I know I’m late to the game on this show, but I’ve really been getting into The Wire. I’m almost done with Season 3 so be nice and don’t tell me what happens! I promise this post won’t contain any spoilers either. Now, for those who don’t know, The Wire was a show on HBO that takes place in Baltimore, MD and deals with all the crime, drugs, poverty, corruption, and the people caught up in it. It’s a real eye opener. I mean wow, I don’t think I’ve lived a sheltered life by any means but damn, I’ve never had to deal with stuff like this. It’s like a different country completely. Now, with me being a huge HR geek and all, I can’t watch The Wire without noticing how much business knowledge can be gleaned from the show. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite business lessons from The Wire:
1. The successful leaders seek out mentors. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most dangerous and smartest criminals on the show are the same ones who seek out the company of older advisers. They value the knowledge, experience and guidance these mentors provide, and that helps them succeed.
2. When you don’t have the talent internally, you have to bring in outside contractors. Good help is hard to find, and when your own people aren’t up to the challenges your competitors are throwing your way, you can’t hesitate to bring in some outside talent to keep what’s yours. After all, it’s harder to win back a competitive advantage than it is to keep it.
3. Know when you need to work with, instead of against, your competition. There you are, selling an inferior “product” and you don’t have the funds or the connections to get a better “product”. Your reputation is taking a hit but you still have one advantage: location! So you team up with your competition by giving them access to a better location so you can get better “product”. Win-Win.
4. Stay on top of new technology. Technology is changing and improving all the time. Not being able to adapt to it leaves you vulnerable. Not only does it limit your ability to compete, it gives your competitors something they can use against you.
5. It’s all about your connections. There is a lot of bureaucracy out there; sometimes the only way you can fight your way past all that red tape is by having the right connections. Not to mention that the distance between a Mayor and a teenage drug dealer is shorter than you think. We are all connected, sometimes in very unexpected ways.
6. You are your reputation. You have a “product”. It’s not that different from your competitor’s “product”. What sets you apart from them then? Your reputation. After all, when your business relies on word of mouth, your reputation is the only thing that matters.
7. Play the game, but don’t forget who your friends are. If you are going to play the game, and you are playing whether you want to or not, don’t only think of yourself. The second you choose to sacrifice everything and everyone for the sake of “winning” the game is the second you really lose. Talent alone won’t be enough to save you after you’ve thrown your friends under the bus. Karma people.
Trust me, this is by no means an exhaustive list of the things you can learn from this show so check it out if you get the chance! Incidentally, Omar is by far and away my favorite character. You gotta love a guy who understands the game, is as tough and scary as he needs to be, has principles and a sense of humor. Because when you live the life he does, if you don’t have a principles and a sense of humor you’re just a sociopath.