Business Lessons From Empire

March 31, 2015

The image of an African American mogul building an enviable music empire might call to mind Sean "Puffy" Combs, Russell Simmons or Jay-Z, but it's also the fictional treatment in the smash hit show Empire. And like another fictional treatment of entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley, it has a number of valuable lessons for business embedded within its dramatic story arc. Read on for business lessons from Empire. 

Carpe Diem

Photo: FOX Television

The boss Lucious Lyon, played by Terrance Howard, comes to a turning point when he learns he has ALS and a bleak prognosis. Thus is the dramatic engine to begin sorting out the family dynamics that will allow him a powerful legacy -- and his earnest desire to live as though the clock is ticking, because it is. 

Many would-be entrepreneurs get caught up with getting everything right before they start their own business. Don't worry -- millions of Americans have successfully made the transition from 9-to-5 to the world of entrepreneurship, and they are out there with lessons to help show you the way.

It can be a lonely, challenging road. But with a little mental preparation, your journey will be a lot easier.

Here's how to make a plan to make the leap!

Choose Your Partners Carefully

Photo: FOX Television

Much of Empire's drama centers around the entrance of Cookie, Lucious' wife who has been serving a long prison term. 

So long as their are stories of meteoric business success, so to will there be stories of despicable back-stabbing, revenge and long-held grudges. For evidence, just check out these spine-tingling entrepreneur horror stories. 


Embrace Change

Photo: Fox Television

In Episode 1, Lucious acknowledges how much the Internet has changed the business as he prepares his company to go public on the stock exchange. 

Digital media has completely changed the way many entrepreneurs do business. For example: 

  • You might use Twitter to establish your expertise
  • Facebook ads are targetable and help to grow your reach
  • Blogging will keep visitors coming back to your site again and again
  • Emerging networks like Vine, Instagram and Tumblr can help you make your mark

But how do you stay on top of all of the opportunities out there? Here are our tips on using social media to grow your business. 

See the End From the Beginning

Photo: FOX television

It's hard to see the end of your business when you start it, but Lucious' dilemma highlights a critical understanding that all entrepreneurs must come to: what happens to your business when you're gone? 

The final portion of your business plan outlines your exit strategy. It may seem odd to develop a strategy this soon to leave your business, but potential investors will want to know your long-term plans. 

Choose the Right Man (or Woman) for the Job

Photo: FOX Television

Luscious' devastating diagnosis sets him on a quest to decide which of his three sons is right to take over the business. There's Andre, the business school grad who has no particular passion for music, middle-child Jamal, a talented performer nearly disowned by his father for being gay and Hakeem, a young rapper bristling to set himself apart. 

Luscious' dilemma highlights how important it is to surround yourself with the people who will help grow your business. 

Kellee James, Founder and CEO of the commodity trading company Mercaris said that she was so excited to get the business off the ground that they hired too quickly. "The self-imposed urgency led me astray. I was pitching prospects on working for the company when I should have been listening to them pitch themselves to me."

Gallerist, entrepreneur and writer Jen Beckman echoed these sentiments in advising new entrepreneurs to focus long-range: "You are constantly thinking about who you are hiring tomorrow but really it makes more sense to think about who you are hiring in three months."