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5 Lessons Small Business Owners Can Learn from TV Makeover and Mentoring Shows

5 Lessons Small Business Owners Can Learn from TV Makeover and Mentoring Shows

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 21, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2016

Are you a fan of TV business “makeover” or mentoring shows? Programs like Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Tabatha Takes Over, Shark Tank, or The Apprentice make for compelling viewing. Designed as pure entertainment, these shows often smack of voyeurism, like you’re watching a train wreck about to happen. But they can also offer invaluable insights to business owners – opening our eyes to some universal truths about entrepreneurship and business ownership.

Not convinced? Here are some transformational learning moments common and consistent to many of the businesses brave enough to open their doors to the cameras:

1. Communication is Key

The effect of poor communication in business is perhaps the starkest lesson learned from reality business shows – and the results are universal. Low employee morale, uncontained egos, poor understanding of duties and roles, unhappy customers, gossip, rumors, and disrespect for management are all signs of poor communication.

So what are the antidotes for poor communication?

  • Check your Ego – Ego is a significant obstacle to business success, as encountered by countless reality TV business turnaround experts. Counteract it by being objective about your business and open to new ideas.
  • Demonstrate Good Leadership – It takes time and effort to be a good leader. Put aside day-to-day distractions and schedule one-on-one time with staff, solicit their input, and listen. Regular staff meetings that encourage input and give you an opportunity to share business goals and achievements are vital to building engagement, trust and improved communication.
  • Show Respect and Courtesy and Be Consistent – Go beyond mere verbal niceties and ensure that your actions consistently evidence your good will as an employer. A strong, happy team will benefit enormously from a leader with the right attitude.
  • Listen – One of the first things the hosts of a business transformation TV show will do is listen to the business owner, the staff, and even customers. This is the first step in gauging what’s working, what’s not, and healing the wounds of a dysfunctional team. Listening attentively, providing meaningful feedback, and offering support and encouragement open the doors to a healthier business environment.

2. Learn From the Competition

The epiphany is another common scenario in these shows: opening the business owner’s eyes to what the competition is doing. Hosts like Gordon Ramsay and Tabatha Coffey mentor business owners to embrace rather than retreat from competition. They encourage business owners to take a hard look at what they think they are doing wrong or could do better in the context of what the competition is doing. This involves refining their niches and finding ways to connect with their target market. Demonstrating value, customer service and leadership in a niche are proven techniques that work time and time again.

3. Need Funding? Value Your Business Carefully

Budding entrepreneurs seeking funds on the reality TV show Shark Tank make the common mistake of miscalculating the worth of their business venture based on sales and profit projections. Whether you’re seeking angel investment or a traditional business loan, over- or under-valuing your business or investment needs is something savvy lenders or investors will jump on. 

Proper financial planning and research are essential to a realistic, yet attractive proposal to potential lenders or investors. Here are a few guides and training resources from SBA to help you forecast your growth and financing needs:

4. Become a Pro at Delivering Your Elevator Pitch

Another hot tip for budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners looking to grow is perfecting your elevator pitch. Why? If you can’t describe succinctly what you have to offer, to whom, and the benefits you provide, then any pitch to investors is going to quickly fall apart (as often demonstrated to cringe-worthy effect on Shark Tank).

5. Be Prepared to Diversify

Diversification strategies are often at the heart of reality TV business transformation shows. For example, would adding a new line of products or killing off unprofitable lines help drive focus and profits? Explore all possible avenues, plan your approach and desired outcome, and test and review your findings.


About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley