Binge-Learning; 7 business lessons I’ve learnt from the couch watching Netflix in order to be the best Melbourne PlumbersCat McCarthy
I love watching TV. I love talking to friends and workmates about what ‘show’ they’re currently watching and get their advice on what I need to watch next. My husband and I always watch TV together at night, with a cup of tea. That means a). We have to agree on what to watch (he’s currently suffering through season 6 of Outlander) and b). If either of us are out for the night, we can’t watch that show without the other (that’s cheating).
The kids don’t go to bed until 8.30pm now so we watch a family friendly show from 7.30pm-8.30pm, reducing our couples binge-watching show time from 8.30pm-9.30pm. After 9.30pm its Come Dine With Me or Anthony Bourdain for 10 mins wind down (yes, after TV wind down is a thing, especially after watching something like The Handmaids Tale).
We, as what we’d like to think are some of the best Melbourne Plumbers, believe in continuous development in order to grow our business. All of the business books and life coaches say TV is bad and life-wasting and we should be reading a book or doing meditation or writing in a journal or Wim Hof-fing or something else to develop oneself. And that’s all great advice of course. But after a big day of client woes, late payers and HR headaches a TV show can be just what’s needed to desensitize you for an hour, and soothe your day before bedtime.
Some of that mind-numbing stuff will not only pacify you, but teach you some lessons in business when you least expect it, while you’re nestled under your hygge rug munching on a square of Cadbury fruit and nut. Here are some business tips I’ve learned from some of my favourite TV shows recently (spoiler alert!) in order to be the best Melbourne Plumbers.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive – You’re Only As Good As Your Last Race
Drive to Survive is now in its 5th season and is a documentary series based on the behind-the-scenes happenings of the Formula One World Championship. The show has been so popular its driven Grand Prix attendance numbers and viewership of Formula 1 to new heights; pumping an extra US$1billion into the motorsport annually. The series highlights exactly how dispensable the drivers are; there are only a limited amount of ‘seats’ (20 per season, 2 per team). And whilst I stop short of feeling sorry for these pampered and famous multi-millionaires with homes in Monte Carlo, I do feel for how consumable they are by their teams.
Fan favourite, and one of the shining stars from the series is Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo. A fellow sandgroper, Daniel is the class clown of the program, a loveable larrikin and genuinely talented race car driver having won 8 Grand Prix victories. In his Formula 1 career he drove for Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull Racing, Renault and McLaren. His history of changing teams and progressive decline has reduced him to now becoming the backup driver for Red Bull Racing (ironic, as he left Red Bull previously because he didn’t want to be driver number 2). Daniel hasn’t had a win since September 2021, and was replaced in 2022 by fellow Aussie up and comer Oscar Piastri.
Not unlike in business, Daniel was only ever as good as his last race, which weren’t great in 2022. In business, we are only ever as good as our last client interaction. We could have 99 wonderful interactions with a client, but they will remember the last one, over everything, as it is freshest in mind. This is what we try and convey to our team, particularly honing in on the importance of the client experience and ensuring we give them a positive journey with our company. They’ll remember if they’ve had a good experience with our company, but if they’ve had a bad experience, they won’t just remember it, they’ll tell their friends about it. We’re currently reviewing our Client Experience Process to ensure its on point for 2023 as we’re only as good as our last race job.
Below Deck – Safety First
We occasionally like a bit of trashy reality TV in our house, and there is no trashier than Below Deck. Based around ‘yachties’ working on superyachts in the Caribbean or Mediterranean, the series (there’s also been lots of spinoffs) showcases how the boat’s team members impress their wealthy clientele on charter by creating flawless experiences.
There are a LOT of messages, and lessons learned from mistakes, around customer service. The end game for the yachties is to earn a tonne of cash from tips. The tips are based around the experience had by the clients. There are also loads of examples on teamwork, and how being a supportive team member can benefit everyone else, and how a toxic person/weak member can really let down a team if not managed correctly.
The biggest message I learnt from the show however was about safety. And not just safety, but the impact being unsafe can have on yourself and on others. In one episode, a deckhand stepped on a tow line which wrapped around his ankle, dragging him into the water. He could’ve lost his life, or at the very least his foot, from being towed by the yacht, had a cameraman not untangled the lines quickly giving him time to swim free of the ropes he was tangled in.
