Movie BusinessS’all good, man. The things we can learn from Better call Saul

With the final part of Better Call Saul being released on July 12th, we only have 6 episodes left to spend with Saul, Kim, Mike and Gustavo.

For those who don’t know what Better Call Saul is, it’s a spin-off show from Breaking Bad about the character of Saul Goodman. Saul was the kind of lawyer who puts the criminal in Criminal Lawyer. Throughout Breaking Bad, we see him help Walter and Jesse with money laundering problems arising through drug dealing. Better Call Saul is a prequel story showing how Kimmy McGill became Saul Goodman and his descent into the criminal world of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

There’s probably another article we could write about Breaking Bad and trying to grow an empire as Walter/ Heisenberg as he starts out as a founder and then grows into one of the largest drug dealing empires in the area. But I’ll leave that for another time; if you’re interested in that article, let me know in the comments below.

Jimmy McGill has 2 alter ego’s throughout the show. His given name Jimmy is used when he’s trying to be straight and proper, his first alter ego is Slipping Jimmy when he’s being a conman and slightly shady. Then Saul Goodman, a riff on “It’s all good man”, is his Criminal Lawyer name and when he fully commits to his criminal side.

Throughout the six seasons, there are many intertwining storylines, heaps of character development and twists along the way. Instead of trying to pin down specific episodes etc., that show you the blueprint to apply to your business, I thought I’d work off some of the quotes that have stuck with me. These quotes might be slightly out of context without the show, but they can still teach us some great lessons about business and how we should approach our day-to-day.

“A good magician never reveals his secrets.” Jimmy McGill

When thinking about this quote and your business, we can take this quote and apply it through the lens of knowing what you need to say, when you need to say, and in what voice we say it. What I mean by this is that if you were a magician, you would not give away your secrets but have a prepared statement to be said every time someone asks you, “how is it done?”, now this message might be different for the specific audience that’s asking.

This lesson can be followed in meetings as well as in marketing. You need to have rehearsed and suitable messages when talking to your stakeholders, whether it’s a sales meeting, support or marketing message.

“Got to look successful to be successful.” Jimmy McGill

This might be the vainest of all tips and quotes, but it does matter. If your business email ends in compared to a purchased domain, you’re projecting a specific look to the broader world. It’s not just the small things like your email domain but also the content you create and market to the wider world, how your website looks, and how you present yourself to prospective customers.

While they say never judge a book by its cover, most people use aspects of the cover to decide or evaluate what or who they’re interacting with in that specific situation. If we take the email example, you would assume they are a 1-person operator.

“I’m number one on your speed dial, right next to your weed dealer.” – Jimmy McGill

With this quote, we understand that Jimmy makes it easily known that is he available for all his customers, no matter what. He wants to be on speed dial and the first person they call.

While in business, we can’t be available directly 24/7; we do have to put customers first. After all, without them, what business do we have? Now you might be thinking, what is your equivalent to being number one on the speed dial? It means making yourself available by different means such as providing your mobile number, email, a support service to your customers or answering social media comments and DM’s promptly. If you combine all these options, you’re catering to all your customers and providing them with a way to be in touch and reach you when they need to.

To handle the difficulty of a 24/7 contact as long as you make it clear to your customers what the reasonable time to expect a response is and set up auto responders were possible, you won’t have an issue. Having a customer contact you and no answer for 2 days as opposed to an auto-response that says we’ll get back to you within 2 days makes a huge difference to the customer. They know you have a system and will get back to their query instead of silence, which means the query might never be seen.

“Perfection is the enemy of perfectly adequate” Saul Goodman

I take from this quote that perfection is used as an excuse to not deliver. In software development, there’s a quote that I’m instantly reminded of, which is “fuck it, ship it”.

I think they both capture the point in two different ways. Suppose you strive for perfection in whatever you’re making. In that case, your spending effort on the minute details and this will not get you anywhere, in fact, that goal of perfection will stop you from achieving any outcomes or deliverables.

