Alex Polizzi: The Fixer
Alex Polizzi is Channel 5’s resident Hotel Inspector, in which she visits struggling hotels and helps them turn their business around. This usually involves just three things - clean the place up, change the decor and invite local businesses over to take a look around. Fairly simple, quite entertaining but slightly repetitive. When she defects to the BBC once every couple of years she becomes The Fixer, a similar set up but looking at family businesses rather than simply hotels. This being the BBC there is a slightly more serious edge to the programme, but essentially its much the same. What makes The Fixer more interesting is the range of businesses and the fact that the families involved are often on the verge of complete meltdown.
In the first episode of this new series she visited Paul Walker who, six years ago, quit his corporate job to set up a micro brewery, despite no experience or any relevant knowledge of the industry. He was making nice beer that the locals liked but he was losing money hand over fist. He thought the solution to his problems was to start exporting, but as Alex pointed out he needed to sort out the UK side of his business before he could even think of branching out abroad. This was a micro brewery that didn't even have a bottling machine. Oh, they had ordered one, and paid £45,000 for it, but after 4 months it still hadn’t arrived. When it eventually did arrive it didn't work. Rather than send it back, insist on a refund and get a new one, Paul put it to one side and paid £20,000 for another one. And these people wonder why they are losing money!
Those of us who don’t run their own businesses can watch this and marvel at the decisions some of these people make, sometimes putting the livelihood of their whole family on the line. The trouble is, once you have put all your eggs in one family business basket and you start to get into trouble its very hard to dig your way out. Alex does what she can but in the end she is only scratching the surface, and a lot of the time the business owners think they know best and are reluctant to follow her advice. So, why ask her to come and help in the first place? Paul, eventually, seemed to heed her advice and by the end he could see the corner, even if he hadn't quite turned it. Others, it sometimes seems, think that 60 minutes of TV exposure is what is going to help them back on their feet.
In the second episode she helps Heck Sausages, and its a lesson in family relations proving that just because you have kids doesn't mean they need, or even want, to work for you. As anyone who has worked with family before knows, they are usually the worst employees. Coming from a family business (albeit an incredibly successful one) Alex knows this better than most. She is the part of the Forte hotel dynasty, started a business she runs with her husband and runs a hotel that her mother owns. Her advice makes sense and she usually seems to empathise. Whether she keeps in touch to see if her advice was helpful is doubtful, but while she is there she genuinely seems to care.
Watching The Fixer is never less than interesting, and may even persuade you that you could easily start your own small business, as surely you couldn't get into the kind of mess these people find themselves in, could you? If you did, you know you could call on Alex, who with a few well placed “darling’s” (she does call people that rather a lot) and a nudge in the right direction would have you back on the right track. With Duncan Bannatyne leaving Dragon’s Den, someone at the BBC should really get on the phone to Alex to offer her the spare chair.