By Vinisha Nagarkar
Like everyone else in the world, I am a huge fan of the 90’s sitcom Friends. The show accomplished some distinguishing milestones in the history of the Television Industry; it ranks among the most watched TV shows and the longest running TV series, it was nominated as Outstanding Comedy Series several times, and has been the last sitcom so far to reach the No.1 spot on television. The most noteworthy achievement was the cultural impact it had on the young generation. It taught its viewers about love, friendship, career, and life.
From a professional perspective, I view “Friends” as an enterprise and not just a show. Like any successful startup, it started with an idea, it required funding, there was a management and a team of employees, it was a brand, it had customers and stakeholders, and there were risks involved. I believe that we can learn a few lessons on how to run enterprises from the factors that contributed to the success of this epic show.
Each character in Friends is shown pursuing what they love, which is why they’re so good at it. Rachel is an astute fashionista, Monica is an amazing chef, and Ross is an expert in “dinosaurs”!
The best practice is to hire people who are not just qualified to do their job, but are also passionate about what they do.
2. Career Planning:
We all know that Jennifer Aniston was expected to play Monica, Courtney Cox was to play Rachel. But they both found the other character more interesting, and well, the rest is history.
When people are hired, we have certain predetermined plans for and expectations from them. But it is important to mould plans to fit the strengths and aspirations of team members, because changing plans rather than changing people is more effective.
3. Team Building:
Once the cast was finalized, the six key characters were taken on a vacation to Las Vegas, so that they could bond and have a natural chemistry. This became a major strength for the show because the actors really became great friends, which enabled them to work with ease. Not only this, but they also insisted on receiving similar remuneration and participated in the same award categories.
Team building initiatives can go a long way and can help build a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one.
4. Aligning Goals:
The entire team working on Friends understood the concept and the vision so well, that a bunch of different directors and writers worked on various episodes and still produced an impressive output.
Ensuring that all elements of an enterprise are on the same page is crucial for its success.
5. Taking Risks:
Making Chandler and Monica “The Bings” wasn’t part of the plan initially. But as the story evolved, the creators thought of exploring a romantic relationship between the two characters. This idea was met with a lot of speculation and apprehension by the creators, but they finally took a leap. Chandler and Monica’s romance turned out to be incredible; may be even better than Ross and Rachel’s!
The creators and characters were always open to take risks and were flexible to explore new opportunities that came in the form of crazy and quirky plots.
While working on this show, Lisa Kudrow conceived her son Julian. The storyline of season four was modified to show that Phoebe gets pregnant with triplets for her brother Frank Jr and his wife Alice. Similarly, when Matthew Perry was experiencing a rough patch due to his alcohol and drug abuse, the filming schedule was often altered so that his scenes were shot last.
This was an incredible thing they did for the cast members which showed that they genuinely cared for the team. Enterprises that prioritize employee well-being, always achieve sustainable growth.
The show ended in 2004, breaking a million hearts and giving us a lot to think about. The fact that people are still hooked on to the show is evidence that it was a sheer epitome of success which was created and run by highly creative people with strong entrepreneurial skills. Who thought Friends could teach us about building an enterprise!
About the author
Vinisha Nagarkar completed her Bachelor in Arts (Psychology) from Fergusson College, Pune, and pursued Masters in Personnel Management from MIT School of Management thereafter. She gained exposure to the field of Training & Development while assisting an accomplished Corporate Trainer. She then joined a HR consulting firm in Pune, where she worked for the Performance Management System of various SMEs. Currently, at PeopleWiz, she works as a research analyst, specializing is in the area of qualitative research for HR and organization design.