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Frank Lucas – What Business Owners Can Learn From a Drug Dealer

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Frank LucasYou might think of the title is a little controversial, but it’s nevertheless true. Do I got some cool insights for you in this post.

However the title is misleading in one place. In this post I’m not gonna focus on organized crime as a whole, but rather on Frank Lucas who had a drug empire back in the sixties.

Now I don’t do or condone drugs in any form. However I still think that we can learn a few things from Frank.

I got inspired to read more about Frank Lucas after watching the movie American Gangster by Ridley Scott staring Denzel Washington in the leading role.

Frank Lucas the short story

Frank LucasSo the ultra short story is that Frank moved to Harlem in 1946 as a boy. He became the right hand man of the gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson and went to take over the market as Bumpy died.

Frank started importing the drugs directly from Thailand using/bribing army personal to smuggle it out during the Vietnam war.

This enabled him to short cut all the middle men and deliver a high quality product at fraction of the cost.

He eventually got arrested by the authorities and ended up ratting out pretty much everyone turning his 70 years sentence into just 15 years.

Further reading? You can read up on Frank’s life here

Learning points from Frank

So what can we learn from Frank? Well quite a lot I think. If we try to ignore the fact that he dealed drugs and try to focus on the business side of things, I think that there’re a few things that we can take with us when creating our lifestyle businesses.


Frank used something that he called backtracking.

Frank Lucas wanted to be rich—what he called “Donald Trump rich.” He not only believed he could make it big in the drug world, he understood how to do it. He started with the planning. He called it “backtracking.” He would hole himself up in a hotel room, away from any distractions, for a month or two at a time. He would look back on all his past experiences and what he’d learned. Then he’d look forward to the future including every possible detail and the detail of the details, making sure he mentally walked through every step of the operation.


See just how valuable this is? The street thug is strategically working with analyzing his past decisions to plan future ones. And he even gave it a title making it easier for him to let other people know what he was doing.

I think most people could spend some time reflecting over the past to dominate the future.

In Neuro-linguistic Programming we’re also working with something called Strategy Elicitation where we define the actual strategy in a given situation. Read more about this in the link above. Although this does not involve spending months in a retreat it is just to show that modern best practices are using techniques like Frank did.

Expectation of Invincibility

Another super cool term Frank invented.

Frank Lucas had what is called an “expectation of invincibility.” He really thought nothing of getting on a plane by himself and traveling half way around the world to Thailand. He knew little about the country, and didn’t speak the language. Yet, he was engaging in one of the most deadly occupations imaginable—international drug trafficking.


Basically Frank didn’t think too much over the consequences of his actions. He wanted something and he tool bold action. While this can also border to recklessness I feel that most people today act too much out of fear of the future.

If we all invincible how would our actions change? If we weren’t afraid to lose our home wouldn’t it be easier to start your own business?

Maybe it was because of who he were. A young colored man without much money at the time. He simply didn’t have too much to lose. But we see this pattern all through his career. The moment that there is a problem with the shipments from Thailand, he puts himself on a plane and go out there. Jungle or no jungle.


In a time where the term branding was very young here was a drug dealer with an education on the streets who saw the gain in creating a strong brand for his product.

His brand was “Blue Magic” and people knew that it was only very pure quality goods. There is actually a scene in the movie where Frank talks with a guy who’s “cutting” the product to earn more (mixing it with a cheaper substance). And let’s just say that Frank is not that happy.

He understood the importance of a strong brand. It is also because of branding issues that I recently changed my blog to a new domain.

Go directly to the manufacturer to get the best price

Even if it means you need to get your ass on a plane and hustle it yourself
Frank went to Thailand himself to find the manufacturers of his product. In the end it resulted in him taking most of the market because he could supply a better product at a lower price.

If you know the balla guys Dan & Ian of the Lifestyle Business Podcast you know that they advocates hustling as well and Ian did travel to Shenzhen (China) for 30 days to find the provider of a certain product they wanted to import to the US.

So there you have it. You can still learn from people you might not look up to!

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7 Responses to Frank Lucas – What Business Owners Can Learn From a Drug Dealer

  1. Andreé says:

    There is always something to be learned from any and everyone, we just have to let go of our egos.

  2. michael says:

    Once I Saw this movie it got me to thinking about how I need to really to do some backtracking. Taking the time to walk through all the steps may seem like it wills take up a lot of time. We usually say I worry about that when the time comes.but taking time to backtrack will save time down the road. Good post keep up the good job. Your info has already changed my life.

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