Mary Queen of Shops 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In my books, mixing business with pleasure means watching TV reality shows where
some expert in a particular field helps a floundering entrepreneur increase his
revenue and improve his relationship with his staff. At present, three such
English-language shows are airing on the Good Life channel (HOT 41).
openers, there’s The Opener. On this show, chef David Adjey applies his
expertise in cooking and running a restaurant to help new owners get their
establishments off the ground. To provide spice for the series, each episode
invariably finds Adjey coming to the rescue of some restaurant in Canada or the
US that is opening in a week but the owner doesn’t know what he’s doing, the
staff is out to lunch, the premises is not ready to serve customers, and the
menu has not been firmly established.
It is fascinating to watch Adjey in
action as he whips them all into shape. He helps them furnish and lay out the
restaurant; he helps train the wait staff (“Don’t stand there with your arms
folded,” he barks; “it means ‘I don’t care what you’re saying.’”); he helps the
owners come up with a viable theme for the place and create a number of
specialty dishes that fit the theme; and he transforms the owner from a cowering
mess to a commanding leader who can take charge of the situation.
watch what’s called the “soft opening,” a practice run where friends and family
come to eat for free two nights before the official opening. Like a dress
rehearsal, it is a chance for the restaurant owner and his staff to see where
all the glitches are so they can fix them before the doors open to paying
customers. And there are always glitches. But needless to say, on this show,
when the restaurant does open to the public, the food looks great, the staff is
on the ball, the customers are happy, and the proud owner is tearful with
On the show Mary Queen of Shops, retail expert Mary Portas
helps store owners in England maximize their earning potential.
them advice on how to improve the look of the store, how to target their
clientele, how to get the staff excited about working there, and how to provide
services outside the store to increase revenue. It is interesting to see how the
owners, even though they have asked for her help, are very resistant to change
and how Portas must use all of her persuasive powers to convince them of the
validity of her advice if they are going to augment their business.
one episode, for example, she helps three sisters run their grocery store, which
they had inherited from their father. She helps them spruce up the place and
encourages them to take the job more seriously. Then she takes them around the
neighborhood, where she goes door to door asking residents if, for a monthly
fee, they would like to have a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables delivered
to their homes once a week. Soon the store and the delivery service are
thriving, and the women are making money hand over fist.
episode, Portas helps a seasoned owner of a hardware store become more
competitive in the age of large DIY chains. First she revamps the store, making
it more focused, modern and user-friendly.
Then she trains the staff to be
more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the products and equipment they sell.
And she goes around the neighborhood with the owner, offering residents his
services of making whatever repairs they might require in their homes. Like a
breath of fresh air, the store and the business get a new lease on
In a more specific domain, Australian hairdressing expert Tabatha
Coffey tackles the US hairstyling scene on Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. With a
tough, no-nonsense attitude, the blonde stylist takes charge of a hair salon and
combs out all the kinks. From cleanliness, décor and styling techniques to staff
management and customer relations, she assesses where the problem areas are and
helps the owner create a more smooth and efficient operation.
Often it is
the owners themselves who are the problem. In that case, Coffey tells it like it
is and gives the owner constructive criticism in regard to his or her
shortcomings. In the end, the salon is refurbished, the staff is happier
at work, and the owner is on the cutting edge of the industry.
these shows, it is very gratifying to see how people can augment their business
and enhance their life by learning the tricks of the trade.