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Lessons For Success From Mad Men

Now that the new season of AMC's hit TV show Mad Men is over, Elite has decided to put together a list of the most valuable take-away traits that any and every Elite entrepreneur can learn from the show. And why not, right?

Mad Men is an account of the greatest time period in American business: the economy was booming, people were getting rich, Madison Ave execs ran New York, and the alpha male had more power than ever. Without further adieu, here are the greatest entrepreneurial values from the Golden Age of Business, as seen on Mad Men that we need to embrace more in 2012:

Cutthroat is Good

With the emergence of Human Resources and micro-supervision of behavior in the workplace, the purest form of the cutthroat attitude that has created so much success over the years was put to rest. It has now been about 20 years since then, and sure we still see the aftermath of this business culture, but it is not the Ruling Law anymore.

Long before Mad Men, executives and entrepreneurs everywhere called for the restoration of the cut throat mentality, on the basis that it breeds success faster and stronger than does “collaboration” and “teamwork.” Although we took these leaders' words as true, Generation-Y was never able to see the true cutthroat culture in play before Sterling Cooper Ad Agency in Mad Men.

And now we know what everyone is nostalgic for. Enough of this soft, cuddly, teddy bear culture that business has come to embrace. Competition is a good thing and the Elite entrepreneurs always seem to perform best when under pressure or when backed into a corner.

Thank you Mad Men, for showing us what real and effective business culture looks like.

Dress like a Million Bucks

Whether your working at an investment bank or you run a tech-startup, you must always look respectable. That does not mean that you have to have a $3,000 suit for each day of the week, but depending on what industry you are in, you must dress to the relevant style and always look clean.

Especially for startups in Silicon Valley, the temptation is there to come into work in your pajamas. Please don't. No one respects the guy in pajamas or sweat pants, regardless of what industry you are in.

For important meetings or presentations in any industry, however, you must dress to the status you dream of being at. If that dream position is a startup-turned-Fortune 500 CEO, then dress like a sharp Steve Jobs. Each case is different for everyone, but it is critical to always look good (and when in doubt: overdress, never underdress).

You are Better than Everyone else

In 2012, society frowns upon those confident, no-one-can-beat-me attitude-embracing businessmen. It is such a shame, too. Suppressing a mentality such as this is like castrating a man. This is another attitude that we had the privilege of seeing in Mad Men that must be restored in American business.

Earned Respect vs. Expected Respect

In Mad Men, the company's highest earners had respect only for those who are the most ambitious, power-hungry, and talented. Today, leaders are forced to treat everyone as equals, which again, does a disservice to our business culture. Our society has become too sensitive to gender and racial issues which has spawned affirmative action and quota hiring and promoting.

We need to restore the meritocracy in the workplace – where only the most talented get the job and you are promoted based on your performance alone. Generation-Y should have to earn the respect of our superiors and elders and we should never want to be coddled.

First to Arrive, Last to Leave

Coinciding with implementing a meritocracy, good ol' fashioned hard work also needs to be restored. Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the other partners were always the first ones to get to the office. They were not always the last to leave, but they probably were at the beginning of their careers. Once they got successful, they could let their employees stay late for them. If you're still climbing the success ladder and you haven't reached the top yet like these guys on Mad Men, you should be the last to leave.

Generation-Y needs to be reminded that hard work and dedication is how you establish yourself as Elite in any facet of business. Forget overtime laws and other regulations, prove yourself as hungrier than all others and you will be rewarded.

Entertain Clients

Being likeable is one of the most underrated qualities when discussing secrets to success. Every business requires you to entertain clients, win business, or at least collaborate with your colleagues. Being liked is half the battle to succeeding in this regard.

Roger Sterling is the best example of this. He was always scanning the room – taking mental notes – so he knew whom he had to impress and how he was going to do it. Every client fell in love with him and he made himself indispensible to the firm. Learn from people like this.

Use the Alpha Mentality to Succeed

This point is tied to all other points made before. The Alpha mentality is critical to success in business. It may appear that this behavior and outlook on life are no longer embraced in the workplace. And you may be right in some regards. But it will still be as effective as ever at establishing yourself and reaching a level of success that others can only dream of.

In fact, it may be even more affective than times past because less people are utilizing the Alpha mentality. Remember, you only eat what you kill. There is no way around that when on the path to greatness. Sure, in 2012 you can have job stability without the Alpha mentality (which in times past that would not be the case), but that is not what you should aspire to.

If you want the best, then go get it. Do what is necessary and don't be distracted by the flawed business practices of 2012. What do Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and your company's CEO all have in common? They all embraced the Alpha mentality in order to succeed and you should too.

Elite.

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Ryan Babikian

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