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What Game of Thrones can teach us about business finance

In Game of Thrones G.R.R Martin’s land of fire and ice is a cut-throat world of underhanded dealings, betrayals, utter chaos and abject poverty – but business finance also has its place.
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Indeed, through all the carnage, some genius business finance minds have risen to the very top of the financial world. What can we learn from their successes?

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular television shows in history. It has amassed a following of millions and dominates the headlines whenever a new episode airs. For many, it is the peak of entertainment.

But that’s all it is, right? Entertainment?

Maybe not. While it is a fictional world, the land of Westeros is famously grounded in reality. From politics to business finance, life in G.R.R Martin’s fantasy land often has real-world parallels, which means beneath the surface of swords and sorcery, there are some greater takeaways to be had from this show.

Business owners often take on the wisdom and failures of their real-world counterparts, helping them to progress and succeed. But it isn’t just real-world business examples that can help us grow. Here’s what Game of Thrones can teach us about business finance.

You must pay your debts

As Tyrion is so fond of telling us, a Lannister always pays his debts. It may get rather irksome to hear it repeated like a parrot after a cracker, but his words are actually very sound business finance advice.

The Lannisters have built a reputation on paying money they are owed. As a result, they have no issue raising funds from the Iron Bank, making deals with other houses and it saves Tyrion on more than one occasion.

Others in Westeros have not been so trusted for business finance when it comes to repayment — and it’s cost them. Stannis Baratheon’s army of 2,000 sellswords abandoned him on the eve of war, lacking faith that their efforts would be adequately rewarded.

If the Lannisters hadn’t built up their reputation as trustworthy debtors, Tyrion probably wouldn’t have survived very long. Nor will your company if you fail to inspire the same confidence for business finance.

Reputation — and credit score — is important in the financial world. Keep on top of your debts and you’ll earn the trust of suppliers and investors. Fail to do so and they’ll abandon you.

A smart company is prepared to pivot

The gold under Casterly Rock kept the Lannisters extremely wealthy, yet just as all men must die, all resources must dry. Tywin Lannister openly admits to Cersei that the family is out of gold and has been for quite some time, yet despite this fact, years later, the family still maintain the greatest fortune on the continent. How?

Tywin Lannister has perhaps the keenest business finance mind in Game of Thrones. By following a well thought-out business model, he managed to perform the greatest of financial feats: a complete business pivot.

When a company’s primary method of income collapses, the business often does as well. But Tywin wasn’t about to let a lack of gold send his family into obscurity. Instead, he invested his resources in finding a new way of making money. Now, the family does not rely on gold mines for wealth, but taxation and the spoils of war.

Tywin’s example is a demonstration of how business finance need not crumble when one well dries up, but must tap into another instead. The Lannisters used their influence and power to back a rebellion and claim the Iron Throne.

If you find yourself in a similar situation as Tywin, you may not be able to claim new income through war, but you can ask yourself: how else can I make money?

Winter is (always) coming

Does this sound familiar to you?

You don’t know when it’s coming. You don’t know exactly what form it will take or what will happen. But something will arrive one day that changes everything. That puts an immense amount of strain and pressure upon you — something that, if it catches you without warning, will be nearly impossible to overcome.

In the context of Game of Thrones, this sounds an awful lot like Jon Snow’s highly-anticipated winter. In the business world, it sounds a lot like financial turbulence caused by anything from a market crash to a shift in consumer demand.

Just as it is in Game of Thrones, the key to surviving a financial winter is preparation. Jon Snow is preparing his people for the winter. They are gathering supplies, fortifying their defences and training soldiers for what is to come.

Non-believers, like those further south, do nothing but focus on their current situation, which means that if winter ever reaches them, they’ll be like lambs to the slaughter.

Businesses that ignore the potential for financial problems cannot hope to overcome them when they eventually come knocking at the door. Legions of businesses collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis because they were not prepared for harsher times.

The ones that made it through did so because they were able to adapt and were ready to meet the “winter” head on.

Russell Smith is the founder of Russell Smith Chartered Accountants

Image source: Game of Thrones is a HBO production

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