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The Walking Dead: 5 Tips for Surviving Business (or a Zombie Apocalypse)

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of the zombie apocalypse scenario. Horror and I just don’t get along. And yet, for some reason, The Walking Dead has become appointment TV for me. If you don’t know, the AMC show is based off the comic book series by the same name, and it follows a group of people living through, you guessed it, a zombie apocalypse. Watching them figure out how to survive in a world full of scary dead people (called “walkers” on the show) has been both entertaining and extremely frustrating. The good guys make some smart decisions, but mostly they make a lot of really stupid ones.

The way these characters navigate this post-apocalyptic world can be applied to the business world, too. So, since you won’t be living through a zombie apocalypse anytime soon (I hope), here are a few tips for surviving business instead.

**Warning: Walking Dead spoilers ahead!**

1. Use your resources wisely.

Daryl knows that crossbows are better than guns

Daryl knows that crossbows are better than guns

The smart approach: Daryl carries a crossbow instead of a gun. Besides wielding a much quieter weapon than anyone else, Daryl also recycles his ammo: he retrieves his arrows after using them. Additionally, Rick suggests that the group start using knives and blunt instruments more often.

The stupid approach: Everyone else shoots everything. All the time. Guns are loud, so they attract walkers — and there’s no reusing bullets or buying more at the local gun shop.

The lesson: Don’t waste your resources, no matter what they are, and understand the best way to take advantage of each of them. Can you use a renewable resource instead of a nonrenewable one? Are there any byproducts of one resource that can be repurposed somewhere else?

2. Learn from your mistakes.

The smart approach: Hershel, who owns the farm where everyone has been living in season two, originally believes that the walkers (including his infected wife) are just sick people who can someday be cured. But eventually he realizes that these people are in fact not people anymore, but undead monsters. He accepts he was wrong and can now better protect his family.

The stupid approach: One of the kids in the group recently died because she wandered off into the woods by herself. And yet, the only remaining child still roams around on his own. Maybe someone should supervise him at all times. In fact, no one should ever go anywhere alone, especially when so many have been injured or killed after doing so. This is a zombie apocalypse, after all.

The lesson: Every business makes mistakes, but the important thing is to learn from them. If that marketing campaign wasn’t effective, what can you do to improve it? Should you continue pouring money into that underperforming product line, or should you accept your losses and move on? How are you addressing negative feedback from your customers?

3. Communicate!

Rick, Lori, and Shane: Not the best communicators

Rick, Lori, and Shane: Not the best communicators

The smart approach: Instead of keeping it a secret like he promised, Glenn tells the others about the horde of walkers in Hershel’s barn because Glenn knows it’s a threat to everyone. And up to this point, Rick has done his best to include everybody in the decision-making process and let every opinion be heard.

The stupid approach: Lori keeps her affair with Shane a secret from her husband Rick for a long time, even though she knows Shane still has feelings for her and is increasingly dangerous because of it. She also pressures Glenn into staying tight-lipped about her pregnancy instead of telling Rick right away.

The lesson: Miscommunication can be disastrous in a business setting. If not everyone is on the same page, it’s much more likely that people will make mistakes or become resentful. Do your employees know what is expected of them? When an issue arises, do you talk about it openly with those involved? How do you communicate company goals to all your employees?

4. Train your team effectively.

The smart approach: After her sister dies, Andrea learns from Shane how to load and use a firearm. Dale also spends time teaching Andrea and Glenn how to repair the RV so that others can fix it when it breaks down.

The stupid approach: Though Andrea insists she be taught how to use guns, there has otherwise been little effort to train anyone to defend themselves, leaving much of the group (mostly the women) helpless.

The lesson: Your team is only as good as the weakest link. If there are standouts in your team, recognize their accomplishments and ask them to help train others. Do you allow enough time to teach your new employees the ropes? Are you providing education to your current employees so that their industry knowledge is up-to-date?

5. Be aware of your environment and competitors.

The smart approach: Dale and others keep a constant lookout for walkers from the roof of the RV. Rick comments that cold weather is on its way and that the group should begin preparing for it.

The stupid approach: Hershel’s farm is more secure than most places where the group has taken shelter, but it still needs fortifying. As everyone learned in the season two finale, a picket fence and an empty field will not stop a zombie attack.

