Coming off their 4th straight Emmy for “Best Drama,” Mad Men is as hot as ever despite not having one new episode in 2011. Mad Men also happens to be my favorite show, as I’m sure many of you share that sentiment. I’m continuously in awe of the style and work they portray, but those take-aways have been covered over and over again. I wanted to take a different angle and share the 5 entrepreneurial lessons I’ve learned from the best show on TV…
Fresh Perspective is a must
Creativity is the backbone of both Mad Men the show and the its characters. 1960’s advertising was known as the creative era in advertising and with that, fresh perspectives are everything. There are many instances where two of the show’s main characters Peggy Olsen and Pete Campbell use their youth and fresh perspective to their advantage and gain a competitive edge over their co-workers who carry years of experience in the industry and are entrenched in old habits and pre-existing misconceptions on the world around them.
As entrepreneurs, we need to keep in mind that a fresh perspective is everything. It keeps us nimble and moving forward even when we think every angle has been exhausted. Fresh perspectives keep our businesses and products innovative as the years and months pass, which is growing more and more important as our technology and products are being updated at a higher frequency than ever before.
Own your style
Don Draper and the Mad Men crew have a distinct style of dressing and lifestyle that many of us love despite their major flaws. I’ve been able to pull a lot more from their way of living and working than just how to dress or mix a strong morning drink. By watching Don Draper work and live a controversial lifestyle, I’ve learned that you have to own your style. Don doesn’t conform to anybody else’s standards nor conducts business under other people’s rules.
That’s an edge that us entrepreneur’s have to keep. We all have a distinct style of being an entrepreneur, and to conform or lost our unique entrepreneurial identity would kill the fire and passion that keeps us pushing forward and believing in the course that we have decided to take. You have to own your way of doing things because if you lose your identity as an entrepreneur, your business will soon follow.
Performance is the bottom line
The second half of season three spends a lot of time focusing on the professional relationship between Don Draper and Conrad Hilton. Clearly this is a meeting of two incredible minds and looks like a match made in heaven. However, you can see that there is always friction between the two and their ideals of business. That friction and their eventual parting of ways was a prime example that despite talent and relationship, the ability to perform the exact way your client or partner wants is the bottom line.
This is something we can all take away even if we stray away from the entrepreneurial route. Performance is eventually the bottom line. Promise, relationships, and personalities are all great and important stepping-stones to a thriving career, but in the end it all comes down to if you can perform for those that are demanding your services.
There are many instances in Mad Men where Don Draper and co. go for broke and risk it all. Those instances also happen to be some of the best episodes. There was the end of season 3 where they packed up the office over night and created a new agency in a weekend and there was the episode where they compete for Honda’s business and risk the account by not participating in the assignment. Both moves paid off and showed a confidence and mindset that all entrepreneurs need.
Entrepreneurs need to be adrenaline junkies. They need to take risks throughout their career; otherwise innovation is absent. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail; all that matters is when you learn from your failures and succeed.
Blur the lines of perception
One of my favorite characters is Peggy Olsen, the secretary turned Creative genius in Mad Men. From the get-go, Peggy saw an opportunity and started making her way towards taking it. She did so by blurring the lines of perception and ditching the pre conceived notion of women in the work place. You’ll notice that she wears collared blouses and ensembles that resemble a man’s wardrobe. By doing this, she blurred the perception around her and took an opportunity that wasn’t previously there.
Being a young entrepreneur is exciting, but even the best had to convince others to look past their youth and at a time, lack of experience. Everyone always has a barrier or perception to break through at some point, and the sooner you can blur those lines, the sooner others start believing in you.
If you haven’t watched Mad Men yet, you’re clearly missing out. With all of these lessons in the first four seasons, I can only imagine what the next several seasons have in store. Mad Men leaves me motivated every time I watch it and these lessons have been an integral part in my growth as a social entrepreneur and community manager.
What have you learned from Mad Men? Are there any other shows that you’ve learned a lot of entrepreneur values from?
Harrison Kratz is the Community Manager for MBA@UNC, a top online MBA program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which gives students the opportunity to earn an MBA online from a top ranked business school. He sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, @KratzPR!Subscribe to the Podcast