The final season of six years of Downton Abbey came to a close on March 6. This dramatic series introduced viewers to the upstairs and downstairs characters of the Robert Crawley household. Over the six years of this series, viewers followed the fortunes of the Crawley family as they adapted to the evolution from Edwardian formality in 1912 to the freedoms of the brave new world in 1925.
What lessons can business owners learn from the Crawley family?
- Economies change/being open to change is critical to the survival of an enterprise- the family derived most their income from agriculture and from 1912 to 1925, gross income declined yet the wages paid to their employees tripled. This led to downsizing their lifestyle until Tom Branson convinced his father-in-law to diversify the estate’s business model.
- Succession planning is critical- Lord Grantham becomes so stressed by the changes needed at that estate that his health suffers. His oldest daughter, Lady Mary and his son-in-law, Tom Branson take over daily operations to lessen the stress on Lord Grantham’s health. For all business owners, there comes a time to train others to be ready to take over for the entrepreneur in the event of illness or death…or aging.
- Beware about taking advice from knowledgeable sources-When cook, Mrs. Patmore comes into some money, she asks butler, Mr. Carson for investing advice. He doesn’t know anything about investing but overhears the family taking about real estate development. Fortunately, Mrs. Patmore stays with her original idea to establish a bed and breakfast which is more comfortable and fitting for her. Taking advice from non-qualified persons can be disastrous for a business.
Throughout the Downton Abbey series the theme was clear-the days of great estates were numbered. Therefore, perhaps the best lesson from Downton Abbey for business owners is to “Adapt and Survive.”
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