At last a watchable programme about business.
Last night’s New Troubleshooter with Lord Digby Jones shooting from the hip was the best bit of business TV since … umm … well the last Troubleshooter series in the mid-1980s probably!
Now admittedly the standard isn’t high. Leader of the pack in recent years has been The Apprentice which portrays business as some sort of primeval, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest examination, involving haring round London in Black Cabs and performing idiotic tasks at Waterloo Station.
If these people are, to use the late David Halberstam’s phrase coined for the whizz-kids of the Kennedy Administration, the ‘Best and the Brightest’, then we really are in trouble.
Instead, last night, we had talk of balance sheets, cash statements and working capital. Sounds boring? Well actually, it was quite compelling.
When His Lordship asked the young Finance Controller for the cash flow implications of increasing the stock levels in the business and the poor chap had to admit that he didn’t have a clue, my wife shifted uncomfortably in her seat. The attempts at convincing the MD of the need for some demand forecasting had me rolling my eyes.
I’m old enough to remember the original Troubleshooter with the late Sir John Harvey Jones, former CEO of ICI. He too proved that business can make good television.
I vividly remember him walking into the stockroom of a small brewery which was jammed to the rafters with bottles of beer.
“What’s going on?” he asked. The MD looked to the floor. “We’ve not been able to sell it at current prices,” he admitted.
Sir John turned to him and said: “Sell it for whatever you can get. You need to turn this lot into cash. When I next come in here I want to see this place empty.” That’s where I first learned that lack of cash can pull a business under just as quickly as lack of sales.
Last night wasn’t perfect. I’d liked to have found out whether the company did ever produce a forecast and the results of their intellectual property application in regard to their new branding.
But, it was a much-needed start. Let’s hope the BBC sees fit to commission a second series