As silly season nears its end, the Beeb offered us another one of its reality business shows masquerading as light entertainment. It sent a pair of out-of-work former bankers to fall flat on their face or work some magic for hard-pressed small businesses in the sticks.
Both in their late twenties, one ended up in a 1970s time capsule of a Blackpool hotel, the other an organic milk-product business as rural as its Herefordshire location would suggest.
Although both outfits suffered significant reduction in sales, the determination of the editor to chase scenes of conflict, where the downtrodden would hopefully slaughter the bankers for causing the recession, unfortunately removed much of the potentially sparkling business, and selling, lessons on offer.
Pleasingly, both identified that for their plans to flower, they needed to do a spot of one-on-one selling. Ironically, from the tiny snippets you caught on camera neither banker displayed remarkable sales skills (awkward and hesitant closing was particularly noticeable). Yet their endeavour and steel allowed them to shine. In itself that’s a potentially useful, counter-intuitive message.
In the case of the emptying hotel, their under-utilised conference room was singled out as an opportunity. Our plucky heroine got on the phone and arranged an open day. A handful of local businesses were treated to attractive canapes and a presentation. Whilst the delivery sounded like verging on the soporific, the response was highly encouraging. What was terrific to see, was that not only had some of the handful of local business attendees suggested that they would now actively consider the venue (albeit forgiving the lack of any commitment pattern) but it was all done and dusted in what seemed like 24 hours.
With the diary farmers, a lack of reliable manufacturing kit necessitated an immediate investment of £200k. The ex-banker was used to preparing pitches in a week. Here, he had just a day. Yet within just a few short hours, he’d corralled a trio of potential investors. Impressively, two moved ahead to further investigate adding to the £650k of outstanding shareholder loans to the £1.4m turnover business.
What was great about both stories, was the amount of progress achieved in just one week. Neither pretended to know anything about the industries of their small business patient beforehand. Both appeared to identify one path to improvement. They picked up the phone, got the audience they required from outside the firm, and prepared hard for their pitch. Heartwarming efforts indeed.