What an entrepreneur can learn from The Walking Dead!
The Walking Dead is one of my favourite TV programmes. I have always had a fascination with zombies ever since I snuck downstairs in the middle of the night at the age of 12 and watched Dawn Of The Dead. The thing about The Walking Dead is that it’s not about the zombies. Yes there are zombies in the programme but it’s more about the relationships between the characters on the show and how they interact with each other. It just happens to be set in a post apocalyptic zombie wasteland. The programme centres around a character called Rick Grimes, a cop who ends up in a coma after a shootout gone wrong. He wakes up in a hospital, everyone he knows has vanished and the dead have come back to life. After meeting up with a group of survivors, each episode is about what he had to go through to make sure that the people he cared about remain safe. There are a lot of business lessons an entrepreneur can learn from watching the Walking Dead. Don’t believe me? Let’s count them down! 1.) You have to become awesome at making difficult decisions Rick, for the most part, is the leader of his group of survivors. Therefore they look to him for answers. They want him to help get them through whatever situation the group have found themselves in. Rick has been put into a situation where he is forced to make very difficult decisions and many times these have led to people dying. However Rick understands that
the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and so the most important thing to Rick is the group’s survival. As an entrepreneur you will also have to make difficult decisions. One of the things that separates entrepreneurs from others is their ability to make difficult decisions quickly. To be clear, these decisions generally don’t concern life or death. However they do affect other people, especially if your business employs people. If you procrastinate, your business will never be as successful as it could be. Learn to make better decisions faster. 2.) The real threat isn’t always what people think it is
You would think that a TV show about zombies would have the zombies portrayed as the monsters. However as the seasons progress the zombies are more of a nuisance. The real monsters are the people that Rick and his band of survivors meet. At the time of writing the big bad is a guy called Negan. A baseball bat wielding psycho who controls his followers with fear and intimidation. However over the years there have been many others like Negan who only wanted to kill and destroy. In fact season 3’s tagline was ‘Fight The Dead, Fear The Living’. I find that business owners frequently misunderstand who their competition is. They don’t understand the difference between direct com
petition and indirection competition. Allow me to give you an example by using one of my own companies - Non Stop Kids Entertainment. I find that kids entertainers look at other kids entertainers as their only competition. In reality this is direct competition. The biggest challenge for a kids entertainer is indirect competition: places like cinemas, bowling alleys and play barns doing parties for kids. Parents generally want the easiest possible option and these options are very stress free. Part of the reason I have been so successful is that I haven’t looked at my direct competitors as competition. Instead I have created strategic alliances which has massively helped grow my business. It has also allowed me to focus my marketing at parents that might book a play barn which other entertainers just don’t do. This is just one brief example from my business. The point is to understand that at times the things you focus on within your business aren’t where you really should be focusing. It’s worth thinking about. 3.) Surround yourself with people that you can trust Time and time again The Walking Dead reinforces that if you are on your own you are basically dead. In this post apocalyptic world you need people around you to survive. There have even been moments in the show where people have been punished by being sent out to fend for themselves. Rick and his band of survivors are obsessed with finding a place that they can all live in together as a group. First it was a farm, then a prison and then a gated community. There is strength in numbers, especially when you trust the people you are with. In business you have to surround yourself with people you trust. I remember when I took on my first member of staff. I needed someone, anyone to help me. I hired someone not suitable for the position. I didn’t trust this person and spent half my life second guessing his work. This is not a mistake that I repeated when I hired his successor. I knew exactly what I needed and made sure that the person I hired was perfect. From the second this person started working for me I trusted him. It allowed me to focus on building the business instead of working in it. However it’s not just members of staff. If you have regular suppliers or people you outsource to then you have to trust them. You have to be able to hand over whatever they are doing for you and not worry. If you are constantly checking what they are doing you are missing the point of outsourcing. A while ago we tried outsourcing our bookkeeping. However it didn’t work out and we ended wasting a lot of money. Looking back the reason for this was that we outsourced it to the wrong person, someone we didn’t trust. The point here is that within your business you need to surround yourself with people you can trust. Doing this really will help you take your business to the next level. 4.) Manage your resources One thing that the characters struggle with in The Walking Dead is a lack of resources. Petrol, food, drink and weapons are hard to come by which means that when they do find a supply of water (for example) they have to manage it correctly - they have to make it last. Mainly because they don’t know when they will find more and they don’t want to die of thirst.
