Running the shopChannel 4 logo

Have you watched Running the Shop on Channel 4?  The programme description is “Hilary Devey persuades bosses to leave their business for three weeks and let the staff run the shop while they are away”.  They also get money to fund any changes they want to make.

The first episode (which is well worth a watch on All 4) is based in a furniture and hardware store with an owner, John Tasker, who likes to micromanage.  The staff feel that the furniture on sale is too big and expensive for most of the houses in the area and so do a special offer with a “complete living room” for £500.  They have some very novel ideas for advertising it. Marketing is the other big issue the staff noticed and one of their ideas is to do product placements is show homes.  I won’t spoil it for you be saying how they got on but there are some very interesting moments!

Whether or not a boss is willing to give up control of their business without the TV cameras present, the show did provide some useful ideas.  What was highlighted was the potential that can remain hidden if no one is willing to listen.  People who are doing the job will be aware of what the problems are, difficulties they’ve found themselves or that have been fed back to them from customers.  Not just problems, they will see opportunities too.  Going back to the shop floor for a moment, till operators may see two things often being brought together.  They should be able to feed that back up so that those items, and other complimentary ones, can be displayed together to inspire other purchasers.

A manager has to listen to what their staff are saying but that alone is not enough.  They have to be willing to implement ideas too.  I don’t mean everything (some ideas really are crazy) but they need to be willing to try new things. Yes, it is a risk but keeping everything the same while the world changes is a far bigger one.

As Hilary pointed out in the show, John the owner had 30 years of experience in the business. Combined, his staff had over 500. Train your staff up so that they are to run their area independently, reporting back and asking for help as needed but ultimately allowing you to work on your business rather than in it.  The owner in the show was so busy looking at the fine details that he never had time to step back and look at the big picture; to see what the opposition were doing, what new opportunities were available and what was now just out of date.

The owner of this store was a barrier to expansion as he was so determined to oversee everything.  It’s understandable, the store is his life and it’s hard to let go.  If John wanted to expand at present he wouldn’t be able to without splitting himself in two.  One way that he could do it without that problem would be to franchise his business.  The new store would have it’s a different owner who would be just as passionate about making things perfect, getting guidance from John and having his systems in place to make sure everything runs smoothly. John would then be running two businesses – his original store and being a franchisor. If he tried to do it all he would struggle and neither business would benefit. The same rule applies: you need to work on your business rather than in it.

So the lesson is; make use of the skills of your staff, step back and look around, try new things and see your business evolve in ways you never could have imagined.

Written by Harriet Ennis

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