5 Business Lessons We Can Learn from the Wolf of Wall Street

Critical response to the 2013 Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street has certainly been mixed. Whether you loved it or hated it, the three-hour epic that centered on the real-life story of Jordan Belfort is a mesmerizing and somewhat awe-inspiring tale of the American dream. Viewers who were able to see past the extravagance (and the sex, drugs and money that went along with it) got to witness a tale of self-determination and perseverance that can inspire anyone to overcome the odds.

This message certainly wasn’t lost on the youth. According to a 2014 study by UK newspaper the Telegraph, shortly after the movie was released there was an enormous increase in searches for stockbroker jobs throughout the UK.[1] Another report by Forbes also showed that The Wolf stirred up interest in penny stocks, likely in response to Mr. Belfort’s penny stock scam at Stratton Oakmont. (Google also reported a spike in Quaaludes searches, but we won’t touch that one.[2])

Oddly enough, the creators of the movie were hoping for a completely opposite effect.

“I hope people understand we’re not condoning this behaviour, that we’re indicting it,” said film star Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrayed Mr. Belfort in the movie.

That having been said, there are five important lessons that can be gleaned from The Wolf of Wall Street. Hopefully, readers will use these lessons to set forth and achieve their goals in an honest, dignified way, rather than follow Mr. Belfort’s path.


  1. Follow through on your ideas

Stratton Oakmont became enormously successful because Jordan Belfort executed on his ideas and did what very few people in the industry were doing at the time. Belfort knew that he had a winning formula for closing people over the phone. He also knew that the rich love to gamble. Put those two together and you may have the recipe for a winning business.

  1. Market yourself

Honestly, can you name anyone who marketed themselves better than Jordan Belfort? He understood that perception matters and did everything in his power to present himself the right way. On Wall Street this meant tailored suits and fancy cars. In another line of business, it can be something completely different. Regardless of your industry, you need to market yourself better than the competition in order to attract new business and set yourself apart from the crowd. For most people, the first place to market yourself is on your resume. If you’re a business owner, your website is a great vehicle for self-promoting your products, services or skills.

  1. Build a team and train them well

Pick up any self-help book in the world and it’ll tell you the same thing: by surrounding yourself with like-minded people you can trust, you can build an empire. Although Belfort was the brains behind Stratton Oakmont, he certainly wasn’t the only one adding value. He not only put together a loyal team (guys like Kenny Greene and Danny Porush), but trained his staff how to execute his ideas. That’s one great thing about Belfort; he not only enriched himself, but those around him.

  1. Lead by example

In life and in business, the best leaders are those who lead by example. Not only do they achieve more, but they earn the respect and admiration of their colleagues, coworkers and rivals. No-one led by example better than Jordan Belfort. He set the standard for success and represented the epitome that all his employees wanted to achieve.

The level of success Belfort enjoyed at Stratton Oakmont allowed him to support his employees through competitive wages and incredible incentives, such as letting them start their own brokerage under his guidance.

  1. Create value

Before the truth came out about Belfort’s sleazy ways, all of his clients were extremely happy. That’s because he provided solutions to every problem they had. At the end of the day, running a business is all about creating value for the client. If you’re not adding value, people have no reason to be in business with you. Regardless of the product or service you are offering, your goal should be to enrich the experience of the end-user, to exceed their expectations and to retain them for as long as possible. This goes far beyond the basic law of supply and demand. Belfort understood this intimately.

Other Lessons

For all his faults, Jordan Belfort was an extremely talented businessman. He was extremely motivated, didn’t back down from any challenge and was smart enough to identify when something wasn’t working. He also knew how to get the most out of his workers.

“I want you to deal with all your problems by becoming rich!” the real Jordan Belfort wrote in his 2007 memoir, quoting one of his many speeches. “I want you to attack your problems head-on! I want you to go out and start spending money right now. I want you to leverage yourself. I want you to back yourself into a corner. Give yourself no choice but to succeed. Let the consequences of failure become so dire and so unthinkable that you’ll have no choice but to do whatever it takes to succeed.”

He may not always be right, but Mr. Belfort sure knew how to inspire and motivate his workers. Is that every businessperson’s dream?

[1] Peter Black (May 25, 2014). “Jordan Belfort’s Gordon Gekko Effect” ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Inspires UK Youth To Become Real Life Stockbrokers.” Design & Trend. 
[2] Clem Chambers (March 6, 2014). “’The Wolf Of Wall Street’ Stirs Up Interest In Penny Stocks.” Forbes.

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