One of my favorite shows has been Tabatha’s Salon Takeover that started it all. Tabatha, a no-nonsense, blond Australian lesbian dressed in black slacks and vest with wicked stiletto heels, steps into failing beauty salons, quickly sees why they are failing, and takes over for a week. In that week, she restyles the place and kicks a lot of butt, usually the owner’s. By the end, everyone agrees the changes were just what was needed and fall all over themselves thanking Tabatha with tears and hugs. What’s not to like?
I have never been in a salon, and never expect to, considering my hirsute deficiency. But I love the show. It is really about running a business as a business and making a profit, not as a hobby, not as a fun activity playing the hostess with a bunch of friends drinking wine and swapping gossip. As obvious as this is, Tabatha has to teach the same lesson over and over.
Usually, the owners are in denial, even while they are deep in debt and continue losing money. They fight Tabatha’s common sense changes in the face of disaster (although some of this may be scripted). Each program ends with her return six weeks later to see if the changes stuck. Mostly they do, but occasionally the owners slide back to their old ways, and you wonder how blind can they be.
Tabatha started it all, and soon, along came a blatant copy, Bar Rescue. Same takeover, same arguing with a reluctant owner, same renovation, same final success with everyone smiling and hugging, only now the venue is a bar and the savior is a bug-eyed Jon Toffer who knows his stuff. His main message for bar owners is don’t be your own best customer. Bars are inherently more interesting than salons, so I give it the edge, even if it is a copy of Tabatha. As Jon shows us the redesigned bar, he plugs all of the new equipment donated by bar supply companies.
I haven’t been in a bar more than a few times in my entire life, but they are more tempting now that I know what makes them tick, and what I should look for in a good one. However, I am amazed at the bar bills people run up just for a simple cocktail and a minute of attention from an attractive female bartender. As Jon says, it’s all about the experience.
Now we have CNBC’s The Profit, which, as you would expect, is more business-oriented. Marcus Lemonis, a venture capitalist, steps into failing small businesses of all sorts and puts in as much as a million dollars of his own money. His goal is to fix up the current business, pay off its debts, and eventually expand it into new locations. In exchange, he demands about 20%-50% ownership and full control for one week. If things don’t work out at the end of the week, the whole deal is off and Marcus gets his money back.
The twist is that often the deal is off. We all love a happy ending, but the usual ending here is one of frustration and bitterness. Why would anyone destroy a deal that brings a huge injection of cash and expertise to a failing business? Easier than you may think.
The owner is typically someone who came up with a good idea but knows nothing about running a business, like inventory control, profit margins, and solid bookkeeping. Their business has been their baby for so long they resist an outsider’s suggestions and giving up even a piece of what they have built no matter what the payback. Deep down, they seem to prefer their total control to growing into a nationwide franchise. Sharing responsibility is just too difficult. Psychologists must love the show.
On all three of the shows, I wonder if the business people realize how bad they look. Do they know these shows are likely to be rerun nationwide for the next ten years or more? If they are embarrassed now, as many should be, they will continue to be embarrassed long into the future. Some of Cops (“Bad boy, bad boy! Watcha gonna do . . .?”) episodes are reruns from the 1990s. Friends and neighbors still see the characters drunk, in handcuffs, banging their head on the police car window when today they may be head of the school board.
I enjoy The Profit the best of the three, but, of course, it does not have the same popular appeal of salons and bars. There are only six episodes in the short summer trial. I hope it will catch on as viewers become more business savvy.