Game of Thrones, a postscript
Several readers asked for more reflections on Game of Thrones (GOT). For one last time, here are family business lessons from the iconic fantasy series, to be concluded next week.
Keep your promises
Many thriving family businesses can rely on stakeholder support, because their word is their bond.
A third-generation president of a retail business says the family almost lost their assets when the company warehouse caught fire decades ago. But the business had no trouble getting credit, because customers and banks were confident that his grandfather, the patriarch, would repay loans in full once the enterprise got back on its feet.
“We always keep our promises,” he says. “Everyone—our customers, the banks, our suppliers—all know this. We tell the next generation to uphold our family name.”
Unfortunately, Robb Stark forgot to keep his vows. On his way to avenge his father Ned’s death and claim the Iron Throne, he falls in love with a pretty nurse, and puts aside his responsibilities to his family, his clan and his people.
Robb breaks off the arrangement between House Stark and House Frey—negotiated by his mother and Walder Frey— for Robb to marry Frey’s daughter in exchange for aid in a battle.
Frey never forgets the slight. He massacres Robb, his wife, his mother, and more than a thousand Stark supporters at the infamous Red Wedding.
Grow your brand
What sets entrepreneurs apart from the crowd is the strength of their product and their brand. Many family businesses that have average products and slim margins likely will not last long—to be dethroned when the next enterprise promises cheaper costs or better services.
Businesses that last—and eventually become conglomerates—have capitalized on what makes them unique. SM started out with shoes; Metrobank with banking; Filinvest with real estate. All of them have branched out successfully to other fields.
The various clans in GOT take advantage of their branding.
“Winter is coming” is the slogan of House Stark, symbolized by the gray wolf of the North. Their founder Bran the Builder built up not just the house but also the Kingdom of the North, so their brand denotes protection of northerners against all invaders. The wolf signifies honor, unity and justice. The Starks remain true to their brand till the end, when Bran Stark becomes king.
“Hear me roar” is the slogan of House Lannister, symbolized by the golden lion. The lion signifies the wealth (gold) supposedly hidden in the mines under their ancestral home, while their tagline asserts their willingness to dominate other houses through intimidation and violence, the way a lion would rule the jungle.
“Here we stand” is the slogan of House Mormont, symbolized by the black bear. The family rules Bear Island, given to them early on by the Starks, which made them forever loyal to the latter. Just as the black bear does not run when confronted by danger, so too are the Mormonts known for their bravery.
Jorah Mormont protected his beloved Queen Daenerys till his last breath, even if she never reciprocated more than his friendship. His niece, the spunky and barely in her teens Lyanna, chose certain death against the Night King’s army, after vanquishing the feared giant.
“Fire and blood” is the slogan of House Targaryen, symbolized by the red dragon. Dragons breathe fire and rain blood on enemies. Daenerys Targaryen acts sensibly (and even heroically) for most of the series, so it is easy for us to forget their family motto.
In the end, when Daenerys goes mad and slaughters innocents, we witness the family brand create tragedy once again.
(To be concluded next week)
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