Lessons from the drug trade, and other entrepreneurial tips


One of the important lessons in entrepreneurship is to figure out your goal: Do you want to run a small business forever? Grow into a multinational corporation? Or do you want to sell as fast as possible? Your business should fit your personality and your vision for your life.

New York magazine profiles a drug dealer trying to find an exit strategy for his mid-size company. Which sells cocaine, of course. Believe it or not, there’s a market for drug dealerships. And you can tell this guy is an overachiever in the business world because he keeps his client list on an Excel spreadsheet.

Here’s how he explains his plan: “The rule in any business is that you don’t sell your company for what it makes in a year, but for what it makes in two or three or four years, right? Well in my business, you can’t do that. Someone gets arrested and — boom– it’s over. So you gotta sell it based on what you make in, like, six months.”

For those of you who are thinking about entrepreneurship in a less life-threatening product category, try taking Pairwise’s entrepreneurial personality test (scroll down the page to find it). This test tells you if you have the personality similar to other scrappy Internet company founders who Y Combinator has funded.

Y Combinator typically funds young technical-type guys in college or just out of college, (although every time I write this, Y Combinator asks me to say that this is an overstatement and they actually fund a wide range of people.) If you know you are not this type even without taking the test, and you know you can’t stomach the drug trade, there’s still hope.

Current research from the academics says that there is no one personality type for a successful entrepreneur. There are so many ways to be an entrepreneur today that you can create a business to fit your strengths.

10 replies
  1. jim
    jim says:

    Thanks for mentioning that NY Magazine article, I love reading articles about “industries” that are normally shrouded in secrecy (at least most of the time). It was an exceptionally interesting read.

  2. Recruiting Animal
    Recruiting Animal says:

    The first question listed is: "Are you inclined to rely more on improvisation than on careful planning?" Didn’t you tell us your answer last week. (And recommend it for everyone?)

  3. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    The “One Man Drug Company” article is fascinating, thanks for the pointer! That’s one of the things I love about your blog, you have great links. The book I’m reading now, Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner, has a lot of other intriguing details about the business of the drug trade.

  4. Randy Spelling
    Randy Spelling says:

    This really reinforces my belief the addict personality type often makes for a great entrepreneur. For something interesting along these lines, look up the organization ’12 Angels’. They provide micro finance to entrepreneurs in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction.

  5. Treatment Professional
    Treatment Professional says:

    Randy- thank you for this information. I work in addiction treatment and I am going to pass this onto the board. This looks like a fantastic organization- and it is a brilliant idea. Some very capable recovering addicts just need a ‘jumpstart’ and something to work for.

  6. Eric T.
    Eric T. says:


    Great website! I think there are many valuable information and advices here. Along the same line, I came across the following website which I found interesting. Traditionally, personality tests such as MBTI have been used as career aptitude test. However, these tests have a very limited scope as they ignore many important factors such as person’s skills, values, and interests.

    There have been many advancements in the area of career aptitude testing. Usage of artificial intelligence to evaluate suitability of a job for a person is one of the these techniques. You can take a complete version of the MBTI personality test plus many others such as memory, IQ, problem solving, and patience tests in OptYourLife. This website’s expert system tries to find the most suitable career path for you using neural network. Moreover, salary of different careers will be considered in the final analysis to provide a more insightful advice for you:

    http://www.optyourlife [dot] com/


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