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business | November 28, 2018

What Business Lesson Can We Learn from a Drug Lord?

Business, Entrepreneur, InnovationI’m not saying we can learn business lessons from a fictional drug lord like Tony Montana in Scarface; but what about the real “God Father” of Mexico, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo?

He is the subject of a new Netflix Original Film that covers the rise and fall of Felix Gallardo as he creates the first ever Mexican Cartel.

Gallardo made three critical business moves that helped him rise to the top of a criminal empire and we can learn from them!

Take Advantage of Chaos

As the series starts the current kingpins of Sinaloa have just undergone a devastating raid by the Mexican Government as they have had nearly all of their marijuana and opium fields burned. Felix Gallardo steps up to offer the way forward for the Sinaloa Cartel by proposing they move to Guadalajara, partner with the cartel and begin growing their product in the desert. As the current Sinaloa Boss doesn’t have much to lose he blesses the venture and send Felix on his way.

Of course, the cunning Felix already knew the Cartel in Guadalajara wouldn’t want to ‘share’ or ‘partner’ with the Sinaloa’s in their hour of need, so he took out the leaders of that family!

One of the ways to get ahead in the Business world is to seize the opportunity when change takes place. One of the great creators of opportunity, when it comes to client acquisition and business growth, is a major change agent like the Y2K issue or when Microsoft ends support on a major product. In addition, when there is major change afoot within a company it can create an opportunity for upstarts to rise in power, like Felix did!

Start with Innovation

Of course, after Gallardo took control of the Guadalajara drug market he had a plan to build an Empire based on major change, the development of a new strain of marijuana “sinsemilla” (without seeds). This is the type of seismic change that helped Ford take over the auto market, McDonalds create the fast food industry and Elon Musk create the wildly successful electric car company called Tesla.

This is one of the biggest takeaways from Felix’s creation of the first Mexican Cartel and that is to always start with change if you want to go big!

Find Strategic Partners

Immediately, after taking out the competition in Guadalajara Gallardo, he sought out to partner with the powerful DFS secret police force in Mexico. This was a powerful ally that could in effect bless their criminal enterprise and protect them from law enforcement. Later Gallardo successfully worked to partner with an even more powerful ally, the political class itself!

The business lesson here is that if you want to create a unicorn startup like Apple, Tesla or Uber then you’re going to have to find strategic partners to set your growth on fire!


Felix Gallardo was no ignorant farmer but rather proved to be a savvy business man that built the first drug cartel in Mexico using three powerful strategies. He took advantage of chaos, started with change and looked for strategic partners. While his business was criminal and nefarious in nature we can still extract these three business principals and use them as an example for how to build and grow legal business empire!

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