Mayberry, Inc. – Five Lessons for business from The Andy Griffith Show

When Andy Griffith died recently, I was reminded of my visit a few years ago to his hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina– the real life model for Mayberry. It was cool to see Andy’s childhood home, and to walk the streets of the town that inspired him to create a fictional community that still resonates with so many people from all backgrounds.

Title sequence, The Andy Griffith Show
You can just hear the whistling, now, can’t you?

Mayberry became America’s quintessential small town, filled with the kind of warmth and homey good humor that real small towns aspire to, but can never quite achieve, no matter how well-planned. Being in Mt.Airy, with its versions of Floyd’s Barbershop and Wally’s Garage – and with seemingly half of all the businesses in town now being named Mayberry-something-or-other – was a little bit like stepping into a fairytale. Or, at least, it was like stepping into The Andy Griffith Show.

Classic sitcom that it was, The Andy Griffith Show remains funny to this day, and it retains the ability of all good comedy to teach us something valuable. Books have already been written on the subject, but here are just five of the things I learned from my visits to the real and the imagined Mayberry.

1)      Branding, branding, branding. As I mentioned earlier, you could not throw a rock in Mt. Airy without hitting a business with the name Mayberry attached to it. From the annual Mayberry Days festival to the everyday dealings at the corner store, the whole town seemed to embrace the name, and the brand. And why not? No other place in the country has more right to claim the name and persona of Mayberry.  So what’s your business’s Mayberry-factor? What do you embody better than your competition? Are you doing all you can to proudly claim it?

2)      Know your deputy. Sheriff Andy Taylor knew his. He knewBarney Fife well enough to give him only one bullet. He knew him well enough to give him advice, and the leeway to try new things (advanced law enforcement techniques, in Barney’s case), make his inevitable mistakes, and eventually, to learn from them.  Of course, that was just TV. But it does beg the question: do you know your staff’s strengths and weaknesses? When they make mistakes do you have meltdowns or teachable moments? If you care about them as people, do they know it?

Scene featuring Don Knotts and Jean Hagen from "Andy and The Woman Speeder."
Andy should have known better than to leave Barney alone in the jail with Jean Hagen in this 1961 episode, “Andy and The Woman Speeder.”

3)      Some folks are just nuts. Some are just plain mean. In Mayberry, it’s not like there were no problems. After all, Ernest T. Bass lived there and he was always willing to hoot, holler, jump up and down in the street, and of course, fling rocks through windows. He was, as Barney Fife put it, “a nut,” if you’ll pardon the psychological terminology. Mayberry also had folks like old Ben Weaver, who Andy described as the meanest man in town, at least until the episode where he reformed. Now in business, the customer is always right, right? And I’m sure that everybody you work with is a paragon of sanity and decency. Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to prepare yourself, legally, and with sound human resources management policies, just in case you should happen to run intoErnestT. or oldBen somewhere down the road.

4)      Not everybody can sing.  Sadly, Barney Fife would have fit right in with each season’s early rejects on American Idol. Somebody evidently told him he could sing, and that he should sing in the choir ( proving that Mayberry had its share of well-meaning liars). But singing was just not his talent. In fictional Mayberry, of course, everybody conspired to cover up for ol’ Barn, in a way that folks never would in the real world. So, what are you – or your company – good at? What are you not so good at? Do you have trustworthy confidants who will tell you truly about your strengths and weaknesses? If not, what can you learn from taking a good, hard, honest look at yourself?

5)      Nurture your young ‘uns. In Mayberry, of course, there were lots of kids, but only one that really counts: Opie. Time and again on the show, we see Ope being taught valuable lessons about fishing, and  taking responsibility, and telling the truth, and being generous and kind, etc. We see him raised by a loving parent, and given loving discipline, and the freedom to run and play and just be a kid. And look how he turned out: big timeHollywood director. I may be mixing my reality with my fiction a little, but you get the drift. If you look beyond the tennis shoes, you might see great potential in that young person you just hired. Is mentoring a regular part of your corporate mindset?

I could go on and on about the lessons we could learn from Mayberry. I could wax poetic about the value of nipping things in the bud, and sitting in a front porch rocker with friends, and the fact that you really only need two basic rules. But I’d rather hear from you. If you know the Andy Griffith Show– and you should – what has it taught you?


Author: nickpattersonfreelance

I'm a professional reporter, writer, editor, teacher, storyteller. A former travel and features editor for Southern Living, I started Velleity because people keep offering me travel stuff and you may as well benefit from it.

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