Five Lessons Small Business can learn from MAD MEN

ImageThe TV series Mad Men on AMC based on the dramatic lives of Madison Avenue executives in the 1960’s is hardly a how to manual on how to do business, in fact you could write a long list of things to unlearn from watching. However, there are a few lessons that can be learned from this series:

  • Don’t depend on one customer for all or your major part of your business:  In the episode the newly formed company which is a small business faces the loss of the client “Lucky Strike” brings home the horror of a business losing their biggest customer. Ideally the best strategy could be to continue to get more new customers so that your entire business is not dependent on one customer.
  • Take risks. Don’t be afraid to let a client go under compelling circumstances:  I am not 100% sure about this so I hope you can give me your experiences. In the series when the company decides to go after the business of American Airlines they decide to drop another profitable existing client. If you are a proponent of a “bird in hand is worth two in the bush” then you would be cautious with this.
  • Offline networking and shaking hands is as important today as it was in the 1960’s:  This is important in any decade. I cannot emphasize enough how much I learn when I meet people for breakfast or lunch. Plan on attending networking events of course skip the martinis.
  • Dedicate resources to work on the business development and make it part of everyone’s job:  In one episode the copywriter meets a person from another agency who lost her job and deduces that there is a chance of getting new business and works with an account exec over the weekend to get the new business. Stories like this are perfectly plausible and every employee should be empowered to look for opportunities to get new business.
  • Keep an eye on the bottom line:  I am fascinated in the episodes where the partners seem to know how many more days of payroll and expenses they have money for. It is always a good idea for any business to have a firm grounding on its finances.

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