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The Walter White Guide to Retirement

When I do speaking engagements, I often cite the mild manner chemistry teacher, Walter White a.k.a. Heisenberg when I speak of thinking about retirement and the valuation of your company. Of course, I cite the fictional character as one who has a dangerous plan to care for his family, but there are many things we can take away from his bad example.

The main character of the show “Breaking Bad” is diagnosed with Stage 3A inoperable lung cancer and this brings one immediate urgent need and one future one. The imminent need is of course to undergo expensive treatment to stay alive. The 5-year survival rate of stage 3A lung cancer is 14%, which reveals the need to plan for the future of his family.

Are You Really Living?

If you only had 5 years left to live, what would you do? Some are stuck in jobs they hate or work in a field they find a chore. One year ago, I was stuck at a full time job, or should I say imprisoned, chained to a desk managing a team of people. I would come home physically and emotionally drained. I wasn’t working in my natural flow. What is natural flow? A member of my Mastermind group asked me: “What is it that you do where time just flies by?” The answer came quickly: “Speaking at events and writing.” Here I am, one year later speaking at conferences throughout North America and soon the UK and writing more then ever. For Walter White, his decisions were propulsed by his situation.

What is stopping you from doing what you love?
Are you truly fulfilled with your life now?

Find Your Natural Genius

Walter was good at Chemistry and he turned his hobby into a very lucrative business. The one thing about doing something you love is that you don’t perceive it as work. If you have to spend 12 hours a day working at something you love, it won’t feel like work. There is something that happens when you are in your natural flow; you produce excellence. Walter was in his element (pardon the pun) when he was in his lab, creating the 99.1% pure “Blue Sky” that became popular with his clients.

A big part of what I do when I work with business owners is helping them find what is their dominant genius. I took the Wealth Dynamics test and it discovered that I was a Creator (Dynamo). It showed me where I had a natural flow, but more importantly, what areas I should avoid. You can take the Wealth Dynamics Test here or simply take the free Genius Test.

Walter needed someone to complement his natural talent. Jesse Pinkman took care of many aspects of the business that Walter simply wasn’t good at, such as distribution. As the business grew, Walter needed help from Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut to take care of the more dangerous jobs.

The lesson is to surround yourself with people who can do what you should avoid. As a creator for instance, I thrive when I create and can easily get distracted by new projects and tend not finish current ones. With that knowledge, I can surround myself with people who will keep me on track, and let me work in my natural genius. This can only lead to increasing the value I bring to the company.

What is your genius?
What kind of people do you need to surround yourself with to let you stay in your natural flow?

Bootstrapping

Walter and Pinkman did not wait to have the perfect lab to start their business. They used whatever means necessary to start, which turned out to be a hollowed out motor home. If we decide to start a new business, it’s important to start, regardless of perfect conditions. There will never be perfect conditions, so this is often the excuse for the lack of execution. Start small, and as you grow, you can improve your situation. Walter was offered a state of the art lab under the laundry mat through a strategic partnership, but would never have been able to get that partnership in the first place if he waiting around, building his perfect lab. Get your product or service out with any means you have.

With my clients, we often do reverse bootstrapping, the process of eliminating expenses that are not necessary. Simplifying the infrastructure costs will not only increase profits, but will reduce much of the stress.

When I ran my company out of Mexico for 5 years, I had to simplify and work smarter, not harder. I took a company that was bleeding financially with high infrastructure costs to a very profitable company in a very short amount of time.

What can you do in your company to reduce costs and simplify procedures?
Is growth the answer or will it just increase stress and expenses?

Strategic Partnerships

Walter White would not had to deal with the problem of hiding massive amounts of cash if he focused on doing everything himself. He progressively found strategic partners to grow the business, not having to do it all himself. Gus Fring was able to take the business to the next level. Although all of the partnerships that Walter established along his short career ended up trying to kill him, one would hope that your business partners are not part of the seedy underworld, so you should be just fine.

A good partner can really boost the valuation of your company. A strategic partnership can be used if you want to slowly leave the company and walk away with cash or receive ongoing royalties. The lesson from Walter is that there needs to be a right fit. Walter could have sold the formula to Gus and walked away with a pile of cash, but chose a different path. Regardless of your path, the important thing to remember is that things can easily go wrong in a partnership even with the best of intentions. Make sure you have legal help to clearly define everything, including the exit strategy and this will go a long way towards avoiding disagreements and conflict. Just don’t call Saul!

Is there someone or another company that you could partner with to increase your valuation?
Do you have companies that offer complimentary services that don’t conflict with yours that would be agreeable to work together?

Family Matters

Walter loves his family, but unfortunately put them in a dangerous position. His efforts to build up wealth ended up hurting the marriage and caused much disaccord. Are we sacrificing our time and energy solely for the business, thinking that we can make up for our absence with gifts and luxuries? Walter needed balance and needed to realize that money is a dangerous master. For many, the more they make, the more they spend, thus simply creating a bigger need.

When we are at our season finale, will we look back and wish we worked more?
How can we make sure we balance our time with work and family?

Comfort Zone

Probably the greatest lesson we can learn is that one needs to get out of their comfort zone to excel. Remember yourself as a kid, scared to go on the big roller coaster. What happened once your conquered that fear? “Again! Again!” you yelled, no longer bound by fears. Walter got out of his comfort zone of the classroom and created quite the little empire for himself. Now, I am not advocating anyone to buy an old Winnebago and start an illegal business…but when thinking about creating a legacy or a nest egg for your retirement, how can you break past your own comfort zone to achieve greater success?

Here is a test where you can measure your own comfort zone.

True Retirement

As entrepreneurs, I don’t think we ever envision ourselves not working. Can we create a situation where our company is so well organized that it can survive with minimal work on our part? Could Walter spend one day a week cooking, spending the rest of his time with family and friends and occasionally giving his wife a break by checking up on the business? This is assuming he is cured from his illness and his business partners are not out to get him of course.

Do you have a plan to have a self-sufficient business that will give you the time you need to spend it with those that matter the most?
Do I have to wait till I’m old to enjoy that kind of lifestyle?

Conclusion

I’m sure there are many other lessons, good and bad, that we can learn from Walter White and his life choices.

What lessons did you learn?
What would you do different?
What’s your retirement plan?

Randal Wark
IT Revolution