Monday, 4 March 2013

Put CaRT on TV?

James Martin the TV Chef has a new series based upon the provision and quality of hospital food. I actually watched and enjoyed the first program in the series. There is no denying that hospital food can have a pretty poor reputation and as someone who has experience it first hand, I know. However like a mother in law, it is also the butt of many comedians jokes. To be frank after watching the program, it is a well deserved reputation. I think the hospitals involved in 'Operation Hospital Food'  have been very brave and have been able to set aside the natural reaction of wary caution. Why wouldn't they be wary of a film crew descending on their hospital and exposing to common view all of their flaws. The hospitals it seems found honesty was the best policy. 

James Martin said "Yes, we were looking for problems or weaknesses in their food, but the aim of 'Operation Hospital Food' is to improve the meals served and leave the catering in a better state than it was in when we arrived." At some point in time we are all going to have a loved one or ourselves spend time in hospital. Hopefully by then hospital food will have lost its reputation for being bland and stodgy.

I wonder if the Canal and River Trust could benefit from such a fly-on-the-wall business makeover?

The late Sir John Harvey-Jones was a charismatic English businessman. Sir John was chairman of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and also a member of The Advisory Council of the Prince's Trust. In 2001, he became the president of the MS Trust. He was the past chairman of ICI. (Imperial Chemical Industries) With his long unkempt hair, his outlandish ties and somewhat ample figure, Sir John Harvey-Jones was hardly the traditional model of a captain of industry. However, in 1985 he was voted Britain’s most impressive industrialist by company directors interviewed for MORI's annual "Captains of Industry" survey. He was knighted for services to industry in 1985. In 1986, 1987 and 1988, he received the title of "Industrialist of the Year". In 1992 he was awarded the title "Motivator of the Year". In 1992 he won a BAFTA for his Troubleshooter series on television.

But it was the BBC's Troubleshooter series, that made him, according to one newspaper, the most famous industrialist since Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The series would see him visiting ailing companies, observing their practices, looking at their books and interrogating their directors. Sir John would then outline proposals, often drastic in nature, that they needed to take in order to turn their businesses around.

Harvey-Jones saw his responsibilities as being to both the stockholders and employees. The mantra was "making a profit out of the markets where the market is." He maintained a firm belief in "speed rather than direction", on the assumption that "once travelling a company can veer and tack towards the ultimate objective." 

At the business level he cut non-profit making and what he saw as non-core businesses, so that at board level he could concentrate on putting more power in fewer hands "to reduce the number of those who can say 'no' and increase the motivation of those who can say 'yes'", maintaining that "there are no bad troops, only bad leaders". After only thirty months in the job as ICI Chairman, he had doubled the price of ICI shares and turned a loss into a one billion pound profit. 

Contrast Sir Johns business ethos with that of the Canal and River Trust. So who could we get to give CaRT a business make over. Well Mrs Overall  the tea lady could do a better job than the lack lustre lot that is in there at the moment.

One who comes to mind is Sir Gerrard Jude "Gerry" Robinson a businessman from Ireland. He is the former non-executive Chairman of Allied Domecq and the ex-Chairman/Chief Executive of Granada. Robinson's first foray into broadcasting was a revival of the BBC's Troubleshooter show, originally fronted by Sir John Harvey-Jones. Titled "I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss" and co-produced by the Open University. Where he went into struggling businesses to try to turn them round by advice and mentoring.

Who can ever forget the television series about care homes and patients with dementia. Gerry Robinson, whose father had dementia when he died, tried to turn around three struggling care homes. Care homes are a  huge business worth six billion pounds, a great deal of it is inadequate. Hence the public uproar over the quality of provision.

In a similar format, he presented a three-part series, 'Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS' as he attempted to reduce waiting lists at Rotherham General Hospital. He returned a year later for a sequel, 'Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS One Year On.'  Gerry Robinson also presented a special edition of The Money Programme entitled 'Gerry Robinson's Car Crash' investigating the history and future of the British motor industry. He regularly appears on British TV as a celebrity businessman. In July 2009 he started a TV series called 'Gerry's Big Decision', in which he reviews struggling companies and decides whether it is worth investing his own money to save them.

In recent years, Sir Gerry Robinson has forged a reputation as a corporate Red Adair, fighting fires in organisations large and small, rescuing them from disaster. While Robinson appears affable and approachable, his CV demands respect. This is a man who has held top jobs at Coca Cola, BSkyB, Granada, ITN and Arts Council England, making tough decisions and causing controversy along the way.

There is also Sir Alan Sugar who might also be a useful alternative?

Alan Michael Sugar or Baron Sugar to me and you, is a British business man, media personality and political advisor. From the East End of London, Sugar now has amassed a huge fortune and was ranked 89th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2011. In 2007, he sold his remaining interest in the consumer electronics company Amstrad, his largest and best-known business venture. Sugar is also notable for his time as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, which proves that you can never be 100% right. Sugar also appears in the BBC TV series The Apprentice, which has been broadcast annually since 2005. 

You have to wonder about who at CaRT he would point a finger at and utter the phrase that pays "You're fired".  Now I'm thinking of a catchy title for the series - my current favourite is "Re-floating the Inland Waterways.


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