When my husband and I watched this scene we froze, I think I even started crying. Not over the happenings of a reality TV show, but the reality of workplace accidents and how one split decision could be so hazardous and lifechanging, or life ending. The Captain spoke and choked up about how lucky the deckhand was, and the importance of safety on boats. I had trouble sleeping that night, thinking about being in the Captain’s shoes and how devastated I’d be if one of our plumbers got seriously hurt or had a terrifying near miss, or worse. We ended up showing our team the clip at the following toolbox talk, in the hope that a bunch of good looking, tanned reality TV stars could convey such an important message that perhaps my monthly drone at a toolbox talk couldn’t.
Ted Lasso – Encouragement
I didn’t think I’d be a fan of this show as I thought it would have to much American slapstick humour, but it didn’t disappoint. The relegated British Premier League team plot appealed to me as I had worked for a Premier League Club in my previous pre-plumbing life, and that team was also relegated.
Ted is an American football coach, employed to manage the fictional AFC Richmond. Initially employed out of spite by the owner’s ex-wife in the hope he’d fail, Ted wins the hearts of the players, staff, fans and media with his ever-positive attitude, and thoughtfulness.
It’s not just me who took notes on Ted’s powerful management messages, his leadership advice has been written about by Forbes magazine and the Financial Review, because it’s so damn good. Ted is a great leader because he embodies empathy, positivity, and humility. He listens to his team members and genuinely cares about their well-being, both on and off the field. He also leads by example, showing his team how to treat each other with respect and kindness. Ted doesn’t focus solely on winning but rather on the process and the growth of his team. He acknowledges his own mistakes and encourages his team to do the same, creating a culture of accountability and learning. Ultimately, Ted’s leadership style fosters a strong sense of community and inspires his team to believe in themselves and each other.
I love how he encourages his players, and respects their opinions even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with them – “I appreciate you for saying that”. Ever gracious, and conscious of his team’s mental health, even if his own is failing.
Vikings – Grit
I could keep watching this show forever but unfortunately my husband zones out of everything after 3 seasons. Vikings loosely follows the old Norse legendary sagas, however instead of hundreds of different characters, the sagas tend to be depicted in one small community; Kattegat.
Vikings portrays the value of grit and determination through its depiction of the Viking warriors and their way of life. The characters face numerous obstacles and challenges, from battles and raids to harsh weather and difficult living conditions. Yet, they persist and push through these difficulties, relying on their strength, endurance, and resilience to overcome them. The show emphasizes the importance of mental and physical toughness, perseverance, and the willingness to sacrifice for a greater cause. The characters’ determination to survive and thrive in a harsh and unforgiving environment underscores the value of grit and the rewards that come from enduring through adversity.
The trials and tribulations main character Ragnar Lothbrok and his family (wife Lagertha, best mate Floki and sons Bjorn, Ubbe and Ivar) have to endure is brutal. But they never, ever give up and through sheer grit and determination keep soldering on for the betterment of their community.
Running a small business relies on grit more than anything, especially in a post-pandemic, inflation rising, recession looming World. It’s a core value business owners require to get past that 1st, 5th, 10th year in business.
Clarkson’s Farm – Red tape
This show is a new favourite in our household, with one side of our family being dairy farmers from Colac, Victoria. Jeremy Clarkson, of Top Gear fame, lives on a property in the idyllic English farming village of Chipping Norton. Rather than continuing to subcontract his farm work out, he decided to learn to be a farmer himself. The show spans over three seasons of hilarity, showing Clarkson learning how to farm from scratch including how to drive farm machinery, grow crops, shear sheep, feed calves and pick vegetables.
What begins as a humorous journey, morphs into a serious message of the adversity farmers face in modern Britain. Firstly, Covid strikes, and every business owner knows what that means for businesses (everyone except Kleenex that is). Next, Brexit impacted the farm and local community of farmers; why buy a £10 pork roast when you could buy a £5 pork roast imported from Europe? Most consumers don’t care for supporting loyal when they’re struggling to support their families.
