How do you fancy being worth $25billion and controlling 80% of your market? Sounds pretty good to me.

Ok, so I’m neither advocating selling cocaine to get ahead, nor taking it! But when it comes to absolutely DOMINATING an industry, there’s a lot to learn about business strategy from Pablo Escobar. As the head of the Medellin drugs cartel, he literally changed the world, and made an absolute boatload of cash along the way.

Putting aside the fact that most of what he did was completely illegal – there’s a lot to admire about how he ran his business (ruthless killing aside, obviously).

Here’s 5 lessons you can take from how Pablo Escobar ran his empire to apply to your own business: 

1. Be prepared to switch

Escobar was making a tidy living from smuggling tobacco and booze, but quickly realized that he could make a shitload more from one truck of cocaine than from forty-odd lorries full of tobacco. He was prepared to take the risk to make the switch to a new product, knowing that if it paid off the reward would be worth it.

Are you stuck in a rut selling low margin product, instead of stepping up and taking a risk for a higher margin that could transform your business?

2. Think bigger

Back in the 70’s, Escobar already had the Columbian cocaine market stitched up, but here’s the thing – he didn’t stop there (as we know!). He was shrewd enough to realise that because his product was so good, there were richer pickings for it over in America, and he could charge five times as much for the same product. The investment he made in setting up the routes for this new market paid off, big time.

It’s the same for any business – could you be selling your product somewhere else for more money? It might take a bit of extra work to set up, but in the long run, going ‘global’ was what changed Escobar’s millions into BILLIONS!

3. Control your distribution

It would seem, if you want to run drugs efficiently, your best bet is to own the WHOLE supply chain. So thought Escobar, and the same principle applies to any business. Pablo knew that he could squeeze more profit out of his product if he had complete control from its production right through to the sale. He went from moving his product by renting pilots, then planes, through to setting up his own airports so he completely controlled the routes through Mexico and the Caribbean.

Having complete control like this means fewer surprises or weaknesses in getting your product to market, and getting it their fast. Where could you take more control of your supply chain?

4. Build a personal brand

Now I’m not saying your brand should scream ‘ruthless drug lord’ in order to be successful, but having an instantly recognizable brand is vital to succeed. Escobar knew that building his credibility in the mainstream would also help protect his (illegal!) business interests. He dreamed of being president of Columbia, and even ran for congress.

Getting your brand right is about consistency, and making sure your customers know you for what you WANT them to see. What is your brand saying about you at the moment?

5. Be relentless

You’re not going to be the most successful global cocaine baron the world has ever known without a bit of grit! It’s the same with any business – if you want to be the best, you have to really COMMIT to it. It’s no good making excuses or crying off at the first hurdle. If you want something enough, you can find a way of making it happen. Pablo did it, even with the police, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the army and god knows how many other rival cartel leaders out to kill him! If he made it happen under this much pressure, then I’m pretty sure your business problems are tiny by comparison!

So the bottom line is – stop making excuses! If you’re looking for ways to step up your business, there’s a lot you can learn from ‘El Patron’ on how to scale up and take over the world. You need the right product, a clear understanding of your market, vision, distribution and a strong brand. Find out where the money is and have the determination to go after it, 100%.

And if you’re looking for funding along your way, then that’s when I want to hear from you! Get in touch. 

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