Game of Thrones Business Lessons: What We Can Learn From Tywin Lannister

Game of Thrones

Tywin Lannister was all about the legacy of his house.

He was desperate for the Lannister name to carry the power and pedigree of its history, despite crumbling into ruin with incestuous offspring, a psychotic dictator at the helm (for a while) and one wine-swilling, father-hating Tyrion causing utter bedlam.

But none of this mattered. Not really. What really gave the Lannisters their power was their wealth — and boy were they wealthy. Although the official motto of House Lannister is “Hear Me Roar”, an ode to the golden lion on their sigil, they became better known for a different motto: “a Lannister always pays his debts”, taking a different meaning from the golden lion borne by their house.

Their wealth and the power that came with it had previously been acquired from gold mines that sat beneath their ancestral home of Casterly Rock. Yet, the good times were not to last.

Tywin freely admits to Cersei that the gold mines were dry and had been dry for years. Despite this, though, the Lannisters continued to maintain their wealth — paying every debt that fell at their feet.

Curious, isn’t it?

Imagine your business ran out of the commodity through which it made its money. Say you had a cupcake business, but suddenly couldn’t source flour; you’d be done for. Yet, Tywin Lannister managed to maintain his family’s wealth, despite running out of gold.

So, how did he do it?

It may be a fictional land, but there are some Game of Thrones business lessons straight from the mind of Tywin Lannister that could support any company operating in the real world.

Take the Right Risks

The Lannisters are known as risk takers.

Sometimes, these risks don’t pay off; like that time Cersei had an illegitimate child with her brother — a child who turned out to be mentally unhinged. However, sometimes, these risks do work out. Tywin risked it all by siding with Robert Baratheon in the rebellion and, as a result, came out as the part of the ruling class of Westeros.

Through this risk, Tywin hit the big time financially and secured his family’s place in the arms of wealth, with or without gold. With the acquisition of the crown came two powerful resources:

  • The ability to gain extra income through taxes and ownership of royal assets
  • The ability to borrow money against the crown, without putting debt on the Lannister House — similar to the diminished liability of an LTD

As far as Game of Thrones business lessons go, this is perhaps the most important and prudent. Tywin Lannister knew that if his risk paid off, he would secure great wealth for his family. Let’s not forget, though, that if Tywin’s risk had failed, he would have likely been executed by the Mad King and his House left in ruins.

He could have lost it all, then. So why on Earth should business owners consider following his example?

Because he took the right risk.

Tywin knew the Mad King was weak — he had an inside man after all (Jamie). He also knew Robert had the strength and the numbers; he just needed support. This “business decision” was of course a risk; Tywin had no guarantees of victory, but it was a calculated one, where the odds were stacked in his favour.

In business, you’ll find many examples of successful people who took risks that paid off and led to serious gains. Similar to Tywin, you may find yourself in a position where, if you don’t take risks, you could lose everything. However, risks are not synonymous with recklessness.

What we can learn from Tywin Lannister is a lesson about taking the right risks — different from the well-known philosophy that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.

Being a reckless risk taker, like Cersei, is likely to leave you in a pretty poor state. Being a smart risk taker, like Tywin, is more likely to have you reap the rewards.

Just be sure to lock your bathroom door, so you can live long enough to enjoy them.

Don’t Put All Your Dragon Eggs in One Basket

Tywin Lannister learned that a reliance on gold was going to leave his family penniless.

Time changes everything. A resource that is numerous or in demand right now might not be in 10 years, or even 12 months.

What did Tywin do?

When he realised the business of gold was no longer indefinitely tenable, he found a way to make money outside of his current strategy. Using the resources he had at his disposal, Tywin started to bring in sources of secondary income.

Some of these he already had — property, taxations, etc from owning a province of Westeros — although others he brought into his plan. This includes the aforementioned risks, as well as using lending to bring in revenue streams through interest.

We aren’t suggesting you attempt to follow Tywin’s model to the letter. While these are definitely some good Game of Thrones business lessons, most companies do not have a valuation in the billions like the Lannister family and thus cannot offer to start property empires or lend vast sums of money.

However, there are other ways you can secure secondary income.

A chartered accountancy firm, for example, can use the business knowledge they’ve acquired through their work with companies to offer business advice and growth support services. A construction company can contract out employees to other builds and jobs. A self-employed builder can hire out their van/machinery when not in use. The list goes on.

The point is that Tywin found a way to use the resources at his disposal to ensure he had more than just the money from his gold mines coming in as their output began to slow.

Most business owners will have other methods of using their skills and resources to make extra money for long-term stability. It is just a matter of finding these methods and utilising them before you face economic hardship.

Saving for a Rainy Day Will Protect You From the Rains of Castamere

During such hardship, time is needed to allow businesses to adapt to the new climate and find their footing. If the rug is pulled out from underneath you, there is very little chance of you landing on your feet.

Tywin Lannister was well aware of his upcoming financial woes. He is quoted as saying “the last Lannister gold mine ran dry three years ago”.

Note the use of the word last. It is reasonable to believe that other mines have been drying up for quite some time and that Tywin knew this was happening. However, his biggest financial victory — capturing the crown of Westeros — was not to happen overnight. He needed time and money to make it so. Before he could find the Lannister family a new source of wealth, Tywin would have to bankroll his affairs, maintaining the illusion of endless wealth and power.

If he borrowed from other Houses, he’d give away his position of depleting wealth. If he borrowed from the Iron Bank and didn’t find greater sources of wealth, his family would be torn apart.

So, instead, he kept reserves — and so should you.

If you hit hard times and need financial stimulus, going to banks could just put you into greater financial difficulty. However, if you set aside money to support you in tougher times during the profitable eras of your business as Tywin did, you’ll be able to give yourself that time to adapt, survive and thrive.

After More Game of Thrones Business Lessons? Take a Look a Tywin’s Financial Model

Still wondering how he did it?

Here is a broken down version of Tywin Lannister’s cunning business model, so you can work out exactly how he managed to maintain his family’s tremendous wealth.

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