Last week the TV series “Breaking Bad” wrapped up with its final episode, which featured one brief scene that most people probably did not really notice, but that struck me, as a family business advisor.

The show revolves around former high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who ends up becoming one of the biggest suppliers of illegal drugs in the southwestern US, thanks to his ability to “cook” very potent batches of crystal meth.

There are plenty of interesting twists in the plot over the 5 seasons of the show. The finale culminates in predictable fashion, with Walt becoming the subject of an international manhunt, set against his need to take care of some unfinished business before getting caught, succumbing to his cancer, or getting killed.

The show flew under the radar for its first few seasons, since it ran on AMC, a US cable network that could be considered HBO’s poor cousin. I learned about the show as its third season was winding down, thanks to my twitter timeline.

I follow a diverse crowd of people on my personal twitter account, covering sports, business, politics, and entertainment. On Sundays, I started to see tweets from a huge variety of people saying that they could not wait for tonight’s episode of Breaking Bad, or that they were closing down their computers so as not to be distracted during that evening’s show.

From those comments alone, I immediately ordered the DVDs of seasons 1,2, and 3.

I started watching the first season at the cottage, since I am the early bird in the family, and I could watch by myself before the others woke up. I should note that watching a violent show about illegal drugs is not something most people want to do as a family.

The show is addictive, kind of like crystal meth. Just kidding. Although one can assume that meth is also addictive, I am happy to say that I cannot speak from experience on this.

Sometimes my son would wake up early too, and join me in the living room, but I could not stop watching, so I kind of just hoped that he would not really catch on to what was happening on screen. That lasted about 5 minutes. Thankfully there was not a lot of foul language or nudity.

My parenting style is very open, in that just about anything that can be shared, is shared. The important part is that when it is shared, it is also explained. There are plenty of teaching moments in Breaking Bad, but you need to pause pretty often.

The Family Business angle that I mentioned earlier came when Walt went to see his wife one last time, and he started to repeat his old line about why he did everything he did. She interrupts him and says she can’t stand to hear him say it was for the kids.

Then Walt does something that too few famiy entrepreneurs ever do. He admitted that he did it for HIMSELF. He surprised me (pleasantly) by saying that he loved the power that he had, and that it made him feel good.

How many business people do you know that SAY they are doing it for their kids? How many of their kids would say, “What? He never asked me what I wanted”?

Walt brought his wife into the business, in order to launder all of the money he made, thanks to the success of his meth cooking. But Walter Junior did not learn of his real business until the end, and he was not exactly proud of his Dad.

My advice is to keep any family business on the right side of the law, but also to acknowledge for whom you are doing it. If it really IS for the kids, maybe you could ask for their input!

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.