Stringer Bell’s Guide To Running A Business On ‘The Wire’

The Wire‘s Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) was a ruthless drug kingpin who snatched lives when he had to, ordered the torture of a rival’s lover, and laid with another man’s woman while he was plotting his demise. He wasn’t a good guy, but of course, there’s that other side to the man. The enterprising young businessman, working in the shadows to step up in the world of Baltimore real estate and business by making the right friends and greasing the right palms — all while trying to inject a little bit of economic theory and practicality into the vicious Baltimore drug wars. You can say a lot of things about Stringer Bell, but you can’t say that he wasn’t ambitious or driven, and despite the illegal bend of his actions, there’s a lot to be learned about his business approach by watching his scenes on The Wire (which you can stream on HBO Now)

So here’s a spoiler and NSFW language filled look at String’s guide to running sh*t.

“The game is the f*ckin game. Period.” – Avon Barksdale

“Same as it ever was.” – Stringer Bell

As you’re moving up, swimming through like a shark, there are gonna be people who try to slow you down because of their own wants or their backward thinking. Avon Barksdale had a taste for the game, not the rewards that could come his way if he only accepted Stringer’s council more fully. Here, itching for war, Avon makes his inflexibility known and Stringer responds with a verbal eye roll. “Same as it ever was” — round and round we go, in other words. The exact opposite of everything Stringer stood for.

“That’s like a 40-degree day. Ain’t nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day. Fifty. Bring a smile to your face. Sixty, shit, n*gg*s is damn near barbecuing on that motherf*cker. Go down to 20, n*gg*s get their bitch on. Get their blood complaining. But forty? Nobody give a f*ck about 40. Nobody remember 40, and yall n*gg*s is giving me way too many 40-degree days!”

This is a pretty damn poetic way of telling your employees that a middling performance isn’t good enough, especially when it has become the norm. You might want to choose to reuse this speech sans NSFW language, though.

“Ain’t no new package. Just gonna put that same sh*t out in a different colored gel cap is all. Might spike that sh*t with some procaine or some caffeine, but otherwise it’s the same.” – Stringer Bell

“String, man, people already coming back on us tellin us that sh*t is weak.” – D’Angelo

“I know; sh*t is weak, but, y’know, sh*t is weak all over. The thing is, no matter what we call heroin, it’s gonna get sold. Sh*t is strong, we gonna sell it; sh*t is weak, we gonna sell twice as much. You know why? ‘Cause a fiend, he gonna chase that sh*t no matter what. It’s crazy, you know. We do worse, and we get paid more.” – Stringer Bell

Excise the drug references and this is a pretty one-size-fits-all statement about any in-demand product. Clearly, Stringer’s economics classes were working for him early on.

“N*gg*r, is you taking notes on a criminal f*cking conspiracy?”

Sometimes, you need to re-direct the energies of a well-meaning employee.

“The game ain’t about that [securing corners] no more. It’s about product. Yeah. We got the best g*ddamn product so we gonna sell no matter where we are, right? Product, motherf*ckers. Product.”

It’s important to learn from your mistakes and be flexible. Stringer thought that the monopoly on the towers meant that his business could be sustained by selling weak product to a desperate customer base, but after taking a few more classes and observing the high cost of war (and keeping those corners/territory) he switched things up, started the co-op, and put a higher premium on selling that good sh*t. Stringer’s big problem was the inflexibility of his associates, from the top all the way down to the bottom.

“You still don’t get it, do you? This ain’t about your money, bro. Your boy gave you up. That’s right. And we ain’t had to torture his ass neither!” – Omar

“Seems like I can’t say nothing to change y’all minds. [silence]  Well, get on with it, motherf*ck…” – Stringer Bell

Alright, String had two big problems. Though he wanted to rise above the bloodier elements of the drug game while still taking advantage of the profits, his past life sauntered right through the door of his new, semi-upstanding life as a real-estate magnate and put him down. What’s the lesson? I guess one can see value in Stringer realizing taking a small bit of power in a losing situation by realizing he wasn’t going to be able to negotiate his way out of trouble, but the real lesson is probably the most universal truth established on The Wire.