Based on George R.R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, "Game of Thrones" has emerged as must-watch television on HBO for millions of Americans over the last half-decade. The buzz about Sunday evening's season seven premiere, "Dragonstone" proves the series continues to grow in popularity with a broad, active fan base.
Since its first season, ratings have gradually increased and there are great expectations for season seven of the fantasy drama television series to set a new all-time best in viewership. The show's season six finale was watched by 8.9 million viewers, a record for a single episode by the HBO drama.
So what makes "Game of Thrones" such a popular series and what values can entrepreneurs take away from it?
Here are three lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from "Game of Thrones" to apply to their own ventures:
1. Build Buzz and Customer Engagement
Lacking an A-list celebrity, "Game of Thrones" relies on its storyline and entertainment to appeal to its audience. For the 21st century viewer, "Game of Thrones" has it all - from sword fights and sex scenes to dramatic real-life situations that keep its viewers on edge. Screen writers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss have done an excellent job promoting the series if the off-season without revealing any spoilers. One of the keys to its success has been the cliffhanging season endings, which has resulted in more conversations among its fans outside of live viewings.
Season six of "Game of Thrones" resulted in more user activity on YouTube from fan reaction videos to episode analysis and other related content than any other season, according to an AdWeek report. The long-awaited return of "Game of Thrones" crashed HBO's website and live streaming services during the first half of the seventh-season premiere due to a traffic overload. The fantasy drama series is now the network's most popular show of all-time, passing the likes of "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and "Sex and the City" as its mass appeal continues to grow.
For small business owners, identifying and appealing to your niche is essential to success, but it is just as important to attract those that fall outside the traditional demographic. Creating a conversation amongst your customers outside of the business will be a key driver to success. While companies can't use cliffhangers - which would likely frustrate the customer more than anything - on their products or services, generating buzz around a product launch or a new service might create the conversation and interest that you need as a business owner to generate traffic.
2. Family Values
One of the recurring themes in the "Game of Thrones" series throughout each season is the influence of family. In the season seven premiere, Arya Stark, one of the series' main characters shows her allegiance to the family by strategically aligning with her siblings in a decision against Karstark and Umber, two rival clans.
Loyalty to family in "Game of Thrones" is paramount. Although it is highly improbable such a result would happen in the business world for crossing a family member, the notion of family sticking together is a more-commonly-practiced concept. When entrepreneurs and small business owners look for support, family is usually at the top of that list. In fact, many aspiring entrepreneurs reach out to their families for funding - particularly if they have little or no credit history (making it less likely that a bank will provide capital).
When my brother Ramit and I decided to launch Biz2Credit in 2007, we had support of each other and from our family. Family support often means all hands on deck to make sure a business thrives.
3. Have a Succession Plan
According to a report in Entertainment Weekly last month, "Game of Thrones" is expected to conclude with its eighth season in 2018 or 2019. This sheds light on having an exit plan, which any business must have. HBO Programming president Casey Bloys discusses the carefully-evaluated strategy of planning the finale series without giving away too many details while outlining a broad long-term plan.
Similarly, for small business owners looking for an exit, identifying the right time to leave is imperative. Identifying the next leader of the organization must start in advance, and the grooming for the position should start months, if not years, in advance. Attorneys and mentors can help you prepare your company for business life without its founder.
If a business is family-run, choosing among several children can be tricky - particularly if/when a younger child displays better business acumen than an older sibling. Putting the succession plan in writing is a smart first step as a founder looks toward retirement. If no obvious heir is in the wings, an owner must consider turning over the reins to a trusted employee or selling the company to a new owner who has the potential to keep the business thriving.