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11 Things That The CIA & Their Agents Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

Joel Brown (Founder of




There’s something that sets CIA agents apart from the rest of us. They are tough, smart, and can improvise during difficult situations. In some ways, they are a lot like entrepreneurs.

This means that if you want to become an entrepreneur, it might be useful to start thinking like a CIA agent. Here are some things you can learn from the CIA and their agents.


Entrepreneur Lessons From The CIA


#1 – Be realistic about what the job requires

CIA-IntelligenceWhen people think about the CIA, what comes to mind is what they see on TV: excitement, travel, and glamor. But if that were true, everyone would want to be a CIA agent. The truth is that becoming a CIA agent takes years of hard work, dedication, and focus.

In the same way, it’s easy to think that entrepreneurship is all about having “The Perfect Idea” and raking in millions as a result. But, successful entrepreneurship requires a lot of diligence and work. Watch or read biographies of successful entrepreneurs and see for yourself that sacrifices were made in order for them to reach that level of success.


#2 – People skills are just as important as technical skills

CIA-Agents---EntrepreneurshipCIA agents are great at reading people. They can sense their strengths, weaknesses, and quickly judge if they’ll be an asset or a threat. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need the same skills during hiring, negotiations, and day to day operations.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest person in the room – without people skills, you will never gain the trust and respect of those around you.



#3 – Be reliable

CIA Agent leonardo dicaprioUnlike what the Hollywood movies would have you believe, good agents are reliable. They don’t miss appointments, forget equipment, or give in to distractions. Doing these things could lead to death. Or worse, war.

While entrepreneurship may not nearly be as dramatic, you still need to be reliable – especially when dealing with customers. This means meeting or exceeding their expectations so that they can trust you when the next transaction comes around.


#4 – Have integrity

cia agent adviceBoth businessmen and CIA agents need to make the hard decisions that most don’t really want to make. Are you going to compromise what’s best for the long term just to get some short term gains? Will you work with employees who are affordable or with employees whom you know will get the job done?

Just as a CIA agent is loyal to his or her country, so should you be loyal to your business’ goals and those whom you conduct business with.


#5 – Surround yourself with satisfied and competent people

trust ciaNothing ruins a good mission like someone who’s negative, unhappy, or downright incompetent. This is true whether it’s an intelligence mission or a business mission.

When the people around you are smart, confident, and happy about their choices, their enthusiasm is infectious and will only feed your company’s energy.



#6 – Learn other languages

cia businessThe best CIA agents can switch from English to French to Farsi in a few seconds. This helps them understand background conversation and blend in when they are in a foreign country.

As an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to learn how to do this if you want your business to operate worldwide. In fact, odds are you won’t have a choice but to work with contractors, customers, and employees from all over the globe – that’s what it’s like to do business today. And, if you’re going to do it successfully, you need to learn how to communicate well with the various people you’ll be in business with in your own country and in the international markets.


#7 – Foster connections in your community

cia social media networkThe CIA and other intelligence agencies are one big community. This helps them share information and consult each others’ expertise whenever needed.

Entrepreneurs have to do the same. For example, you might be a great leader, but what if you don’t have the accounting or legal skills to run a business? Or, you might be great at marketing, but what if you aren’t a good designer? You need to find smart, talented people to compensate for the skills and know-how that you lack. To do that, you’ll need to mingle with other entrepreneurs, seek referrals, and get tips on where to find the best people to work with.


#8 – Be financially secure and responsible

cia moneyPreserving your integrity isn’t all about willpower, it’s also about preventing any issues that may make you weak. A financially troubled CIA agent is a liability. It’s easy for malicious organizations to trap, blackmail, or lure a good agent who has money problems.

The same goes for entrepreneurs. If you’re strapped for funds, you might get tempted to take from the till or you might make the wrong calls just to keep your cash flow going.



#9 – Keep your track record clean

cia track recordThe CIA usually performs thorough background checks on people who want to become agents. They look for signs of a criminal history, drug charges, and other negative activities. This is because the CIA needs to be 100% sure that their agents are accountable, honest, and loyal.

It pays for Entrepreneurs to be vigilant in this area. Business is such a public activity that people are going to unearth negative things about you. The more successful your business is, the more likely this is to happen. To protect yourself and your business, you need a clean record or the cleanest it can be.



