15 Business Lessons We Can Learn From The Walking Dead's Negan

AMC's The Walking Dead knows exactly how to evoke emotion. I mean, I know I’m not the only one who’s cried during an episode (or two). But, who knew it could also teach us business lessons?! This season’s villain Negan is said to be the worst the group has encountered thus far. At this point, the group is barely afraid of zombies. Humans are one interesting species. You’d think a common threat would make us band together. But, alas, it just made lawlessness prevail.

Negan is one of those men who probably had zero power in his former life and decided to live it up now that there’s an apocalypse. The man killed fan favorite Glen, for goodness sake! However, no matter how much we loathe him, we must admit he runs a pretty tight ship. Mind you, this man is not what you would call a perfect leader. So, what exactly can Negan teach us about running our businesses more smoothly? Let’s dissect what he does well and what he doesn’t do that well to take our businesses to the next level. Shall we?

Naturally, running a business is no walk in the park. We could use all the help we can get, even if it comes from a super villain. Even solopreneurs work with others at some point. It’s a must to know how to manage a team and build fruitful partnerships. Rick could have also gone under the magnifying glass, but Negan is just so ridiculous that I had to dedicate this whole article to only his antics.

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15 Believe in the art of exchange

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Negan doesn’t just take and take and take without giving you anything in return. He believes in the age-old practice of exchange. You give him a portion of your loot, or become part of his clan and do his evil bidding, and he won’t kill you and/or will give you room and board. The world is all about exchange. You exchange your time for a paycheck. In order for your employees, or team of freelancers, to find exchanging their time worthwhile, there has to be a good incentive. What are you offering your team? Is the income lucrative? How about the company culture? Do you have a cool office space? Unless you want some of your subordinates planning a rebellion against you, make sure it’s a fair exchange. Needless to say, your team should feel like it’s in a safe environment for work to flow effortlessly. Negan’s group definitely feels threatened. Your employees shouldn’t feel like if they make a mistake, they’ll get the bat (I mean boot).

14 Don’t steal

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Ever had a boss pass off your ideas as his/her own? Isn’t that annoying? Have you ever done work under the umbrella of a company and have to sign a non-disclosure agreement so you couldn’t say that you worked on so and so’s project, which, by the way, would look great on your resume? Then, you can somewhat relate to what the people at Negan’s camp are going through. I mean, Negan even steals his people’s wives. That’s just disturbing and cult-like, if you ask me. Celebrate your team’s contributions. Recognize their strengths. Build up their weak points. Make sure they feel valued and supported. All in all, conduct your business with integrity. Now, when it comes to your customers, make sure that everything you create for them is original. Imagine them being so proud of a web page you've created for them, and then them seeing the exact same template elsewhere. Not the best look.

13 Do delegate

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Every one of Negan’s subjects has a duty. Some people are responsible for guarding the camp, others are responsible for torturing people and others collect food and supplies from other groups. The camp functions like a well-oiled machine. As an entrepreneur, you need to figure out the tasks you can handle yourself and the ones that are best to delegate to others. This prevents you from burning out, which would lead to a stressful work environment. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, and determine who should be in charge. Will a team, or a single person, handle the tasks? When building a team, make sure everyone is compatible so you don’t have to play referee. Make sure to equip your team with the tools they need to complete each task, as well. Nothing like being tasked to look for supplies without a car, right? You want to make sure your business runs smoothly lest your team start to think you’re ill-equipped to lead…more on that later.

12 Don’t seek revenge

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Okay, for Negan, it’s not really revenge. To him, the things he does are totally justifiable disciplinary methods. So, as you know if you’re a fan, the group killed a bunch of Negan’s men. So, he killed Abraham with his trusted bat Lucille. Then, when Daryl lost his cool and punched him, he killed Glen (tear), as well, for the sake of principle. To me, this seems a tad excessive. I mean, sure, the team did kill Negan’s men first, but it’s not like they killed any of the regular characters. Anyway, most places have some type of warning system for employees. When I worked in Korea, taped to the wall near my desk, was a warning that said I’d get a warning if I showed up late, etc. I must admit, I rolled my eyes when I first saw it. I dislike threats with a passion. And hey! Maybe I’m the problem for thinking that way. What I’d do instead is make a list of standard procedures and explain why each one is of the utmost importance.

