Finally got to watch the last in the series of the Fixer. I missed it last week and then assumed that it had taped and then found out it hadn’t! My children of course told me to watch on the BBC iPlayer a tool that they both use on a regular basis! Now their Luddite mother has never used it! Not wanting to see them laugh at me while I tried to do so my first attempt was made when they were out swimming! By the time they got back I was still attempting to down load all the tools that I seemed to need on to my device! It was not till last night that I was all set to go! (four hours later I confess). And is it me but it’s a very slow way of watching television? Anyway I persevered and after well over what should have been an hour show I had watched the final episode of the second series of the Fixer.
It was an interesting episode about a family garden centre that had failed with considerable debts and started again with a new name. I am not going to go into personalities in this episode or a blame game as it’s not my remit. In terms of business lessons though they were some interesting points that came across.
Firstly the look and feel of your business. This garden centre went under two names the old business name which I recall was DJ’s and the new one the Oak Garden Centre. Confusing enough but the look and feel of the promotional material was awful tired, torn with no thought put into it. This carried forward into the garden centre itself with some area’s looking not much better than our garden shed! A garden centre is somewhere that you go for inspiration not despair! (sorry to my husband but our shed is not the most aspiring place). The majority of the site you would look as and be glad you didn’t own it. In the centre of the Garden Centre was a cafe! Which had on average two people a day! Why? Because nobody knew where it was there. There was no signage or were people so down hearted about the rest of the centre that an assumption was made that the cafe was as down market as the rest of the place? At first Alex Polizzi had an up hill struggle to point this out to the family. Watching this you find it at first incredible its staring them in the face. Yet we all do this. We get so used to seeing things in our homes and work places that we don’t see them as others do. Two Lesson. It’s always worth getting a fresh pair of eyes on things to give you feedback and make sure that you ask customers for feedback and that you follow the advice. It’s easy to be protective but it won’t move you forward and in most cases people are trying to be helpful and if more than one person points out something that can be improved it is likely others think it too and its losing you business.
Signage and displays are important! The cafe business was transformed simply by having a chalk board with the day’s specials and cakes promoted at the entrance to the centre! It does not have to be expensive just needs some thought and perhaps advice from others who maybe see things a bit differently from you.
A key lesson for this Garden Centre was that it needed to be a destination if it was to survive not just out of season but period. This took the mother and father some convincing and it wasn’t till they were taken to a National Trust property that the penny finally fell! The father and mother’s passion was for gardening which was great and you could see the love and care that they took on their plants. But if they were run a successful business in the future they needed to do more than care for their plants. Is that harsh? I see that Stuart Heritage in the Guardian feels that we have had enough of bossy people in the current climes. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2013/mar/11/alex-polizzi-angry-helper-fixer
I would agree with him that TV series like the Fixer are formulaic and very often predictable. But I would argue that we do need some honest truth in businesses especially in these hard times. I am passionate about Marketing I love communication! That alone won’t make a successful business it needs more. Passion for what you do is a great foundation but you need more than that you need the tools to make that passion a business.
A great example and yes I know I have used it before and yes I know I am biased as I live here but Mainstreet Trading is a great example of this. Ros and Bill have set up a successful firstly bookshop and cafe and now deli and gift shop in the small village of St Boswells. The foundation for this is Ros’s love of books and Bill’s love of cooking and food. But that in itself would not make a successful business especially in a small village in the Scottish Borders which until Mainstreet opened was not seen on the tourism map even though those of us who live there love the place to bits! No it took hard work, marketing and marketing using all the tools available from keeping in regular touch with existing customers, entering and winning awards, Press and PR (brilliant piece in the current edition of Country Living), running high-profile events with prestigious authors and effective and targeted use of social media plus a great team behind Ros and Bill that ensures that team Mainstreet Trading are a welcoming and friendly team. Passion for what you do yes is important but you also need business tools as well and as Alex Polizzi said if you don’t have the tools get in experts who do!
Finally the most telling lesson about this programme and I found it really sad is that sometimes you have to walk away. The son who had re- started the business with his mother and father was miserable there were huge tensions with his parents. Money issues that were on his shoulders. Some people would criticise that he walked away when offered a new job. I personally thought it was not only a wise decision but a brave one. Business is business its tough and its very hard. You need to get on with the people you run the business with. And if you don’t the stress and strain of bad relationships can bring a business down. By walking away the son not only gave the business a chance but also more importantly his relationship with his mother and father a proper footing one as parent and son. And I admired him for it.
It’s been an interesting series of the Fixer. We have covered curtains, hair and beauty, photography, fish and chips, funeral parlours and garden centres. Yes Alex Polizzi says it as it is. Yes sometimes this is harsh. Yes there is drama in it. It’s a TV production. But if you strip that away you can also learn some important not just business lessons but in this case life lessons. See yourself as others see you. Passion is important but it won’t pay the bills. And sometimes for your own sanity and for relationships that are important to you the bravest thing to do is walk away and start again!