The lesson: No business operates in a vacuum; competitors, consumers, and a host of other factors should all play a role in decision-making. A situational analysis is a useful tool for evaluating a company’s external (and internal) environment. Who are your competitors? What demographics are you targeting? How will you position yourself in the industry?

The survivors of The Walking Dead may be really dumb sometimes, but at least we can learn from them. Which of these tips is most important to you? What else can The Walking Dead teach us? Do you think you could survive an actual zombie apocalypse?

Image credit to, ian, and gluetree.


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  1. Cybernetic SAM

    This is a really neat post! I don’t watch the show but as my imagination needs no help terrifying me! Horror and I also do not get along much to Joe’s dismay. But I had no idea Norman Reedus is on the show! I love him!!!! Perhaps I might tough it out and give it a try! As for your takeaways and comparisons (kudos on the stupid approach :P) I thought they were really creative! I’ll have to remember some of this stuff if I can work up enough courage to watch it.

    • Rachel

      It’s an entertaining show, but yeah, blood and guts play a particularly strong role in it … hence my confusion as to why I like it so much, haha. Norman Reedus is great in it! If you ever give the show a try, let me know — there are several fans here in the office. 🙂

      • Jen

        Daryl (Norman Reedus) is my favorite character on the show, he’s a total bad-ass!

  2. Leo

    Love it! Well written article, and great advice for any business owner. Trust your instincts and keep away from zombies, which could be a metaphor (zombies) for any individual trying to take what’s not rightfully theirs to take (like competitors). Lead the way don’t be lead. This show is off the hook, and I can’t wait for Season 4. Great article!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Leo! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂 And, oddly enough, it does seem zombies are great metaphors for business!

  3. Jeff Porretto

    Excellent post! It was a great read. I would like to add one…

    #6 Have consistent and rational reactions to events.

    Smart: I think you should kill him…. you did. Good.
    Stupid: I think you should kill him…. you did. OMG you appall me!
    Lesson: No one likes a flip flopper…

    And someone put a leash on Carl! Ah screw it, natural selection still applies during a zombie apocalyspe. That kid’s gettting picked off sooner or later.

    • Rachel

      Haha, yes. I think even if just Lori and no one else followed that rule, all their lives would improve.

      And poor Carl … I hear he’s pretty awesome in the comics, but he’s mostly an annoyance in the show. Hopefully they do something interesting with his character next season besides repeatedly having him wander off somewhere dangerous.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jeff! 🙂

    • Jen

      Bwahaha! Jeff you crack me up, but it’s so true! I hate Lori’s flip floppery.

  4. Eric

    Lesson? Get AMC and Frank Darabont behind your project, and BAM. Success. 🙂

    Totally unfamiliar with the program, Rachel, but from what I read above, the advice makes some good sense. Good to know in the event of a zombie apocalypse!

    • Eric

      Google Maps-style resource in the event of said zombie apocalypse. You know, just in case.

      • Rachel

        That website is awesome! Now, as long as the wifi network stays in service during the apocalypse, everything will be fine … 🙂

        Thanks, Eric!

        • Eric


          Too funny…another fine example of 1st Class problems. 🙂

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    I don’t know much about The Walking Dead (except that I know I can’t watch it), but I can certainly appreciate some excellent business takeaways derived from stupid actions from the survivors!

    I really like your third point of communication. It seems like many companies struggle with this internally, and it’s one of the easiest things to fix!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Mandy! Communication is definitely important. The fact that miscommunication is often used to create conflict in TV shows is a pretty clear sign that it causes conflict in real life, too!

  6. Jen

    This is the coolest post ever Rachel! It turned out great. I love the “smart” and “stupid” decisions you mentioned. And you did a nice job relating them to the business world. I especially like the “Train your team effectively” section. To be successful as a team, everyone should be trained equally in everything. The women spent most of their time washing laundry, when they should have been learning how to use a gun, knife, and crossbow to defend themselves!

    Once again, GREAT JOB!

    • Rachel

      Yeah, apparently even in an apocalypse in which modern society has collapsed, the ladies still do all the laundry and food-preparing. I vote the group does a little cross-training so that the women learn to defend themselves and the men learn to clean their own clothes! It’s not like they have anything better to do all day… 🙂

      Thanks Jen, glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Jaimie Smith

    Rachel you did such a great job on this post, its incredible!! I do not walk the show, but this post actually has me a little interested. (And I would always hear you and Jen talking about it at lunch)
    All the take aways you got from the show are awesome. Its crazy that you can take business takeaways from a zombie apocalypse. Who would have known?
    Awesome post, girl!