The cost of imported foods was discussed in later episodes; UK produce was taxed higher, and the farm businesses had to cut through more red tape and regulations than their European counterparts. There were various green taxes (eating into profits), pesticide bans (meaning crops were eaten by insects) and various levels of legislation and council regulations making it nearly impossible to grow and innovate.
It was refreshing to see that Clarkson had chosen to show the warts and all side of farming, and small business ownership, and his frank account of showing the viewer how almost impossible it would’ve been for him to proceed had he not been a millionaire. The show has done wonders for farmers in Britain, showcasing the local produce lifecycle to viewers, and also highlighting what regulations and red tape do to hinder growth and prosperity in small business.
Peaky Blinders – Loyalty Isn’t Enough
If my entire family of sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles could choose a show we’d all watch together happily, we’d all choose Peaky Blinders. I don’t know if it’s the working class grimy British setting that reminds us of our grandparents’ humble beginnings, or the fact that its just a brilliant show.
If you haven’t watched the show (where have you been?!) It tells the tale of the infamous Peaky Blinders gang in Birmingham, who hide razor blades in their peaked caps, ready to ‘blind’ their enemies with.
We should hate the peaky blinders; they are a band of violent brothers and their mates, bullying others and making their fortune from drugs and illegal betting. But for some reason we, the viewers, seem to turn a blind eye to the misdemeanors of Tommy Shelby and his brothers. Perhaps it’s because Tommy can be charming, intelligent and strategic; with the charisma of a Hollywood star. Or perhaps it’s because we feel sorry for Arthur, the perpetually downtrodden, traumatized underdog. For a good 4 seasons, the Peaky Blinders strength is their loyalty, to the cause (whatever that may be at the time) and to the family. But things change in the final few seasons, when loyalty is all but gone and their end up warring with former Chief Accountant, and cousin, Michael Gray.
For the Peaky Blinders, loyalty was EVERYTHING. But they relied on it too much and in the end it meant nothing as the post-war world was changing. I think of it akin to today’s current ‘employee market’; we as employers can’t just assume our employees will stay due to ‘loyalty’. We need to create a positive team culture, communicate regularly, reward and recognize, provide training and pay appropriately to begin to foster employee loyalty. Easier said than done, getting the mix right is challenging and we as business owners don’t always get it right, I put my hand up now saying my husband and I are no experts, we’re continuously learning and hopefully improving.
The Founder – Systems and Processes
The final addition to my binge-learning favourites list was the movie The Founder. The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc, who turned the McDonald’s chain of restaurants into the goliath it is today. The movie shows Ray as an unremarkable milkshake maker salesman who chances upon a restaurant owned by the McDonald brothers.
After watching the brothers serving at their restaurant (with some genuine unique selling propositions over their local competitors), Ray gets the idea to franchise the restaurant, one that sends him on a trajectory of uber-wealth, amassing nearly $600M by the time of his death in 1984.
The movie shows how McDonald’s came to be the titan of systems and processes it is today, through having a standardized menu, robust staff training on how to follow specific procedures, using technology to streamline operations, and focusing on customers’ needs and preferences. Love or hate McDonald’s, they continue to dominate due to their dedication to the process. I may employ plumbers not hospitality workers, but if two near identical resumes come in and one has worked for McDonald’s previously, that one normally gets the phone call first. Why? Because the ability to follow systems and processes is a highly sought after, transferable skill.
The Netflix Effect: How Binge-Watching Can Teach You Business Lessons
So next time you feel a pang of guilt when you’re slouched over your hot chocolate on the couch, just think; binge-watching Netflix can provide practical lessons for business. By observing successful companies/people (such as Red Bull) and avoiding their mistakes, viewers can learn about leadership, teamwork, and innovation. The diverse range of characters from programs can also inspire creativity (Jeremy Clarkson) and empathy (Ted Lasso). It may never be as info-laden or insightful as a Stephen Covey or Robert Kiyosaki book, but it’s a fun and engaging way to gain practical lessons for success. I’ll still listen to my business books and podcasts on my commute to the office, but its Netflix & Chill during me time. Or is it more HBO & Merlot when you’re married?…