Game of Thrones probably isn’t the first place you’d look for entrepreneurial advice, but look closer and you’ll see a bloody, messy treasure trove of insider tips for those looking to build a thriving business.
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Even if you didn’t dive headfirst into the cultural phenomenon that is Game of Thrones (GoT), you can reap the financial rewards of what the show teaches. Here are 10 of the most poignant points from the eight-season show.
1. Hold nothing sacred but the mission.
Over GoT’s eight seasons, viewers had their hearts broken as favorite characters were knocked off time and again. Yet, those changes helped define the show and made the audience even more invested.
You should look at your business the same way. If anything is underperforming — an offer, a product, even a team member — you either need to transform it into something greater or let it die.
And yes, this includes you. If you’re placing roadblocks in your business’s growth, evolve or get out of the way. Your mission demands it, and your business is bigger than you. You are here to serve others. Do it better or let others do it in your place.
2. Don’t be saddled with debt.
It’s commonplace for entrepreneurs to borrow money to get their companies started. If this is you, you better pay your debts as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be owned by lenders and ruled by stress and unrest. Of course, my preference is to self-fund and avoid this situation entirely.
GoT’s Iron Bank took no debt lightly and not paying was never an option. Real-life lenders are just as cut-throat, even if they start as friends and family. The reality is that it only takes one bad month for them for the lender-borrower relationship to turn ugly.
Avoid debt and, if you do take on some debt, pay it back as soon as you can. Because when winter comes and you’re already struggling with debt, you don’t find a way to fight off the collectors. You die.
3. Hard times are always coming.
No matter what season your business is in now, winter is always a season away. When it arrives, you’ll need resources to stay warm and gain strength.
Be smart and stock up now. Cultivate more leads, more community goodwill, more repeat customers. That way, when hard financial times arise and the competition is falling away, you’ll make it through.
As the Stark family says, “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.”
4. When it’s dog-eat-dog, don’t be at the table.
Want a surefire way to kill your competition without suffering even a scratch? Stay out of the way when the fighting starts. While your competition is off bloodying one another, work on your own problems the way Cersei allowed her enemies to fight the White Walkers alone.
You can always amplify your wealth-making prowess by avoiding crowded markets, or else pivoting to them if you are already in crowded market. Find a niche that needs filling and fill it to perfection. There may be 1 million real estate pros out there, but is there one go-to guy in your nearest upscale neighborhood? The market is there. You just have to recognize it and give that audience a direct message they appreciate.
5. Keep an open mind about your enemies.
Being afraid of business rivals will result in bad decisions. You can’t focus on growing your business if you’re only ever scrambling to protect it.
Rather than fearing your enemies, keep an open mind about them, because who knows what will happen? One day, you may have a chance to join forces with your enemies and forge something even greater. Just think of all the times alliances switch on GoT, and how the more flexible players are usually the longest-living.
6. Common vision trumps skill.
Everyone wants to hire the best people, but sometimes the most skilled people aren’t the best people.
I find it’s better to bring on people with a shared love for your vision. Even if they’re not as skilled as someone else out there, their passion can be directed. When everyone in the company is excited about a single vision, you’ll go further than with a group of immensely talented people who have their own idea of what success looks like.
Case in point: Hodor. He’s got a one-word vocabulary, but his loyalty and willingness to serve made him one of the most beloved and important characters on the show.
7. Power isn’t always wielded in hand.
The greatest strength of a company isn’t in its products or its market share — it’s in the minds of the people in charge. That means you can never count a competitor out.
No matter how small or insignificant that other business may be, never take that company for granted. All it takes is one idea that they work harder to implement, and you could be chasing them.
The self-debasing cobbler known as the High Sparrow came to basically rule King’s Landing. If he could do that, what could a power-hungry entrepreneur do to take your customers?
8. Adapt, adapt, adapt.
Why do so many of your beloved characters in GoT die? Because they won’t adapt.
Don’t let your business be like them!
Instead, constantly evaluate the climate, test your marketing efforts, figure out what’s working, and then focus on making it work even better. The ad that did well last year won’t cut it this time around. Tweak it and create a more enticing offer this time around, or you may not make it to next season.
9. Treat your people well.
Why did Grey Worm and Missandei follow Daenerys Targaryen until the very end? Because she was perhaps the first person in their lives to actually treat them with respect.
In today’s marketplace, most people see work as a grind, a necessary evil to pay for the weekend. Set your people free from this mindset by giving opportunities to engage in and impact your empire building. In turn, they’ll give you their loyalty, which is priceless.
10. It comes back to one thing.
On the show, there are enough storylines to make your head spin, but in the end, it all comes back to one thing: ascending the iron throne.
Other things will try to divert your attention, but your gaze should always come back to your empire-building goals. Make your business great by returning day after day to your company’s purpose: to make your impact on the world and earn the elite lifestyle because of it.