    • Rachel

      Thanks, Jaimie! It does seem that the zombie apocalypse lends itself quite well to business comparisons — probably because in both situations, it’s all about survival (different kinds of survival, of course, but still similar).

      And if you ever decide to watch the show, you know you’ll have people to talk about it with! 🙂

  8. Bret Bonnet

    If you ask me…

    Glenn is to the Walking Dead what Steve Jobs was to Apple.

    Both are screwed without their nobel leaders! 🙂

    PS. I don’t understand why people get “caught” by walkers. It’s not like they walk fast or run… I mean… they’re called WALKERS for a reason!

    • Rachel

      I’d say it’s easier to get caught by walkers when there’s a whole horde of them … easy to run away from just one or two, but when they come in large numbers it’s hard to completely escape them. That’s how I’m rationalizing it, anyway. I find them scary even if they’re slow. 🙂

      And Glenn is awesome, definitely one of my favorite characters!

  9. Jill Tooley

    I don’t watch The Walking Dead (the first episode was WAY too intense for me), but so many of my friends and family are obsessed with it that I feel like I know what’s going on in the show. I appreciate the spoilers, because now I feel even MORE informed! 🙂

    You had me cracking up at some of your tips! Especially #2, where you mention the little kid (Carl) running around like crazy and disobeying orders. This article on College Humor pretty much sums it up, from what I can tell!

    I can’t stress enough how IMPORTANT communication is! How many of these TV show and movie characters could have avoided ridiculously terrible situations if they’d just TALKED to each other properly? Argh…

    Fantastic article, Rachel!

    • Rachel

      The first episode was super intense — I think that still ranks as the scariest episode to me. I don’t blame you for skipping out after that! 🙂

      That College Humor article is both hilarious and spot-on. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 And you are absolutely right about the importance of communication. Glad you liked the post, Jill!

  10. BW022

    I have no idea why people don’t simply drive to a military base.

    #1. Is pointless. Use firearms. 100 rounds of 5.56mm weights 3lbs. A hummer or small truck can carry about 100,000 rounds of ammunition. You could easily kill every person in 100 miles. Crossbows are not more effective than guns. They are slower, less accurate, require considerably more training, heavier, harder to find, and recovering ammo is time consuming, risky, and can’t be done on the run.

    I’ll add…

    #6. Get a map and yellow pages. Find military bases, police stations, adventure shops, military surplus stores, gun shops, food warehouses, pharmacies, etc.

    #7. Bring vehicles and shop in bulk. Quit going to the town for a measly backpack full of stuff. Come back with a semi-trailer full of food, weapons, etc.

    #8. Pick an actually defensible place. Look on your map and make a mid-term plan on where to located. A prison? No. Try an island, a large ship, a military base, an oil platform, mountain ski-resort, etc. Something which no zombie can possibly get in.

    #9. Have basic equipment. Everyone should have multiple firearms, backpacks, survival food, a knife, radio, boots, military fatigues, webbing, first-aid kits, etc. No shorts, t-shirts, etc.

    #10. Use machines, tools, and resources. Get some machine guns and kill all the zombie in the area. Use a backhoe to make a 10′ wide ditch, go to a hardware store and get some barbed wire, etc.

    #11. Stop splitting up. Send at least half the people with the intent of clearing an area, filling your truck(s), and then coming back as a group.

  11. Chris Skalski

    I am also a huge fan of The Walking Dead. Yes, Rick and the gang make horrible decisions, but if they did things that really kept them safe there wouldn’t be a show. Here is what I recommend to the survivors of a zombie apocalypse.

    1) has anyone thought about taking over a wealthy gated community? Most mansions have backup generators, so everyone would have hot showers, at least limited electricity, and mansions made of stone are particularly hard to get into by walkers. if the gang could clear a prison, then 4 walkers per home would be nothing to clear
    2) if they need to be mobile order to keep supplies up, why not a mega-nice RV? it would also have a whole lot of creature comforts. West 95 percent of the population dead, keeping fuel on hand should be fairly easy. I could go on, but suffice it to say I would try to keep my zombie-apocalypse as un-apocalyptic as possible!!

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