Last month year (May 31 2018) I visited Buckingham Palace for a garden party accompanying my partner, who is a local councillor in the north west of England. I’ve attended plenty of sporting, cultural and business corporate events during my working life but this was an entirely different experience.
Whether you’re a royalist, a republican or a fence sitter, you could not fail to be impressed by the Royal Household's determination to ensure everyone had an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On the train back to Manchester the next day, we talked about how the Royal family's brilliant PR machine managed to counter negative press and perceptions.
Watching them in action provides great lessons for owner-managers of businesses to apply to their own enterprises.
Here are six of my favourite lessons.
1: Learn from your mistakes
The good thing about making mistakes is hopefully you learn not to repeat them. Although recent Ipsos MORI polls show the Queen’s popularity is at an all time high with nine out of ten of us happy with the way she is going her job, that figure was a mere 66% in 1998 in the aftermath of family marriage breakdowns and death of Princess Diana. Tagged insensitive, distant and out of touch with the general public, the family responded by modernising, abandoning stuffy traditions and becoming more accountable. As royal correspondent Jennie Bond commented: “The Queen said that lessons had to be learned from Diana’s death. Slowly they have been. There has not been a massive change. It’s an evolution not a revolution."
2: Reinvent and innovate
Every successful business and organisation has to constantly look to reinvent and innovate or risk becoming irrelevant. The royal family is no exception. When, for example, it came to the thorny subject of money, the Queen was flexible enough to know things had to change. In recent years, she has started to pay tax on her private income and published accounts, given up the Royal Yacht Britannia to cut costs and and agreed to the limited opening of Buckingham Palace to generate extra revenue. I used to work with Pinstripe, a Manchester based fast-fashion wholesaler selling into high street retailers, who took a risk selling direct to consumers online. This week BooHoo.com posted their best every financial results while high street retailers like New Look struggled to cope with falling sales. Another client took the gamble to operate their niche software products exclusively in the cloud way before the vast majority of their competitors did. At the time it was a big expensive risk - which paid off handsomely when they sold the business for an eight figure sum last year.
3: Make sure you’re accessible
According to a YouGov poll published before Harry and Meghan’s spring 2018 wedding, one in three of us had met or seen the Queen in real life. That’s pretty impressive accessibility and visibility. Each one of us who has met or seen the queen has their own story to tell. Watching both the Queen and Prince William at close quarters at the garden party, I couldn’t help but be impressed by how the pair of them connected individually with every person they met. Amazingly many owner-managers do the opposite and remain anonymous, unwilling to even name themselves and their key people (their biggest assets) on their own websites.
4: Always try and exceed expectations
Anybody who has ever catered for a business event for more than a dozen and a half knows it can be a challenge. Imagine inviting 8,000 people to a party and serving up 81,000 cups of tea, 60,000 sandwiches, 60,000 slices of cake and 30,000 iced coffees and trying to manage that three times every summer. Of course, the Royal Family had four hundred staff to help them, who were all courteous, informed and really enhanced the atmosphere. As we left Buckingham Palace, I didn’t see one disappointed face. They had exceeded expectations with room to spare.
5: Champion good causes
Prince Harry and his brother Prince William are as popular their grandmother. That’s not always been the case for Harry. Pictures playing strip billiards in a Las Vegas hotel room and attending a fancy dress party in a Nazi uniform created a poor impression. His involvement in the Invictus Games helped transform our perception of him. The Invictus Games uses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women. Harry’s been instrumental in its continued success and high media profile as award winning novelist, screenwriter and journalist Boris Starling reveals in his book Unconquerable: The Invictus Spirit.
6: Try not to boast
Two words highlight my final point: Donald Trump. Imagine if we were a republic and he was our President. A single garden party would have seen 80,000 people drinking 800,000 cups of tea, 60,000,000 sandwiches, 6,000,000 slices of cake and 300,000 iced coffees. A far bigger party than anything Barack Obama or the Queen of England could ever have organised. Anything to the contrary is fake news and failing media. I jest but you get my drift.