#10 – Never stop learning

cia ncisIf a CIA agent stopped keeping up with the latest international intelligence gossip, fighting methods, and equipment, he or she could die in the field.

The same is true for entrepreneurs who get complacent and think that once their business takes off, they no longer have to learn anything new. But with technology constantly changing and with a newer batch of entrepreneurs launching startups every year, you’ll get left behind if you don’t put in the effort to keep up with trends.


#11 – Be physically fit and healthy

the Expendables cia agentWhen you’re running errands, working day and night, and obsessing about every detail of your business, it’s easy to forget about your physical fitness. You might think that you no longer have the time or energy to take care of your health. The truth is that your physical health is tied to your mental and emotional health – which you need to run your business.

Just as an agent has to keep fit whether there’s a mission or not, you also need to keep working out. This ensures that when there’s a fight, you’re ready in a heartbeat.


Article By Joel Brown |

I am the the Founder of and I am so grateful you're here to be part of this awesome community. I love connecting with people who have a passion for Entrepreneurship, Self Development & Achieving Success. I started this website with the intention of educating and inspiring likeminded people to always strive for success no matter what their circumstances.I'm proud to say through my podcast and through this website we have impacted over 200 million lives in the last 10 years.



  1. Avatar


    Jun 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Right on target for the most part, though the choice of words for “#9 – Keep your track record clean” could use a pinch of empathy.

    There are many people that made mistakes, many years ago, that CANNOT get a great job because of those mistakes. Sure they can dig ditches, mow lawns and work in construction, but in general, Corporate America… HA(!!), good luck with that.

    As an example, I would offer that a boy, booted from his home at 17, broke into a church, stole food to eat and got caught. Tried as an adult, he did 2 years in prison and now couldn’t get a meaningful job that would lead to high status to save his life. Even 20 years later he is turned away. The man is brilliant, but society won’t look him in the eye and say “I’ll give you a chance”. Ruined? Done? No…. He now owns a successful business because he had no choice. The only way he could make it was to work for himself. No background checks to suddenly cause silence from prospective employers that were “excited about working with him” just before he revealed what they would find in the check. By the way, those checks that say they only go back 7 years… not true.

    There are thousands of disheartened men and women that could do more with their lives if they weren’t constantly beaten up by the past. They get their heads above water and there is someone new to step on it so they go back under.

    Perhaps a second example — Last week I was on a day trip with a man that is a friend and a successful business owner and I were stopped for speeding in RI. Suddenly, there were 3 cars on us and we were pulled from the car, handcuffed and both us and the car were searched. Why? Because the man had been arrested, NOT convicted of, an armed robbery when he was 19. I confirmed this with the trooper in charge. He is 43. Not a great way for me to find out this about him, but after we were let go with a warning, the man, in tears, explained that he gets this treatment all the time and further explained how he was discriminated against so much that he felt he would never have an opportunity to be anything besides what society allowed. Just before being stopped the man was talking about all the opportunity he was seeing in his future since starting his business. I could visibly see the experience we just went through was deflating his hopes.

    As an ex-police officer and former MP in the Army, I was shocked to see what these people go through, so I now have dropped my judgment and encourage them to do whatever it takes, within the law, to step up and meet their full potential. Prejudice will always be there, judgment will always be there, opportunity is what you make when others won’t offer it. Thousands of great men and women are starting or continuing businesses because of their belief in themselves and their refusal to quit. Entrepreneurship requires that you never let them see you hurt, angry, frustrated, etc. Drive on and make it happen for yourself despite what others think.

    Apparently this hit a nerve for me. For some reason this needed to be said.

    • Avatar


      Dec 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

      Hi Dolf
      I agree with you.And i think these basic thing may also help people.

  2. Avatar

    Deeone Higgs

    Jun 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Great message, Joel! These were spot on! Just looking back over a few of my own past failures – I can see through this article exactly where I went wrong on each one. I wasn’t always mindful of the importance of fostering the right connections or surrounding myself with the right people – and that’s a HUGE missing ingredient in the mix of success. Thanks for sharing the awesomeness, bud!

  3. Avatar

    Xavier Smith

    Jun 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    This was an awesome read! I am glad to have military experience in my background, for it hit home for me, now that I am a serial entrepreneur.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Avatar


    Jun 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    i am better then you guys

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