Shows that mean business

How can a struggling commercial enterprise turn a profit these days? Turn on the TV and find out.

By RUTH BELOFF
June 10, 2011 17:39
4 minute read.
Mary Queen of Shops

Mary Queen of Shops 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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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).

For 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.

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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.

We 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 appreciation.

On the show Mary Queen of Shops, retail expert Mary Portas helps store owners in England maximize their earning potential.

She gives 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.

In 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.

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In another 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 life.

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.

In all 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.

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