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The Unsung Hero of "Game of Thrones"

A medieval knight in full suit of armour kneels whilst holding his sword to his head in contemplation or prayer before a big battle. The knight is inside an ancient medieval stone building, which could be a castle or cathedral as the evening from the setting sun streams through the windows. It’s “Game of Thrones” season again, which means millions of people all over the world are tuning in on Sundays to see how the stories of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and the other big players in Westeros will end. But there is one element of the show that is almost never talked about, yet it’s likely responsible for how each and every major battle plays out. [Warning: Mild spoilers ahead for those not caught up.] One of the main criticisms of the show is the amount of time it spends following the machinations of the main characters, and how little it dwells on the cost that constant war takes on the common people, or how those conscripted into the armies have to toil in squalid conditions to fulfill the wishes of their high-minded commanders. While George R. R. Martin explored these themes in the books, the show has too many things to get to in a limited number of remaining hours. Therefore, can we get a little love for the nameless, faceless, unspoken men and/or women (depending on the army we’re discussing) who are in the business of inventory and asset management for the warring armies of Westeros? That may sound like a joke, but bear with me. Consider some of the major armies of “Game of Thrones,” such as Jon Snow’s combination of the wildlings, the Knights of the Vale, and the houses of the North. Or the army of Cersei Lannister in King’s Landing, which recently teamed up with the Ironborn fleet of Euron Greyjoy. Every time we see them gather on the battlefield, these armies have been organized, armed, and shielded to the best of their capabilities. The archers have dozens of arrows, the foot soldiers have swords and spears, the guards on the wall have flaming cannonballs to launch at approaching enemies.
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And yet, we never see any of the logistics of the war being discussed. Everything that makes these battles possible—that allows the show to broadcast hour-long episodes featuring mostly the talking heads of our favorite characters—takes place off-screen. There may be an off-hand comment or two about food or supplies, but for the most part we’re left to assume that these things just sort of fall into place. Small business owners likely know this feeling. So much of what makes the small business possible depends on forces, devices, systems, and software—especially in 2017—that consumers never see and likely don’t consider.

Inventory Management and Asset Management in Westeros

When it comes to the tools of war, it’s difficult to discern what is considered inventory and what is considered a fixed asset. In the business world, inventory is the materials, work-in-progress goods, and the product a company sells to earn their revenue; fixed assets are used in the production of income, and aren’t intended to be sold in order to add to the revenue stream. So if a company makes hats, the hats are the inventory; the computers and printers used to create the company’s logo and press it onto the hat are assets. [Tweet "It’s difficult to discern what is considered inventory and what is considered a fixed asset."] So when the “company” is in fact an army and their “product” is re-capturing Winterfell, are arrows inventory, and catapults assets? Hard to say. But regardless, it’s up to someone to make sure that there’s enough arrows for each archer, enough swords for each soldier, enough flammable material to launch from the catapults, enough food to go around to keep people happy and energized, and so on. In Westeros, there are dragons and demons and all kinds of fantastical magic. But most of this magic isn’t available to the layperson, which means the inventory/asset manager (or whatever they’re called in that world) likely has to ready the troops’ tools by hand. Luckily, we live in a world without dragons, but with the benefit of technology, such as barcode-powered management systems that help employees track the location of a delivery for a customer, or to see when a machine, vehicle, or piece of office equipment is due to undergo maintenance, or be disposed off for tax purposes. The generals of Westerosi armies have no such tools at their disposal. (If they do, they don’t show them on TV.) They require their underlings to do hand counts, to manually request re-orders of materials—which will then likely need to be made by hand, on the spot. How time-consuming and tedious! And if those supplies don’t get to the soldiers in time for battle, there’s no time-out, or leeway shown by the enemy. They’re done for.


Oddly enough, lots of small business owners appear to put themselves in the same boat as these scrambling, exhausted, stressed out army commanders: According to the most recent Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, 43 percent of small businesses polled don’t track their inventory or use a manual process to do so, and 55 percent of those polled have the same system for fixed assets. The attrition rate in “Game of Thrones” is exceedingly high, and one of the reasons—unspoken though it may be—is the lack of resources made available to soldiers who then go into battle unprepared. The same can be said of small businesses, half of which fail after five years. foot soldiers standing in the fog on the background of the fortress

Accounting Mistakes and Always Repaying Your Debts

One of the themes of the show is that it’s important to know who your allies are, and to always repay your debts. That’s the Lannister calling card, and as a result that family is one of the strongest in the series. That is, until they turn their back on the Iron Bank. The Iron Bank of Braavos “will have its due,” which means it will always be repaid. Less likely to keep diligent watch of how much they’ve spent? Yes, it’s the armies of Westeros. But ditto small businesses that rely on manual processes for all these things—there’s simply no way that a human error (or many) doesn’t get in the way of accurately reporting how much is owed, how much is needed, and how much is en route to customers already. The error rate in manual data entry is typically 1 percent, which adds up over time. call-to-action-810x75-c Rather than worrying about a misplaced decimal point, or extra zero, businesses should be utilizing barcode scanners that make a mistake—virtually never. If you don’t know how much you owe lenders, or how much inventory is in your warehouse, or when your assets are due to be disposed—or don’t care—you’ll end up running afoul of the law, or your creditors, and you might find yourself isolated and without recourse. Much like the Lannisters, when they decided to not repay the Iron Bank the millions they owed.

The Unsung Hero: Management Systems

Hey, it’s fine if your inventory and asset management systems, or accounting systems, remain the unsung hero of your business’ story. It’s fine if they remain unsung in “Game of Thrones” as well—no one is really that interested in how the arrows get made, just who they strike in the heat of battle. But if you’re a small business owner, don’t expect magic dragons to come bail you out if you forget to re-order inventory in time for the holiday rush, or find yourself surrounded by broken machinery, or missing valuable assets like computers and laptops. Keeping track of that stuff isn’t fantasy—it’s part of everyday life now for many small businesses. Join the ranks, or prepare for your watch to end.