Running the Shop, Channel 4 - TV review: Workers take charge to prove the wisdom of using experience from all areas of a business

There was a feel-good factor in watching downtrodden Debs discover impressive business skills she never dreamed she might possess

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The Independent Culture

Former Dragons' Den investor Hilary Devey has an intriguing business theory: "Employees often know better than the boss or the owner of the company, but it takes a brave managing director to acknowledge that."

To put that theory into practice, in her new Channel 4 series, Running the Shop, she's persuaded the chief executives of some struggling British companies to relinquish the reins and hand control over to their staff for a few weeks. First up, Taskers, a home and DIY store with 220 staff and four branches in and around Liverpool.

"I would say I work with them rather than trying to control," said boss John Tasker. His staff, however, took a slightly different view of his managerial style: "It's his way and that's it," said head of flooring, Keith. The figures however, were indisputable. Despite a morale-lowering wave of recent redundancies, footfall was down 25 per cent and profits down 70 per cent. So it was Devey to the rescue. Or rather, Taskers staff, with Devey on hand to offer advice and encouragement.

Their first big idea was the kind of common-sense marketing that the bossman really should have dreamed up already – why not furnish local show homes with their products? The second idea, proposed by till supervisor Tom and his head cashier Debs, was a perfect example of what staff can see that managers can't. Being a rich bloke himself, Mr Tasker had stocked his shop with high-end, large-sized furniture that was "more for footballers' houses" than first-time buyers on an ordinary wage. The Taskers staff remedied this by devising and advertising an entire living-room set for £500.

Devey isn't the type to advocate a full-scale workers' revolution, but her experiment did prove the wisdom of seeking out and utilising experience from all areas of a business. And for viewers more interested in people than profit, there was a feel-good factor to be found watching downtrodden Debs discover a range of impressive business skills she never dreamed she might possess.

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