I do have to let you know this post contains potential spoilers about the show, but it’s mainly focused on ‘Gilmore Girls’ business lessons.
My networks were abuzz about the release of the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix during Thanksgiving weekend. I knew I would have a lot of feelings about the show but I didn’t expect to be writing a post about business lessons from ‘Gilmore Girls’.
Yet, here we are. Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it revolves around a mother-daughter relationship and their life in a quaint town in Connecticut.
Meet the characters
For this post, I’ll be focusing on the following characters.
- Lorelai Gilmore fulfills her dream of being a small business owner by opening her own inn with her best friend Sookie St. James, who is a chef. Lorelai’s gotten to this point by working her way up the ladder at the Independence Inn. She started out as a maid and at the beginning of the first episode of the show, she’s managing the Independence Inn.
- Her daughter, Rory Gilmore, pursues her dream of being a journalist. Her journey in the show starts in high school, continues on to Yale, where she becomes editor-in-chief at the Yale Daily News. At the end of the original series, she’s leaving to cover Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
- Luke Danes is one of the established small business owners in Stars Hollow. He inherited his father’s hardware store and decided to turn it into a diner.
- Kirk Gleason* holds many jobs over the course of the show, and is a classic serial entrepreneur.
Business lessons from ‘Gilmore Girls’
- Find a business partner who complements you. Lorelai and Sookie worked together at the Independence Inn for years. Lorelai handled the management while Sookie was the head chef. Although they struggle a bit at first, once they get their own business, Dragonfly Inn off the ground, their skills complement each other. Starting a brand new business with friends inevitably changes the dynamic. Communication and setting the right expectations from the start are crucial steps in establishing a good cadence with your business partner.
- Passion is good for running a business, until it’s not. In the revival, it’s a few years after the Dragonfly Inn has opened its doors. Sookie has taken a sabbatical. At first, it seems like it’s been only a couple of months but by the end of the final episode, we learn she’s been gone for two years. During the course of Sookie’s sabbatical, Lorelai refuses to hire a new chef. She lets her emotions get the best of her, which is clearly hurting her business.
- Don’t burn bridges. Lorelai’s concierge has a great idea: Pop-ups bringing famous chefs to the Dragonfly Inn in Sookie’s absence. This is a fantastic way to use their space and a great marketing idea to create free word-of-mouth about their business. Once again, Lorelai makes a bad business decision and kicks the chefs out without any warning. The way she treats the chefs is not only rude, it’s horrible business etiquette. Her actions will create negative publicity for her business, as well as jeopardize the relationships Sookie has nurtured with these individuals.
- Always have a signed contract before working with a new client. Rory has the opportunity to work on a book proposal with the eccentric socialite who was the subject of her breakout New Yorker article. Rory’s legal negligence overshadows her initiative to pursue this project. We see Rory frustrated during unproductive meetings with her client, and by the end of the show, she receives a call from the client’s lawyer. Rory not only loses the opportunity, but she also won’t get paid for any of the time spent working on the proposal because there was no written agreement outlining the scope of her work.
- Be prepared. During the course of the revival, Rory is being pursued by the CEO of a new website who wants to bring Rory’s voice onboard. When she finally agrees to a meeting, Rory is completely unprepared. She hasn’t bothered to research the website or read any of the existing articles to get familiar with their voice. When the CEO asks “What would Rory bring to our website?” Rory has absolutely no ideas to offer. Even if a company is the one pursuing you, you should still be prepared to show your value. What do you have to offer? How will you enrich the brand? Needless to say, Rory didn’t get the job.
- Hire the right people for your business. On the flip-side of this situation, the CEO of the website also teaches us a great lesson. Although she pursues Rory, when the time comes, she isn’t flippant about the interview process. She knows what will take to make her business a success and wants to hire employees who will contribute to that success. While Rory may have looked great on paper, the failed face-to-face interview tells a different story. The CEO doesn’t hesitate to move on without wasting any more time on a candidate who’s not only a good fit, but didn’t even care enough to make an effort.
- Protect yourself against potential lawsuits. Oh, Kirk. Throughout the course of the show, Kirk holds 62 different jobs, including a few failed business endeavors. Kirk has moxie and the necessary drive to make him a potentially successful serial entrepreneur. During the revival episodes, he’s got yet another new business idea: An on-demand car service. Sound familiar? While there’s nothing wrong his idea, his execution is a disaster. He names his service Ooober. Kirk could’ve created a specialized version of the car service that would’ve been unique to the needs of the small town residents. Kirk’s “dive in first, ask questions later” attitude teaches him a lot of lessons about business. However, he should probably ask more questions about the law before he gets himself into any real trouble.
- Don’t let others dilute your brand. Luke’s diner is a success. There are some people who look at this success and think “it’s time to expand!” However, Luke’s happy with running the single diner. The Luke’s Diner brand is an established one, even as the world changes around him. Although he’s facing constant pressure to change and grow, he knows his business the best. While some people (like Kirk) may love the idea of running a franchise, Luke is fulfilled as a small business owner in his hometown. In the end, Luke’s Diner stays as is, no matter how much the world wants him to deviate from his ideals.
The biggest lesson from the show is about learning from your mistakes. As small business owners, as entrepreneurs, and even as employees, we’ll have a few missteps along the way.
The important thing is to step back, find the lessons, and continue on the journey.
*I had to look up Kirk’s last name because I’m not sure I ever heard it during the show.