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What accountants can learn from Breaking Bad

20th Sep 2013
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Over the summer I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the first four seasons of US television crime drama ‘Breaking Bad’ and it occurred to me that accountants could pick up a few pointers from protagonist Walter White.

As the programme approaches the grand finale in the states, UK viewers still have time to get up to speed on the rollercoaster which has seen White transform from a mild mannered chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer to methamphetamine kingpin.

I must make it clear that I don’t see the show as a source of creativity or 'way of life', but there are some business lessons to take away from Walt’s activities.

His early ‘trial and error’ approach to breaking into a new market results in Walt making a lot of mistakes, but he doesn’t make the same mistake twice and moves on to new ventures.

One of the main lessons I took away from Walt is to follow your passion.

White is an exceptional chemist, but had he not dropped out of a former business right before the company hit the big time, he may not have had to resort to cooking meth to safeguard his family.

If you believe in your vision and you’ve followed your passion you should hang in there.

Another key lesson is being careful who you do business with. Following a number of near death run-ins with local drug dealers, Walt took his product to a new level with Gus Fring.

However while Gus seemed careful and professional at first, the relationship ends disastrously.

Perhaps one of the greatest business growth lessons from the show is about hiring the right people to do the job.

Despite all the mistakes Walt makes with his business, one of his successes is finding former student and loyal lab partner Jesse Pinkman. Even though Jesse is a recovering (and sometimes active) meth head, he is a lot smarter than he appears.

The importance of making sound financial decisions also features prominently in the show, and Walt doesn’t always make the best choices to grow his business.

He eventually hands over the money laundering aspect to his bookkeeper wife Skyler to deal with. She has to deal with more than one ethical decision when faced with signing off on dodgy company accounts and the dilemma of having to launder hundreds of thousands of drug dollars every week.

Amid the gripping storylines in the coming weeks of the final series, the show could help you avoid some of the common pitfalls in your own business or practice.


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Red Leader
By Red Leader
23rd Sep 2013 10:18

nit picking

When Skyler was the bookkeeper for the dodgy businessman, the plot was that he was hiding income in order to pay less tax.

However, Skyler "discovered" this fact by realising that there were unrecoverable debts on the books. That would be hiding expenses, not sales.

Maybe what was needed was a red button or extra features where we could access the financial statements of the business!


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By Tkwhitehouse
26th Sep 2013 19:08

I remember it being a bit confused but

I thought he was trying to inflate his sales (and profits) to stop the bank closing the company down.

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