On May 28, 2023, the last chapter of the series was broadcast ‘succession‘, the multi-award-winning HBO drama that showed us for four seasons the fierce fight of the Roy family to see who would get a vast empire of media and entertainment.
The series, which until now has been nominated for 48 Emmy Awards and won 13, did not enjoy a massive audience like other HBO hits, for example, ‘Game of Thrones’ or the recent ‘The Last of Us’; But it did garner a hardcore fan base that fell in love with this Shakespearean drama about the cruelty of the corporate world. The story is full of schemes and betrayals of an ultra-rich family, but seasoned with a lot of black humor.
Although the characters in this story are fictitious (but with many references to the life of the richest 1% in the world), they leave lessons, some very hard to assimilate, about real life in business and that we can learn without necessarily living through this tragedy.
Don’t worry about them spoilers: This article gives a brief description of the main characters without revealing the ending or important parts of the series.
Logan Roy, President of Waystar Royco
He is the patriarch of the Roy family and founder of a media and entertainment conglomerate called Waystar Royco, which includes a news network, movie production company, amusement parks, cruise ships, and even satellites. He is a tough, sometimes ruthless businessman, but is also seen as the paragon of the American dream.: a son of migrants who made his own fortune.
Logan’s second son is the most ambitious and longs to inherit his father’s empire, but his father doesn’t always see him as the ideal successor.
Siobhan (Shiv) Roy
The only daughter of the family moves in a misogynistic world and she, apparently, has no interest in running Waystar Royco, but she is an expert in devising strategies to achieve her own goals.
He is Siobhan’s fiancé and tries to win over his future father-in-law. He doesn’t stand out for his talent in business, but that doesn’t discourage him.
He is the youngest of the family, insolent, mocking and unscrupulous. But he wants to show his father that he can run the company.
Gregory (Greg) Hirsch
The cousin of the Roy family, naive and without a vocation, but accommodated and willing to (almost) anything to have a career at Waystar Royco.
5 cruel lessons that Succession teaches us
1. Leave a succession plan
The whole drama begins when Logan Roy falls ill one day and it is not clear who should take over the reins of Waystar Royco in his absence.
All family businesses, whether small or large, must have a succession plan that sets out the responsibilities of each member involved to give certainty in the generational change. Obviously, if Logan Roy had done this, there would be no intrigue in the series, but it is better to leave the tragedy for television and not experience it firsthand.
And this does not only apply to companies, any head of family must leave a will to inherit the estate, it does not matter if it is large or small, you cannot imagine the greed that can arouse among the brothers.
2. Reputation and image matter
The Roy family does not care what others think of them, they are rich and have an influential news network, but a bad reputation can bring down a great business. This is how we can see it when a corporate scandal frustrates a great acquisition by Logan Roy, or when a serious mistake by Kendall leaves him at the mercy of his father.
Another important element of the series is the ‘discreet’ wealth projected by the members. The only ostentation of their fortune is seen when they board helicopters or private jets, travel in their super-luxury vans, or when they arrive at their mansions and apartments. In their clothing they wear clothes with clean and sober patterns, nothing ‘bling bling’. This type of fashion is worn by many billionaires in real life, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, who are seen most of the time wearing jeans and a faded T-shirt.
3. “You can’t go against money”
Gerri Kellman, the company’s legal counsel, tells Roman Roy in an episode: “You can’t go against money, it will crush you”. Many times the characters have erratic ideas or make fanciful plans to satisfy their objectives, but these are derailed when they imply a potential loss or do not deliver value to the company. They can give themselves all the whims they want, but they cannot do anything against the interests of the company, that is, its shareholders.
4. Seriousness when negotiating
“I love you, but you’re not serious people,” Logan Roy tells his sons in one of Succession’s highlights. The patriarch knows that, when it comes to negotiating, one must not be ambiguous in order to make deals and then back out of them. You can be harsh, but insulting or intimidating will eliminate any possibility of agreement. He is not very flexible in his positions, but he will not make stratospheric offers or give baseless figures just to convince the other party.
Logan is ruthless when negotiating, but when he strikes a deal, his word is sacred.
5. The worst come to power
Chapter X of the Book Road of Servitude of the Nobel Prize in Economics Frederich August Hayek is called “Why the worst rise to the top”. The Austrian economist argues that individuals, the more intelligent and educated they are, will have different opinions and particular ideals; while the less educated and unscrupulous can perform the most unworthy tasks, in order to achieve a higher end. That is to say, the worst individuals are willing to do what others would not do to gain power.
This applies to politics and business. We all know a boss or superior who fills the position without the necessary talent or merit, but they got there because they do what they are told, without any question. Succession portrays this maxim perfectly: conspiracies and betrayals in the family and in managers are the order of the day. And in this game, the most intelligent does not necessarily win, but the one who is willing to do anything.
Francisco Mucino Journalist. Public finance, energy, business, innovation and the stories they contain.