Business tips from drug cartels

Business tips from drug cartels

CultureNovember 09, 2013

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is considered the Bill Gates of drug distribution, running a drug ring that spans 140 countries and generates billions of dollars in revenue. He ranked No. 63 on Forbes' List of the World's Most Powerful People and found a spot on Forbes' List of World Billionaires. Ethical hang-ups aside, drug cartels are suddenly in the realm of big business, operating multi-level organizations complete with employees, management, and CEOs. Believe it or not, they have things to teach aspiring entrepreneurs in search of the American dream, and it's more than just "drugs are good." And we're here to re-teach their teachings to you.

1. Make a product that people want

Duh. It seems straightforward, but many entrepreneurs design products they like, neglecting to care if there's an actual market for them. Inevitability, those entrepreneurs find new jobs if you know what we mean. The flow of drugs into the United States isn't a fluke. Cartels understand you must give the people what they want while maximizing your returns in the process. Sneaking cigarettes into a country is much easier than black-tar heroin. The key is to fill a market void. Great entrepreneurs understand a consumer's problem, and then solve that problem. In this case, they do it with an addictive product. When filling a hole in consumer demand turns from providing a nicety to providing a necessity, the rest is history.

2. Keep innovating

All businesses must innovate. The day you fail to innovate is the day you forget about the future. Cartels must use all available means to get their product around the world. Makeshift submarines, speed boats, human drug mules, axles of trucks, car trunks, airplanes, cooking them into other products, etc., effectively maintain market share while providing an opportunity to capture more. It's not that leaders feel creative, it's that market conditions change. Competition, barriers to entry, customer preference, regulations, and border police affect a business' research and development. From cartels to Goggle and Microsoft, all types and sizes of businesses should constantly look for ways to expand upon their products and supply channels.

3. Diversify your product line and revenue streams

Cartels don't just deal in cocaine and marijuana. They deal in cocaine, marijuana, meth, heroin, theft, opiates, gambling, prostitution, imports, exports, government, retail, and anything else that's a sound investment. Diversifying product lines prepares a business for fluctuations in consumer demand. They also know when to bring on another line or revenue stream. Start-ups with too many products and not enough brand recognition spend too much and run up costs. Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and PepsiCo are notorious for owning  hundreds, if not thousands, of products you almost have to use daily. Whether it's cocaine or Dove soap, diversify.

4. Marketing and branding

Drug cartels don't build their empires solely on delivering a desirable product. They ensure dominance by applying effective marketing and branding strategies. Sure, fear, corruption, violence, and beheading campaigns aren't the preferred branding options of most companies, but the idea remains the same; separate yourself from your competitors while outlining the values and vision of your company. Maintain dominance over the competition by boldly letting clients, customers, and competitors know you still exist. If that entails fire-bombing the coke competition's house, then so be it. No matter the size of your business, industry, or illegal enterprise you operate, competition will always be at your heels. This makes branding and marketing essential to keeping your brand from losing the race, even if you need to take a few heads in the process.

5. Employee loyalty

Employees are a business' No. 1 asset. Any business person who says otherwise probably paints for a living. Drug cartels maintain a literal army of employees who are loyal, hardworking, and willing to help business growth at all costs. From everyday citizens to police, community leaders and government officials, cartels boast an extensive human resources department that easily rivals that of the largest Fortune 500 companies. While most cartels manage human resources by threatening lives and killing families, they do build community respect and encourage productivity by giving back. Pablo Escobar built soccer fields and churches in his community. The La Familia cartel in Mexico covered health costs for sick citizens. We aren't saying build your employees a soccer field, but listen to their needs and concerns, praise their hard work, and sometimes, just sometimes, if you show them respect, they'll show you respect right back. Respect is invaluable, even when the more convenient option requires decapitation.