11 Don’t be cruel

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Negan totally disrespects his subordinates. He laughs at them, makes inappropriate jokes and whatever else you can think of. I once had a boss who made a joke about not being able to see me in the dark, since I'm black. When I didn’t laugh, he proceeded to break down the joke to explain why it was funny. Don’t be that person. As entrepreneurs, we network, and you don’t want to get the reputation of being prickly. Don’t make slanderous posts online about your competition. Don’t hire others to do so. Just be decent. Power certainly corrupts, and, as entrepreneurs, we do have some power. We don’t need to answer to anyone but our clients. One thing that people hate is being underestimated. Don't talk down to your workers or assume they don’t know the simplest thing. You want to create a healthy work environment, even if that environment is online. Your employees/freelancers should feel safe to come to you with their problems without fearing ridicule.

10 Have a clear system in place

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In order for your business to run smoothly, you need a system. Negan has a system. You should have one too. I’m a fan of using a planner to break down your goals, monthly and weekly, into daily actionable steps. This way, you can assess if your days have been productive or not. Negan has set days for his team of collectors to visit the camps and collect their supplies. Similarly, you should plan your days (including the tasks you’ll delegate to your time and deadlines). Having a plan enables you to reach your goals with the least amount of stress possible. Does Negan look stressed to you? If you can’t complete everything on the list, don’t fret. Just move any uncompleted tasks to the next day, and perhaps think about how much you put on your plate. Maybe you overestimate the amount of time you have. Plan, work and assess.

9 Reward

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Negan, as messed up as he is, does reward his team. Remember when he said he’d reward Dwight by allowing him to spend the night with his own wife? Rich, I know. You need to reward yourself. Whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a team, you need to make rewards commonplace. Entrepreneurs often work morning to night. That’s a recipe for a burnout. Your reward could be an extra two hours of sleep one day. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to treat yourself. But, if you do have your eyes set on something sparkly, you could have a reward jar. At the end of a week well done, you could put in a certain amount of money. Mind you, this amount shouldn't take away from your responsibilities. At the end of, say, a period of 3 months, calculate just how much money you have and treat yourself, perhaps to your favorite restaurant, a spa or a massage. Live it up!

8 Command respect

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Negan makes his people bow before him. This man is pure rubbish! But, respect is very important. How do you command respect as an entrepreneur? You make sure your online identity is spotless. Let me break that down. The pictures of you circulating the net are in line with your brand. You have consistent social media profiles. You have an amazing product or service, and you never disappoint your client. You are an expert in your field, and you keep abreast of recent developments. You’re always learning. That’s how you command respect. Knowing your stuff and over-delivering. You also command respect by the way you communicate. Some people are against cursing. But, if it’s a part of your brand, by all means, do it. But, do speak to people with respect. Yes, even when responding to internet trolls - if you choose to respond to them. I would also say to invest time in working on your speaking skills. Who knows? You could get booked to speak at an event for big bucks!

7 Conquer

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Negan is basically conquering the land, getting people to join his group and forcing already established groups to give him a portion of their food and supplies. He’s establishing a kingdom. How can you make yourself known? First, determine to whom you’d like to make yourself known. You should know your target audience like the back of your hand. What are their problems? Create a product or service that would solve them. Determine how your audience would want to be marketed to. What words would trigger a positive reaction? You should have online profiles, a content marketing strategy, and go to networking events. All that. You could also reach out to respected professionals in your field and collaborate. This will expand your reach. Enlisting the help of influencers in your niche, to promote your products and services, will also do the same. Your plan to conquer your industry should also be broken down into tangible daily steps.

6 Put in the work

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Negan arguably dedicated time to putting in place a system that worked. Now, all he does is walk around with his bat, beat people with said bat, and burn people’s faces with an iron. He definitely read the book The 4-Hour Workweek before the apocalypse. If you own a service-based business, this may be more difficult. Still, you can decide how many clients you’d like to take, in a month/year, and price yourself accordingly. You could even hire freelancers to work alongside you to lighten your load. As entrepreneurs, we love freedom, right? So, maintaining a work-life balance is a priority. Sure, at the beginning, we’ll have to dedicate time to setting up a solid foundation. But, more free time (and therefore a higher hourly wage) should be one of your goals. If you have a product-based business, a lot of your time at the beginning will be spent creating the product. Be sure to choose a platform that’ll make transactions a breeze.