The most important thing, especially in the world of startups, is to get customers and your product/service out the door as soon as possible.

Don’t strive for perfection. Getting things out, whether it is content or product, something out in the market is better than nothing.

If you need another perspective on this issue, I’ll again use the example of software.

Let’s say we have 10 features to develop, but only features 1-5 are absolutely critical to the use of the platform, and without those, the customer sees no value. Features 1 – 5 need to be worked on and released. A person striving for perfection will then aim for features 6 – 10 to be completed at the ultimate level before releasing. But in reality, features 6 – 10 can be left out of the first release; you need to understand that the products customers/end users won’t know what’s not there and will only really care about the parts that provide value. Just because you know everything the system could be and is not in its current state doesn’t mean that’s what your customers understand. Customers only want the value they’re expecting.

“Do good work, and the clients will follow,” – Chuck McGill

This is pretty straightforward and most likely something we’ve heard throughout our working career, but it’s different when you’re a founder starting your own business. You only have so many first impressions you can make with customers and clients before your reputation is tarnished and word of mouth spreads.

When delivering any product your service, you need to provide a quality product and output every time. This is the one thing you should ensure you do and to hang your hat on. If you can’t provide that service, then no matter what you do or how many customers you get, you will only go so far before everything falls over.

You might think to yourself, this is a small customer, so I can cut some corners, but in the long term, those scenarios cost you more time and money. Delivering the same high-quality good work every time will save you a headache in the long term and also ensure you have happy clients.

If you do start to feel this way about a specific client or type of work, remember this, you might as well work for free than for cheap or at a severe discount. The expectations of the free work will be much lower, and the customer will be grateful for your assistance. The customer who is getting a really cheap deal or severe discounts will have the same expectations of delivery as the larger or high-paying customers as they’ve now paid for your service.

Chuck: “Money is beside the point.”

Jimmy: “Money is not besides the point… Money is the point.”

This quote comes from the first episode where Jimmy is arguing with his brother Chuck. If we take this quote out of context as it’s written above, we can see how we can interpret this and align it to business.

If we ignore their argument and focus solely on these two lines, we can now understand how this would apply to any business. Any business exists to earn money. Yours is no exception. We all want to deliver the best product and service, and outcome to all our customers, but we cannot do that at the expense of earning money. Otherwise, we will be out of a job or our business.

Money is the point. However, you don’t sacrifice everything else either. As a startup, you need to be equally mindful of your customer service and value as well as your pricing and ability to earn money. How else will you grow and create a successful business?

There’s no situation where this statement is more pertinent than when you are a founder. As a founder, you’re either bootstrapping your business, having investment or dipping your toes in the water and starting with no backing. In all three of these situations, you need to be able to make every dollar count and ensure that you can use that one dollar to create multiple dollars of value. The more value you can create from that one dollar the better position you and your business will be in.

“My friends, I promise you that together, we will prosper.” — Gus Fring

How do you see the other partners in your industry? Are they your competitors?

If we use Gus Fring’s perspective, they are your prospective partners. While technically, you are competitors and aiming for the same customers. If you position yourself as partners, what could you achieve? What skills can be shared to deliver better outcomes and results to the market?

A solid partnership in business can make a huge difference to your bottom line and, eventually, the market. The right partnership can help you grow, deliver products to a segment you couldn’t service earlier and be able to pitch for projects that were outside of your scope before.

“The fallacy of sunk cost… It’s what gamblers do. They throw good money after bad, thinking they can turn their luck around. It’s like, ‘I’ve already spent this much money or time… whatever. I got to keep going!’ No, there’s no reward at the end of this game.” — Jimmy McGill

I think we’ve all heard of the sunken cost fallacy, the quote explains it pretty well. As a startup, there is nothing more important than your time. How you spend your time will dictate what you can achieve.

As Kenny Rogers says

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away”

With any aspect of your business, you will need to decide where to focus your energy and where to stop focusing it. You may be chasing deals that take months to close or partnerships or customers that are leading nowhere. You might be spending too much time creating content.

