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'Empire' and 'Scandal' on Entrepreneurship

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 12/10/2015 Daphne Mallory
WOMEN CHEERING © Blend Images - LWA/Dann Tardif via Getty Images WOMEN CHEERING

I have a confession. I wake up early to get business done. The one thing that keeps me awake is not coffee. It's watching episodes of my favorite television shows. While for some this may be distracting, it's the perfect background noise for me. It's infotainment, and it's a creative way to reflect on how I build my business and the decisions I make. Two of my favorites shows are Empire and Scandal.
Empire, which airs on Fox, tackles one of my favorite topics ever: Family Business. For the entrepreneur, the dynamics of starting and growing a business and transferring it to the next generation is a key theme of the show. Lucious and Cookie Lyons are founders of a record label. Cookie goes to prison at some point during the growing years and is eventually released. Lucious wants to take the company public and transfer control to one of his sons. There are three sons, and everyone, including ex-wife Cookie, is fighting for control of the label. In Season 2 (airing now), Cookie attempts to launch a rival record label with two of her sons.
It's clear when watching Empire, that there's more to growing a business than just business. Business books and courses can provide a good foundation, but they won't really teach you "the rules of the game." Can you imagine trying to compete with Lucious relying solely on a business degree or book on building a record label? Do any of those books cover how to handle theft of your artist (or client)? How do you garner loyalty from a son you've alienated? How do you dominate your market when the Internet can be your friend or your foe?
Empire reveals a few truths of what it really takes to win in the music industry. It forces you to think about what you will and will not do for fame and fortune. You're left asking yourself, "What sacrifices am I willing to make to succeed?", "What do I really believe, morally or about who I am?", "What are my business ethics and what won't I comprise?" Those who are prominent in your industry and in your niche have a competitive advantage in that they've answered these questions. They woke up to the reality of their business world and made decisions one way or the other. Empire can be a great tool to assess where you are in business, where you're going, and what you're willing to do (or not do) to get there.
Scandal airs on ABC. It's more subtle than Empire in terms of the business lessons shared, but there are many. Olivia Pope fixes problems for powerful clients (in most cases) including her former boss, the President of the United States. She owns and runs her own crisis management firm, where she employs "unique talent" to help solve problems for her clients. She is at the top of her field, and her team of "gladiators in suits" are loyal to her. They are willing to do anything to serve her, even if it means jeopardizing their own lives, careers or freedom. Why? Making it to the top in any industry requires a loyal and dedicated team. How does she do it?
Olivia's number one rule for her clients is "don't lie to the public." Many entrepreneurs lose their competitive advantage or fail altogether because they lie. They lie about who they are, their intent, the state of their business affairs, their influence and more. It may work for a short while, but at some point ,you will appear inauthentic. Customers and clients do business with people they know, like and trust. If you're not viewed as authentic, you won't succeed in the long term in business.
The rule goes out the window when dealing with her team, whom she lies to often. Yet, they would die for her. Why? The other business lesson of Scandal is that when you are willing to "save others" they are willing to "save you." Members of her team faced dire circumstances before working with Olivia, due to reasons too complicated to explain here. She rescued each of them and offered them a higher purpose and avenue of service. Through their work at the firm, they found meaning to their own lives. They held her secrets and in turn, "saved her" when needed. If you can repeat that formula in your business with your own team, you may find a dedicated few who will remain with you for life.
What are your favorite television shows? What are the hidden (or not so hidden) lessons on entrepreneurship?

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