7 Business and Marketing Genius Lessons from Frank Lucas, America’s First Black Drug Kingpin

Ever heard of “Blue Magic”?

 Let’s get to the lessons inside.

I didn’t myself, until last week.

I was on YouTube watching Casey Neistat’s videos when I saw a video clip from the movie, “American Gangster”.

It’s a REAL LIFE story turned into a movie about the first Black American to create a sophisticated drug operation that covered the entire Eastern part of the USA.

The lead actor was Denzel Washington who played the real life Frank Lucas. If you haven’t watched the movie, you should, immediately you finish reading this.

You’ll learn tons about business and success from it.

1. Have a Mentor.

Frank Lucas had a mentor, Bumpy Johnson who he served as a driver and hitman for 15 years.

Bumpy was Harlem, New York’s crime boss and he taught him everything he knew until he died suddenly.

After Bumpy died, it was very easy for Frank to continue because he already knew what to do.


Mentors are a serious requirement on your journey to success.

Many people always ask me, “What’s the shortcut to success in business?

My answer is always: “Mentors”. They are the shortcut. Nothing else.

2. Go direct to the source and cut out the middle man

One of the lessons Bumpy taught Frank was to always go to the production source for his product.

When Frank decided to start selling drugs, he knew heroin was the highest selling product on the streets, but he was also buying it for a high price from the Italians smuggling it into the USA.

He wanted to bring it in himself and he learned the Italians were buying it from Asia, so he got an international passport, got into a plane and travelled to Vietnam and went direct to the source, the guys who grew the leaves and manufactured it.


What product do you sell? Are you a middleman? Middlemen are an endangered species in business these days.

It’s easy to knock off a middleman by bypassing them and going direct to the source.

Study your business, look at all aspects of how you source your product. If you there’s a way to buy or manufacture your product by going direct to the source, do so.

This way, you can buy your product cheaper, leading to more profits.

3. Do All It Takes

When Frank arrived Vietnam, he spoke to the locals who knew where the poppy plantations were but the place was in a jungle, filled with rebel Viet Cong guerillas.

Did that deter Frank? Not at all! They got on a boat, went through the jungle, met the General who controlled the fields and concluded his deal.

That was just the first part.

Now after buying the drugs, Frank needed a way to bring the drugs into the USA undetected. You don’t carry a large amount of drugs into any country just like that.

So what did he do?

He made an arrangement with some people in the US Military fighting in Vietnam, so they put the drugs inside the coffins of dead US soldiers that were being taken home.

Why? Because no one will bother looking for drugs inside a dead man’s coffin, especially a soldier who died fighting for his country.

Then the guys in the morgues would then take out the drugs and hand it to Frank’s people.

Talk about guts!


Many business people are lazy. They don’t go all the way. They try to do the easy things, to pick the low-hanging fruit.

If you must defeat them and win in business, you must have the spirit of a warrior, the kind of a go-getter. You must do what your competitors are unwilling to do.

 Study them, what are they not doing, that you can do and have an edge in the marketplace? Do that and you will be Lord over them all.

4. Have a Quality Product

Frank knew the heroin in the USA was doctored by the traffickers who mix it with milk powder to make it plenty so they can make more money.

What this meant was the quality would be lowered.

As soon as Frank began to import his own heroin, he refused to mix it.

He sold it exactly as it came in, no chopping, no mixing, retaining it’s 100% purity.

This means that as soon as people started buying it, they loved it because it gave them a higher sense of pleasure and potency.


Do not compromise on product quality. As best as you can, always deliver a solid product that does what your advertising says it will do.

People may forget how they buy your product, but they won’t forget how good (or bad) it is.

5. Sell Cheaper

Now heroin is a commodity product in most countries. It’s easy to buy. This meant that many times the dealers had to underprice each other.

Because Frank got his product direct from source, it meant he could sell cheaper, so he was selling a sachet of his high quality heroin for $10, while others sold their mixed version for $20.

It wasn’t long before everyone wanted his brand of heroin forcing all the dealers – Italians, Black, Mexicans, e.t.c, to start buying from him to resell.


If you sell a commodity product (which is a product people can buy another version of without thinking too much about it), you’ll sooner or later find yourself grappling with competitors who will undercut you on price.

The trick in business is to have a unique product, one that people have no choice but to buy because they can’t find an alternative to replace it.

If you have such a product, you can sell it for as much as you want but if you can sell that unique product for cheaper than your competitors, do so and you’ll have delivered the death blow to all of them.

They will have no choice but to close shop or kiss the ring and come serve you.

I love that!

6. Have a killer brand name

Before Frank Lucas, all heroin on the street had no name. The dealers just sold it to whoever wanted it. But Frank knew his product was superior, and he wanted to make sure people knew it.

So he gave his own product a name. He called it

“​Blue Magic”

His heroin was the only heroin on the street that had a name. It was easy to remember, and easy to pronounce.


No matter how long it takes, make sure you create killer, easily memorable and descriptive names for your products and services.

It’s an easy way to make you stand out.

The name of this blog and our Facebook Group, “Business LABS” took me a couple of months to decide on.

Think of other famous product names you remember and the images they conjure in your head when you think of them.

7. Quit whenever it is necessary.

Ultimately, Frank Lucas was brought down, arrested and sent to prison for 70 years. He could not stop. He didn’t know when to stop, so he fell from grace to grass.

His supplier in Asia advised him to quit just before his last shipment, but he refused. That shipment got him in trouble.


A huge requirement in business is learning when to quit. Learning this skill will keep you out of trouble and alive.

Many business people sorely lack this skill. I see it a lot. Many are trying to do things that aren’t working because they have bought into the motivational mantra about “quitters” being losers.

That’s a lie. Many times, the best thing you can do is to quit.

Are you running a business that has you working donkey hours without any returns? Quit and start a different business.

Are you selling a product the market does not want? Quit selling it and find something else to sell.

Is an ad you’re running not converting? Delete it, and run a new one.

Insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

 As the Viet Cong General told Frank Lucas when he advised him to stop,

“Quitting when you’re ahead
is not the same as quitting”

That’s a powerful line, and these lessons in this article are even more powerful.

Apply them to your business and transform it and your life.

Thanks for reading.

Ronald Nzimora

Founder, Business Labs

Ronald Nzimora markets businesses and makes them profitable. Fresh out of university, he taught himself how to sell and market himself, then he learnt how to do the same with businesses and make them profitable.
His company Digital Nexus Interactive spends over one billionnaira each year buying attention for it’s clients and turning it to profit and in the last 3 years, they has emerged as one of the country’s  hottest digital agencies.

Along the way Ronald has become an angel investor and venture capitalist.Ronald’s YouTube channel showcases his #TheRonaldNzimoraShow where he answers questions about sales, marketing, entrepreneurship and businesses.

Ronald has been named one of the Top 50 Nigerian Professionals in the Area of Digital Advertising and Marketing. He is a prolific public speaker, delivering keynotes at events like the yearly Nigerian Internet Marketing Summit, amongst others. 

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