Entrepreneurial Lessons From Game of Thrones

Entrepreneurs are always striving to know more about business. It’s why advice websites like this exist, why business consultancy is a hundred-billion dollar global market and why convention centres are often found filled to the rafters with innovators chasing their business dreams.

But, you don’t always have to search for wisdom in conventional areas.

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch G.R.R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga unfold on the small screen every week.

Our love of Game of Thrones, though, doesn’t just come from the swords, the violence, or even the dragons — you can find countless examples of this type of storytelling elsewhere. No, it’s the realism that really has us hooked. The political intrigue, the ruthless characters and their genius power plays. The stories of Game of Thrones exist in an epic fantasy world, but many could just as easily be scaled down to play out in our own world.

The result is that, while it is all fictional, there are plenty of things we can learn from the entrepreneurial minds of Westeros. When all's said and done, success in the Seven Kingdoms comes down to strategy and shrewd business.


Strength and Stability is Often About Unity

In Westeros, it seems like everyone is out for themselves — and they are, to a point. But to get where they want to go, families and individuals often find themselves piggybacking off of others.

Marriages are arranged, deals are made and partnerships are created in an effort to strengthen their position and ensure mutual success. Without forging these alliances, there would be no victory for them.

The best example of a business arrangement in Game of Thrones is the marriage between the Tyrells and the Lannisters. Both major houses, the Tyrells had a great deal of gold but not much power, while the Lannisters had a lot of power but were struggling with debilitating debt.

The partnership was a sound business arrangement. Offset of financial woes for the Lannisters, acquisition of power and resources for the Tyrells. Those who try to make it on their own, though —  Stannis Baratheon, Robb Stark, Ramsay Bolton — fail.

Partnerships are highly valuable to both entrepreneurs and rulers of Westeros. They can help with any number of things, from mutually ensured survival to easier acquisition of goods and resources. Yara’s partnership with Daenerys, for example, meant safety for the Greyjoys and ships for Dany.

Never underestimate the power of forging relationships. You might be a great business mind in your own right, but climbing to the top is easier with more friends than foes.

The Virtue of Patience Offers The Greatest Rewards

Bill Gates didn’t become the wealthiest man on the planet overnight. Warren Buffett developed his stock formula after much of trial and error. Daenerys took six years to travel to Westeros. Littlefinger spent decades rising from peasant boy to Lord of House Baelish. And, the mysterious White Walkers have slowly amassed an army large enough to annihilate the humans to the south.

These people, both fictional and very real, invested huge amounts of time in their plans — and it paid off for them. If we shift gears and look to those without patience, do we find the same success?

Stannis is a great example of a failure without patience. He marched before he was ready, unlike Dany, and suffered a cataclysmic defeat at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. Cersei Lannister was also so desperate to solve her problems quickly that she created a power in King’s Landing that nearly destroyed her.

Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, it is hard to be patient. Yet the greatest success stories come not from those who jump from project to project, vying for quick wins, but those who play the long game.


Success is About Finding Your Place

Plenty of characters in Game of Thrones have faced uphill battles trying to achieve something remarkable in situations that are constantly working against them. It’s not until they find the place they truly belong that they then start to flourish.

Tyrion spent his life trying to appease his family and cast of the shackles of his birth and dwarfism. But again and again, he was forced backwards. Despite saving King’s Landing from Stannis, he found himself on trial for a murder he did not commit. Under the service of Daenerys though, Tyrion thrived, rising to Hand of the Queen.

Jon Snow is another example. At Winterfell he was a bastard, looked down upon by almost all around him. By joining the watch, he found a place he belonged, and it didn’t take him long to become Lord Commander, and eventually King in the North.

Working to become a successful entrepreneur in a negative or unsuitable environment or industry is not conducive to your dreams of millionaires row. To achieve your goals, you need to find your place in the world. The right place. Be it a new town, country, industry, or beside a dragon-wielding Queen.

Reputation Can Be Your Most Powerful Asset

In Westeros, reputation is both a blessing and a curse.

Tyrion, for example, is saved on numerous occasions thanks to his family’s famous, unofficial motto: “a Lannister always pays his debts”. His brother Jaime, however, sees less success thanks to his own reputation. Constant gloating about his skill as a swordsman sees his ‘competitors’ relieve him of his greatest asset: his right hand.

Then we have the likes of Jon Snow, whose reputation as a fair and good-hearted leader resulted in his ascension to King in the North, while his rival Ramsay Bolton’s work in savagery ensured he met an equally savage end.

So what can entrepreneurs learn from these Westerosi examples?

That your reputation and your branding can be your rise or your downfall. Building the right kind of reputation is key to creating relationships and earning trust. Tyrion didn’t just tell people he’d pay his debts; he actually did so. If he didn’t pay his debts, his poor reputation would have likely seen him meet his end fairly early on. Likewise, in a real-world scenario, a chartered accountancy firm needs to create a reputation that demonstrates their ability in the field. Nobody wants to work with a number cruncher that can’t crunch numbers.

That similar reputation also ensured Tywin could secure money from the Iron Bank, allowing the crown to carry on ruling and fighting wars. It was his reputation that meant he achieved such agreeable terms with his lenders. After his demise, the bank, untrusting of his off-springs reputations, start putting the pressure on the crown for repayments.

Build your reputation through both actions and words as the kind of entrepreneur people/businesses want to work with, and they will do exactly that. Fail to live up to promises, gloat and paint a target on your back, or build yourself up as somebody difficult to work with, and you’ll find success is much harder to find.

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