When you an entrepreneur you also need to learn to manage your resources and the most important example is cash flow. We have all heard the expression ‘cash is king’ but it’s very true. If a business has money there’s a lot more options available than if there is never money available. Talking about how to improve a businesses cash flow could take up a whole blog but one of the most important things to consider is budgeting. It amazes me that so many business owners and entrepreneurs don’t budget effectively but it’s vitally important. Rather than spending money and not knowing what you are spending it on it’s best to set monthly budgets for each area of the business. Then you will know what you have available to spend on marketing (for example) rather than just guessing. It’s also why tracking your income and profit is important as it will allow you to forecast how much your business will make on a month by month basis. 5.) Live every day as if it’s your last One thing The Walking Dead is not scared of is killing off its main characters. Unlike other TV programmes there is not one single character that is safe from dying in some gruesome way. As you can imagine from a TV show called The Walking Dead a lot of people die! Because of this the characters in the show live every day like it’s their last (mainly because it could be).
You need to make sure you do the same thing within your business. Many entrepreneurs become obsessed with working and get a little carried away. They end up working 24/7 and spend no time enjoying life. Everything they do is about furthering their business. Now don’t get me wrong, because working hard is important however there has to be more to life than working, else what is the point? You could have all the money in the world and the biggest business but without someone or something to spend it on it becomes pointless. I have a friend who is a millionaire and has a 10 bedroom house. However he only uses three of the rooms. The other rooms are never used and just sit there empty. The important point here is enjoy life and make sure you work to live and don’t live to work. 6.). You have to have blind faith Rick’s team have to have blind faith in him. A lot of his plans are crazy and shouldn’t work. They have to believe in them in order to go through with some of his suggestions. However, Rick also needs to have blind faith so that he believes that his plans are going to work and that he isn’t going to get his friends killed. Without blind faith Rick and his team would spend every episode cowering in some shed somewhere waiting to die.
Within your business you also need to have blind faith. Let’s be honest setting up a business is a risk. In fact one of the defining characteristics of entrepreneurs is that they have the ability to take risks. If you doubt your decisions and you don’t fully commit then you will have problems. You have to believe, truly believe, that what you are doing will work 100%. In other words you have to have blind faith. If you believe what you are doing is right then so will your team. Not just your team but everyone. Your networking contacts, your clients and customers, people who see you online. If you believe 100% in what you are doing then everyone will buy into your vision. 7.) Set big goals One thing that Rick and his crew do is set huge goals. While everyone else in the programme is struggling to just survive Rick has a different attitude. We first saw this when he decided his team were going to clear out a prison infested with zombies so that they had someone safe to live. However this attitude is displayed time and time again. For example he was the only person crazy enough to take on Negan and his band of saviours when everyone else was scared. Rick is never afraid of thinking big. In business it is vitally important to think big; a lot of entrepreneurs set goals but not necessarily big enough ones. Let me use an analogy. Imagine I am standing on the roof of a building and I want to jump and grab hold of a tree. Now imagine the tree had two branches, an upper branch and a lower branch. If I aimed for the lower branch and I missed it I would end up falling on my ass as there would be nothing left to grab hold of. However, if I aimed for the upper branch even if I didn’t grab it I would still easily grab the lower branch because I aimed higher. It’s the same with goal setting. If I set a small goal I might hit it, I might not. However, if I set a big goal even if I don’t hit it I’m going to end up in a better position than if I set the smaller goal because I aimed higher in the first place. It’s the same with Rick. He aims higher and always ends up in a better situation than people that are just trying to survive. The bottom line is aim for the moon and you’ll end up among the stars. 8.) Don’t panic! I remember in the second episode of the show Rick found himself alone and friendless. He was in the middle of a zombie infested city, stuck in a tank with no weapons and the tank was literally covered with zombies. I remember thinking that there was no way that he could survive. However thanks to a guy called Glenn (may he rest in peace) he did survive. Not only that, at no point did Rick panic. He remained cool, calm and collected as he dealt with the situation at hand.
My question to you is do you panic when you are in a difficult situation? One of the things that separates the really successful businesses from businesses that just get by are the way the decision makers deal with problems. If you run round like the proverbial headless chicken then you are probably not great under pressure. This will affect your health as well as cause your team to lose confidence in you. If however you are cool and calm under pressure you probably find you are making better decisions. The point here is don’t allow yourself to stress, even in stressful situations. So there you have it. 8 entrepreneurial lessons we can learn from studying The Walking Dead. If you can think of any other lessons from the programme please let me know. If you want to find out more about me please visit.. www.craig-petty.com