users image
Steve Dhillon
Feb. 12, 2018

Pablo Escobar: Worlds #1 Entrepreneur

I grew up watching the classic films; Goodfellas, Casino, Scarface, Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way… The list is endless and all full of awe-inspiring characters (well to me anyway!); Henry Hill, Tommy Devito, Tony Montana, Joe Pistone, Carlito Brigante.

Most of them had one thing in common, they took direction from more successful men further up the ladder, be it; Paulie Cicero, Remo, Sonny Black. They were happy in that way. Perhaps Donnie Brasco was the odd one out as he worked for the FBI and infiltrated the Bonanno, crime family.

On the point of Donnie Brasco, the bit that really stuck with me was the part in the end when he was handed a cheque for $500 and a medal. Woopdeedoo! And that for having sacrificed his family, his life, freedom and literally giving sweat, blood and toil. The look on his face. I remember thinking man, that’ll never be me. I want to be REALLY rewarded for my efforts.

Tony Montana of course, took control of his own destiny. He quickly realised the limitations of working under Frank Lopez. ‘The World is Yours’ as the statue reading on his fountain displayed. He was his very much his own man.

As influential and to a degree successful as these characters were, these are just films, be it some based on real life. However, none of them was a patch on Pablo Escobar.


Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord; his cartel supplied over 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States alone, turning over $22 billion a year in personal income. He was perhaps the worlds #1 entrepreneur and probably #1 recruitment consultant too.
Recruitment? Well, technically yes, after all, he took personal responsibility for effectively recruiting everyone from the top down into his organisation, right down to the pilots delivering his goods. He never worked with anyone he didn’t trust implicitly and enabling the right individuals to have the right level of responsibility/ownership.

Instilling the right values. It was a case that, “The problem was never a matter of money, it was a matter of dignity”. How can anyone know what you’re about if you do not know yourself?

Pablo, as with all of the other characters mentioned earlier also had a tremendous amount of self-confidence. All entrepreneurs tend to encounter problems along their chosen path. He never let that derail his objectives nor confuse him. Confidence in itself is a law of attraction. All startups will encounter bad times. It’s inevitable. Such is life. However, if you have a real groundbreaking vision, your closest and most trusted will never desert you. Pablo was known to say, “Only those who went hungry with me and stood by me when I went through a bad time will eat at my table”. A table that would serve $60m a day at its height.

Most of us out there with a big vision do not always have the resources or knowledge to fulfil it. Neither did Pablo. Did that stop him? Did it heck! He simply built strategic partnerships and cooperated with his ‘competitors’. Thus he was able to actually strengthen operations and thereby earn much more than he initially would have.

He thought outside the box as all startups that become great are required to do.
Admittedly Pablo had a passion for what he did. Well, let’s face it, you’d have to have in that industry! The rewards are big but so are the sacrifices. However, if you get it right, then it doesn’t have to be that a drug smuggling operation is the only route to success. Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates would all testify to that.

Most of the super successful entrepreneurs operate in an industry they have a passion for. They live and breathe their business. Working from the ground up. Doing their time — so to speak. Like Pablo, their unmitigated success is coupled with knowing when to expand operations to make the most of gaps in the market and refine a product/service that is hands down better than everyone else’s.

Some of that is coupled with luck. Knowing the right people, bringing the right personnel in, understanding the best times to maximise opportunities, and strengthening your weakest links. As the saying goes, ‘the harder we work, the luckier we become’. He was as dedicated as they come.

I firmly believe if Pablo Escobar were a startup founder in today’s digital age he would have annihilated the startup industry.

After all, somewhat similar to Interflora, he regarded himself as “a decent man who exported flowers”. Well, there you go!

The world was his oyster. Just as much as it is now ours.

read more

April 11, 2018
Friends that are like family, family that are like friends

Difrent's CEO, Rachel Murphy, talks about turning 40 with friends and family

May 22, 2018
Can I get an ounce?

It could read like a shopping list. A well thought out list that you do before you hit the shop.

April 3, 2018
WTF is Digital: Part 3. Innovation & Agility

Keeping nimble, agile and continuously innovating are often the thing of fantasies for many organisations.