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3 Leadership Lessons From Dallas Buyer's Club

The Oscar-nominated film starring Matthew McConaughey includes Texas-sized levels of business savvy.

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When Ron Woodroof, a good old boy from Texas, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, he decided to put up a fight. In Dallas Buyers Club, the biopic that will vie for Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Woodroof does everything to counter his grave diagnosis from bribing a hospital worker to get him an antiviral drug to selling AIDS medications illegally on the streets. 

Most entrepreneurs will never face such an ethical challenge, but there are plenty of business lessons to glean from the astonishing film, which stars Matthew McConaughey as Woodroof and Jared Leto as the sweet transvestite, Rayon. Here are a few of them: 

Don't Take No for an Answer

Time and again, leaders are told that what they're doing isn't realistic. But Woodroof refuses to accept his diagnosis--or the idea that helpful drugs have to be hard to acquire. Although the AZT he initially takes makes him ill, he still musters the energy to drive all the way to Mexico to visit a hospital. Once there, he encounters a Dr. Vass, whose American medical license has been revoked and who tells Woodroof that AZT "kills every cell it comes into contact with." When Woodroof's health significantly improves three months later thanks to the ddc and protein peptide T that Vass prescribes him, Woodroof decides to launch a business selling the drugs in the U.S. 

Target Your Best Market 

For a time, Woodroof ekes out a living selling ddC and protein peptide T to young Dallas hoodlums. But his prejudices prevent him from targeting the vast majority of people suffering from AIDS. Enter Rayon, a transvestite with a heart of gold, who has connections to homosexuals, other transvestites, and drug addicts in need of medication. When Woodroof realizes she's the missing component of the enterprise, he agrees to give her a 25 percent cut, and the Dallas Buyers Club is born. 

Pick the Right Partner

Rayon is integral for the clients she brings in, but also is an ideal partner for Woodroof. She keeps solid records, manages every DBC membership, and shoos away customers when they're asking too much. Above all, she listens to Woodroof when he's frustrated at being harassed by a Food and Drug Administration official. When the FDA changes its rules to make any unapproved drugs illegal, Rayon begs her father for money to keep the club running. With the money from her life insurance policy, Woodroof is able to drive back to Mexico and get more peptide T. It's a heartbreaking move, but a lesson worth noting: You're only as good as the people you work with

Watch the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club below: 

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: Feb 28, 2014

JILL KRASNY is the associate editor for Inc. Previously, she was editor at Business Insider and has held positions at TheStreet and Reader's Digest. Krasny is a graduate of the University of Southern California, holding a degree in communication.
@jillkrasny




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