Fans of the PBS hit Downton Abbey found out last night that the estate, and the Crawleys who have run it for generations, are facing dire financial woes. But for those of us who work in startup land, maneuvering through economic uncertainty is nothing new. So we have some tips for the beloved aristocratic family on how they can manage this rough patch, keep their stately home, and turn cash-flow positive.
The first step in any downturn is to get real about your financial situation—and downsize. Nobody likes to do it, but it’s a better alternative to running out of cash. By taking a close look at the estate’s books, maximizing their staff’s duties so there are no redundancies (do each of the girls really need their own maids, can’t they dress for dinner together?), and agreeing to live in let’s say 50 of the castle’s 100 rooms, the Crawleys can significantly cut down on their expenses.
Step two: refining your business model. Lord Grantham understands the importance of keeping Downton operational, as it is the main employer if the village. The family makes its money largely from investments and collecting taxes on the properties it owns in the village. The Crawleys also own several businesses in town, most notably The Grantham Arms, a quaint pub and lodge. Since we’ve already started looking at streamlining the staff’s responsibilities, we can have them take shifts at the pub. They’re already trained, and the villagers will flock to be served by the best of the best.
Step three: leverage your best assets. We already know that Downtown Abbey itself is a huge draw. Its parties are legendary but it is also famous for its accommodations. During the First World War, it served as an officer’s convalescent home and hundreds of the Royal troops recovered there in splendor. The Crawleys, who we’ve agreed should downsize to a smaller portion of the home, could rent out the other parts to exclusive events at a high price. By doing so they maintain the air of aristocracy and protect their brand. They host only a handful of events per year keeping the invasion of their privacy to a minimum. The word-of-mouth referrals come pouring in and the Crawleys can pick and choose their guests.
Step four: time for drastic measures. Perhaps what keeps Downton working so smoothly is its downstairs staff. Led by Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Padmore, the team is a top acquirhire target. A rich aristocratic family in need of excellent help can’t ask for more. And Americans looking to settle in England would be delighted to land such a staff. But the Crawleys don’t need to give up their servants altogether. They can opt to lease out their team as freelancers to run events at the village.
The Crawleys’ saving grace is that the global economic downturn is changing the rules of society. While they’re understandably worried about setting the wrong example, as pioneers and entrepreneurs, they must forge ahead and tell a new narrative of an employer’s responsibility.
Do you have ideas on how to save Downton Abbey from financial ruin, startup style? Let us know in the comments below.