The Colombian drug lord, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria remains one of the most unconventional examples for every businessman. Popularly known as “the King of Cocaine”, Escobar went on to become the wealthiest criminal in history with a net worth of $30billion as of 1990. These are some of the disciplines that aided his rise:
- BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
His son, Roberto Escobar (2009) explains that Pablo fell into the drug business because of the danger attached to trafficking other types of contraband. As of that time, there were few drug barons but no drug cartels. This opened Pablo’s eyes to an untapped industry which he eventually colonized. The lesson here is embracing blue oceans and creating your own playing field. It is entrepreneurial suicide to join the hundreds of other businesses already selling the same product.
- POWER ALLIANCES AND PARTNERSHIPS
As the demand for cocaine began to skyrocket in the United States, Escobar forged a strategic alliance with Carlos Lehder (co-founder of the Medellín Cartel). Together, they developed a new trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, on an island called Norman’s Cay. He also partnered with Robert Vesco to purchase most of the land on the island, which included a 1 kilometer (3,300 ft) airstrip, a harbor, a hotel, houses, boats, and aircraft, and they built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. What you can learn from this is that no business is an island. If you cannot beat your competition, partner with them.
- PROFITS FIRST, PLEASURE LATER: With the enormous profits generated by these partnerships, Escobar was soon able to build the regal Hacienda Nápoles for several million dollars. According to Frontline, this luxury house contained a zoo, a lake, a sculpture garden, a private bullring, and other diversions for his family and the cartel.
Lesson: You must understand that business comes first before any other thing. Don’t go around flaunting a flashy lifestyle on social media when you haven’t put in the work.
- THE ROBIN HOOD
Escobar was a hero to many of the people in Medellín. A natural at public relations, he quickly rose to influential political ranks in 1982. He was also responsible for the construction of houses and football fields in western Colombia, which gained him popularity among the poor. His Robin Hood image grew so strong that some people from Medellín often helped Escobar avoid police capture by serving as lookouts, hiding information from authorities, or doing whatever else they could to protect him. The lesson to be learned is that Escobar valued the place of loyalty to his roots. You should never forget your days of little beginnings and those that helped you rise to the top. This loyalty ensures that you have a solid local support base.
- THE GODFATHER
Smuggling 15 tons of cocaine per day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States, the cartel spent over US$1000 per week purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash, storing most of it in their warehouses. Ten percent (10%) of the cash had to be written off per year because of “spoilage”, due to rats creeping in and nibbling on the bills they could reach. (Escobar, 2009). Escobar was obviously a badass at what he did that he inherited the nickname “the Godfather”. Do you want to be successful in business? Be a badass too. Become the thought leader, the go-to guy, the trendsetter. Heck, become the Escobar of your field! (using the good aspects though, *wink*).