5 Build the life you want

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I mean, Negan has a million partners. Isn’t that every cult leader’s dream? What type of life would you like to live? Owning a business won’t make all of your troubles disappear. But, being an entrepreneur offers you more freedom in regards to the type of life you’d like to live. For example, if travel is a priority for you, setting up an online business would be a better choice. If you want to have a lot of free time, perhaps opting for a product-based business would be a great choice. You also have to take into consideration the money you have to invest into your business at the beginning. Perhaps, first starting with services would be a good idea, if you don’t have that much money to put in. This is also a great option if you really desire to be in constant communication with people, as the entrepreneurial life can get rather lonely.

4 Determine what you’d want to be known for

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Negan wants to be feared. He wants to be known as the man who is emotionally unstable with an odd sense of humor. That’s how he maintains control. Your turn! What do you want your audience to think about when they hear your name or that of your company? That should be reflected in your messaging and online profiles. Remember, as previously mentioned, you have to be consistent. You can’t portray yourself to be all about self-love and then pull a Negan. You can’t say you’re all about respect and then spread malicious content on the web about your competitors or audience members who disagree with you. In this day and age, there are such things as receipts, and people take screenshots, so don’t get caught in the act being anything other than in line with your brand. When choosing others with whom to collaborate, make sure they have similar brand personalities. Once again, your audience would be upset if your self-loving brand paired up with a brand that is known for saying vile things.

3 Don’t focus on destroying the competition

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Negan really placed a focus on breaking Rick, who is the leader of the show. He told him he’d kill members of his group if he didn’t chop off his son’s arm. When Rick lifted his arm (ugly crying), axe in hand, begging not to have to harm his son, Negan told him to stop. He really just wanted to instil fear in the man and let him know who was the new boss. It worked. So, all that said, don’t do that. It’s great to know what your competitors are up to and to keep abreast of current industry trends. But, I’m a fan of staying in your lane. I’m all for smart expansion, though. Any new product or service you add should be to the benefit of your target audience in mind. Destroying the competition shouldn’t be your end goal. There are so many famous Instagram poets, for example, who cater to similar audiences. But, each has his/her own special je-ne-sais-quoi. Focus first on determining who your audience is and serving them well.

2 Understand that your affiliates represent you

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As if this man couldn’t get more narcissistic, he makes his group call themselves Negan. He tried breaking Daryl by making him call himself Negan, too. But, Daryl said, “not today, Satan,” or something along those lines. No, I’m not saying that the people who work with you should call themselves by your name. But, you should understand that the people you work with can boost or ruin your image. I’m sure you know the saying, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are.” The same rings true for business associates. Choose your associates wisely. Determine your company values and associate yourself with people who share them, too. The last thing you want is to get bombarded with comments or emails from your once-loyal fans about so and so with whom you’re affiliated. Then you’ll have to issue an apology when you could have been focusing on making money!

1 Dress the part

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Most of the time, Negan sports a leather jacket and totes Lucille. Both items fit his persona perfectly. I’d argue that if he wore a cardigan and a bow tie, no one would take him seriously as a badass. What does your brand stand for? Whatever your brand personality is, your clothes should complement it. Let’s say you own your own accounting practice. And you want to have spiky blue hair. That’s fine. Make sure you explain why you look the way you do in your branding. Let me explain. Blue hair and accounting usually don’t go hand in hand. So, if your average person is doing a Google search, and they stumble upon your site, and it's filled with dry accounting mumbo jumbo (no offense), they may not take you seriously. But, if you brand yourself as the fun, new, badass accountant on the block, and your content reflects that, you’ll draw in the right crowd. As with all things, be strategic.

So there you have it, folks. 15 business lessons we can learn from The Walking Dead’s Negan. Who else is super excited for the show’s return?! Let me know the business lesson(s) that resonated with you the most. How will you apply them to your business?

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