What modern small businesses can learn from the Downton Abbey finale

Like many Americans, I sat on the edge of my seat for an hour and a half on Sunday evening Downton Abbeywatching as Julian Fellows wrapped bows around all the Downton Abbey story lines. As I excitedly watched (and sometimes had to suspend my disbelief a bit) I was surprised by how many business lessons the episode contained if you looked just below the surface.

The truth will come out, own the message – I suspect I wasn’t the only one who was screaming at the TV when Edith decided to defy Bertie and tell his mom the truth about her past. But, she was right. Her past was a reality and she knew it would come out eventually. By delivering the message herself, she was able to frame and manage it. It is often tempting to brush bad news under the table, but somehow it always comes out and the blowback is even worse than it would have been with upfront honesty.

Never let the gatekeeper make the final decision – Perhaps the best scene in the entire final episode was Isobel Crawley and the Dowager Countess storming Lord Merton’s house to save him from his awful son and daughter-in-law. (Seriously, I want an enemy as evil as Amelia. That is some deep bad there.) If Isobel had been satisfied with the gatekeeper’s response (the servants and Amelia) she would have slunk off and never seen Dickey again. Instead she stormed in, found her man and proposed. It is a great reminder that putting the gatekeeper in charge of our fortunes is always a mistake. There are always ways to navigate around those trying to get in our way.

There are many ways to skin a cat – Poor Henry lost his taste for car racing after his friend died in a crash. This sad tale has him staring off into the distance at an outdoor luncheon. Whatever shall he do? Of course, he will open a used car dealership in the village! I loved the message of this storyline. Expand your focus and expand your opportunities. (Mind you, I don’t recommend starting a business without consulting your partner first!)

Good copy will win in the end – Perhaps the least believable storyline of the final season (and yet most fun) was that of Spratt, the Dowager Countess’s butler, being the ladies advice columnist at Lady Edith’s magazine. Of course when his nemesis Denker (another worthy evil enemy) uncovers this juicy gossip she is eager to “accidentally” let the news slip to the Countess. Sadly (for her) when she shows her the actual column, the Countesses response is one of laughter, not anger. It just goes to show that writing great stuff, like this blog, puts you in the drivers seat.

What do you think? Did you notice any business lessons? Even more importantly, what will you watch next, now that our beloved Downton has had its last season?