to manage threats and jump over obstacles. Some of these actions may be unethical… but he takes the initiative.
Loyal to its business partner. Although both face some issues, Walter knows that he has to take care of Jesse. He takes charge of the business and worries about everything that could happen to him. Even in some episodes and scenes, it can be seen the paternal affection from Walt towards Jesse. Most companies perish from differences between partners.
The importance of distribution channels: they can make or break your business. This is fundamental for a new product in the market. In order to let consumers know about the product and its existence, it has to be available in every corner of the street. Walt knows this and that was the initial reason why he partnered Jesse. They both started a small distribution, to partner later on with drug cartels. To upgrade, then they partnered Gus, the owner of a retail restaurants chain called “Pollos Hermanos” besides being the number 1 narco in Albuquerque. Big business. If Walt’s product has distribution channels, the money is guaranteed and the market starts growing: the competence arises. But this is appealing for Walter, because he knows that he has the secret formula for the blue methamphetamine and no one can copy it. Jesse can’t copy it either, he just reaches a 96% level of purity instead of Walt’s 99%.
And the last aspect is, obviously, the personal branding. Walter knows he has to be a different person in his job compared to his private life. He starts being an honest man, humble, obedient and shy. While he takes decisions, this leads to a series of events that transform his character. He is not a flat character throughout the episodes. He evolves into a tough guy. Maybe he was forced into that because of the dangerous business he started running. He was known as Heisenberg, because he decided this name. He even added some accessories to his personal character: sunglasses and a black hat. Then he grew his beard to even look tougher. But he started becoming this character he created. He started to believe in this new guy. This is how we see his evolution throughout the 5 seasons.
With this last point I do not want to suggest that we all create new fake characters outside our home. I mean that we have to be consistent with our actions. If we dedicate ourselves into something that we are passionate about, our life will turn around the things we have chosen. It’s going to be a lifestyle. Because if you do something you are passionate about, it won’t be hard for you to maintain this image according to your personality.
My favorite episode of all the show was “Fly”. And thanks to a friend I discovered an interesting fact about the episode. And I even discovered that there is a Wikipedia only for Breaking Bad. Which is where I got the following paragraph from:
“According to creator Vince Gilligan, this (Fly) was a “bottle episode.” Because the season was already “hopelessly over budget,” it became necessary to create an episode with minimal production costs. By filming in one location and using the fewest number of actors in the series to date, “Fly” cost substantially less than the average episode.”
Well, nice job guys!
I’d like to know your thoughts on Breaking Bad. ¿Have you seen it? ¿what do you think about this business model? ¿have you ever seen another tv programme containing similar attributes?