Five Surprisingly Good Business Lessons We Can Learn From Tiger King

It can often seem like our world is divided. On-demand music, movies, and television allow us to choose our own new obsessions and delve deep into niches our peers haven’t yet discovered. Once in a while, though, a singular song, film, or show brings us all together for a brief moment. The most recent example of this happening is the Tiger King series on Netflix. During such uncertain times, it’s refreshing to get caught up in the zeitgeist.

The show’s tagline Murder, Mayhem and Madness only begins to describe the unbelievable docu-series about big cat collectors. Tiger King is more than just mere entertainment, though. Believe it or not, business owners can learn a lot from Joe Exotic. While the man is certainly not worthy of role model status or accolades for businessman of the year, his journey can teach us a great deal about the value of leadership. Here are five of our most unexpected business lesson takeaways from the docu-series:

Businessman learning business lessons online

Worrying About Competition Can Kill Your Business

Most business owners have a strong will to succeed and a healthy spirit of competition. It’s what helps keep hope alive when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, though, focusing too much on your competitors can draw focus away from your own goals. As we see in Tiger King, a feud between rivals can quickly lead to obsession and steal attention away from more pressing issues.

All the most successful corporations have their rivals. What would Coke be without Pepsi? Or Target without Walmart? A sense of competition can be good – even healthy – at times. When that competitive spirit overtakes your common sense, though, the results can be perilous. Joe’s feud with Carole Baskin ultimately leads to his downfall. By staying in your own lane and running your own race, you’ll find greater success than if you dedicate all your energy to your rival. It’s some of the most important business advice you can take away from the Joe Exotic documentary on Netflix.

Unchecked Egos Can Eclipse Professional Goals

Joe Exotic is incredibly charismatic. No matter your feelings towards him personally, it’s hard to deny his charm. The documentary traces his origins as a pet store owner to eventual zoo owner, musician, internet sensation, and presidential candidate. Even as his business is in dire straits, Joe has his dedicated followers. It’s not hard to see how a person’s ego might explode given that kind of popularity.

Nobody could call Joe Exotic a good boss. As his ego grew larger and larger, his empathy for his employees and his animals began to shrink. We’ve all worked for employers who let their success get to their heads. It’s hard to respect leaders who pay more attention to their personal achievements than the good of the team. By keeping your ego in check, you can stay grounded, level-headed, focused on your professional goals, and help others succeed with you.

Passion is Everything

The world of exotic cats is a fascinating one. It’s perhaps the main draw of the Tiger King docu-series, after all. While you might not walk away from the show wanting to adopt a tiger yourself, the passion of Carole Baskin, Joe Exotic, and Doc Antle is certainly relatable. Each figure – and their employees – started down their unique path because of their passion for big cats. Perhaps you see your own journey reflected in the Joe Exotic TV series.

No matter your personal passion, it’s important to bring that sense of wonder and excitement to work every day. While your industry or job may not be as dangerous or thrilling as working with exotic animals, it helps to remind yourself and your team why you got started in the first place. If Joe Exotic can teach us any professional business advice, it’s that passion is the key to success.

Communicate Constantly

“Hey all you cool cats and kittens” is a phrase that has bled out of the docu-series and into the global vernacular. While most people use it ironically, the phrase is undeniably catchy. It evokes a folksy inclusivity that makes you want to keep watching and learn more. Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that Carole Baskin knows a thing or two about communicating with her followers.

You don’t need a fun catchphrase to capture the hearts and minds of your employees, clients, or customers. Instead, take a page out of Carole’s book by communicating as frequently as possible with your team. In the documentary, Carole is seen constantly updating her followers on her legal battles, rescue efforts, and sanctuary work. Joe Exotic’s employees, on the other hand, are frequently left in the dark.

Leadership takes a lot of work, but looping your team into your intentions and progress is key. All the business tips in the world can’t help if you’re not actively working to inform your employees, customers, and supporters of your plans. It’s the one area Joe Exotic himself could learn a thing or two about from Carole Baskin!

Take Care When Choosing Business Partners

When Joe Exotic meets Jeff Lowe, a fellow big cat aficionado, he believes he’s found the answers to all his legal troubles. By transferring the zoo into his new business partner’s name, Joe expects to skirt the judgment Carole Baskin levied against him. Instead, Jeff Lowe seizes control of the park and shuts Joe out entirely. It’s a powerful lesson about trust that all business owners can learn from.

Business doesn’t always go the way we expect. When your back is against the wall and a professional connection throws you a lifeline, it’s natural to want to grab on for dear life. Doing so without fully understanding your sacrifices is a bad idea, though. Take every precaution possible when bringing in a new owner, and always consult with a lawyer before making decisions you can’t take back.

These five lessons are just the tip of the iceberg – we could write an entire book on what Joe Exotic lessons not to follow! The cultural impact of Tiger King is undeniable, but we hope you’ll keep these principles in mind far after the hype of this docu-series has died down.

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