You need to know when to stop working on a particular idea, content piece, partnership, customer etc. Your time is limited, and you need to spend it in the right places that will generate revenue, value or return for your business.

When money is tight and you are trying to decide where to focus your energy there is one really tough decision to make that I think most people don’t make, but that is for you to decide what tasks you enjoy doing or are good at and then outsource the other tasks. You might think that spending money on outsourcing is expensive. If you were to have more time to focus on the tasks you are good at and enjoy, how much more progress would you make compared to spending time on the tasks that you don’t enjoy? Those tasks that you don’t enjoy end up taking longer than necessary eating up time that could be spent more productively.

“You know what happened. The question is, can you live with it?” Mike Ehrmantraut

It’s impossible to know if any decision is the right decision at the time of making it. With hindsight, we always know if a choice that was made was correct or incorrect, as they say With hindsight, we’d all do things differently.

In business you will make mistakes, not every decision will move you forward, some will keep you where you are and others will set you back. The real power in making decisions is being able to make them quickly and assess the outcome when you’re able to. When you’ve been able to think about that decision whether it’s good or bad will you be able to live with the choice that was made or will that prevent you from doing what’s necessary to move forward?

As a businessperson, you need to be adaptable and learn from the decisions/actions/mistakes that are made in the business and learn how to leverage those into moments to push forward and move towards the goal. Just as Mike says, you know what has happened but are you able to live with that decision or will it prevent you from moving forward.

“I know what stopped me. And you know what? It’s never stopping me again.” Jimmy McGill

This quote compliments the previous one as it’s another way of interpreting a previous decision that allows you to understand it and move forward with it. There are decisions you make in business that can catapult your business forward or can stop it instantly like a car hitting a brick wall in a crash test.

If you understand the decision that was made, why it was made and with hindsight have more context and information about the issue you would not let that decision stop you again. You cannot dwell on the decisions that don’t work out, or over analyse them with what if’s, that will only drain your energy and suck the life out of yourself and your business. You need to understand them and use each as an opportunity to move your business forward in the direction you need it to.

Another thing we notice within Better Call Saul, if we’re paying attention is his approach to business when starting his own law firm. He starts his prospecting by focusing on the markets that his competitors are neglecting. He starts focusing on the elderly and begins approaching nursing homes to assist them with their wills and other legal issues. While the work is small and not high paying he does it the best he can and delivers for all his clients. While he’s performing his duties and checking the documents and invoices etc at the assisted living facility he identifies a huge case where residents are being overcharged. This case leads to a Class Action lawsuit, that he is unable to handle on his own and partners with his competitors to tackle.

What this teaches us, is that if you’re very specific with your niche and the target market you will be able to get cut-through in that market and make a thriving business. The niche that you focus on will need a targeted message, this can only be done once you understand your niche and your value proposition to them.

Now as we know by now Saul Goodman is a Lawyer and has had to have many years of schooling and life experiences to get to where he is, but it wasn’t as easy for him as it was for his brother. While some of us could draw parallels from the Bar Exam, that lawyers must pass, to other certifications of university exams. We can draw a small parallel between Saul getting certified as a Lawyer to being a startup, he attempted the bar exam several times and failed before he finally passed and got admitted to being a lawyer. This will be a similar story to most founders, there will be several ideas and businesses that you will attempt to launch and some maybe be unsuccessful but you need to dust yourself off and try again. Don’t let your failures stop you from moving forward as we read earlier.

I don’t think I need to describe this one further or create any more analogies, so I’ll end it here with one last quote from Jimmy McGill on his experience with the Bar Exam.

“The bar exam’s a mother. I mean, for me it was. I failed it the first two times, but I guess it’s like losing your virginity, third time’s the charm.” — Jimmy McGill

We at Aerion help, entrepreneurs, first-time startups, and serial founders build better tech, whether is software development, Go To Market Strategy, Funding or monetisation we can help you simplify your next steps. We haven’t seen it all but we have seen most. Your idea could be the next best thing, let us help you get there.

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