Aside from providing great entertainment value, the television series "Arrested Development" (which aired from 2003 to 2006 and emerged as a Netflix reboot in 2013) offers key insights into the dos and don'ts of a family-owned business.
In case you haven't seen "Arrested Development," you should know that the series follows the misadventures of the highly dysfunctional Bluth family, which is made up of George Bluth Sr., the founder of the family real estate business, his wife Lucille and their adult children, George Arthur Bluth (or "Gob," pronounced Job after the Biblical character), Lindsay, Michael and Buster. When the series begins, George Sr. is jailed for embezzlement and various family members are shocked to find the company credit card is no longer valid.
Here are four "don'ts" of a family-owned business that you can learn from this hit television program:
1. Don't Give a New Project the First Name You Think Of
In "Arrested Development," Michael, the most level-headed of the clan, wants to call a new housing development "Sudden Valley," but for his son George Michael, the name conjures up "salad dressing," and not a flavor he'd like to eat. And, partly because of the name, investors stay away from this development. Before attaching a new name to a project or subsidiary business, it's always best to run your idea by various stakeholders to get their reactions.
2. Don't Overlook the Details
In the first season, George Bluth Sr. is accused of committing "light treason" because he built mini-mansions in Iraq for Saddam Hussein. Three seasons later, Michael learns that the mini-mansions were constructed at the request of the CIA for wiretapping purposes. If Michael had been aware of the specifics of this deal earlier, he could have avoided a slew of legal complications. By staying on top of all of your company's daily endeavors, you can avoid potential confusion and repercussions down the line.
3. Don't Neglect to Provide Instructions
George Sr. uses J. Walter Weatherman, a former Bluth Company employee with a prosthetic arm, to "teach" his children various life lessons (which seem to always involve the man's arm coming off suddenly and spouting fake blood). This is vividly illustrated in a scene where Weatherman "loses" his arm because no one let him know they'd taken the last of the milk. "And that's why you always leave a note," says Weatherman. While "Arrested Development" takes this particular example to comic extremes, this scene illustrates the importance of providing detailed instructions.
4. Don't Forget to Prioritize Succession Planning
Throughout the series, George Sr. and his wife Lucille invariably choose the wrong family member to run the business while their patriarch is serving prison time. This leads to one costly business mishap after another. The lesson here is that all business owners must think carefully about who is most qualified to take over in their absence.
"Arrested Development" offers plenty of cautionary (and hilarious) examples of how not to run a family business. In this way, the popular television program can offer valuable guidance to small business owners.
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