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Boss Swap - Lee and Bryan

The third programme in the ‘Boss Swap’ series was undoubtedly the most interesting, mainly because it actually had a point.

The formula so far has been to take bosses working in broadly similar industries but with contrasting management styles and see how they cope in a different environment. This time they took it a stage further and also chose two very different industries (manufacturing and advertising). The risk was obviously that both bosses would struggle in businesses they knew little about. In fact, the story of the programme was that one of them struggled and the other flourished.

Lee Trundle is the boss of Leepeckgreenfield, an advertising and PR agency, and a larger than life character. Bryan Dion is the boss of Decomatic a family firm that manufactures plastic bags and other similar products. In fact he is a family member by marriage - an American who had married the boss’s daughter and been rewarded with the job of running the company.

Lee was like a breath of fresh air at the bag factory. He made a very positive impression with the staff and came up with some very good ideas, though unsurprisingly most of them concerned marketing, promotion and advertising. Well, hey, stick to what you know!

Bryan, on the other hand, made little impact at the ad agency except that he upset the staff by talking too much and not listening enough. It wasn’t clear whether this was his management style or it was just that he was over-anxious about making his mark with the company in his allotted two weeks, though the former seems more likely.

Bryan’s first suggestion was that they needed to make more of the event they were holding for the opening of their offices. He felt that it was a golden opportunity to sell their services to their clients, whereas the staff saw it as an informal party and didn’t want to be too pushy. The irony here was that towards the end of his two weeks at the bag factory, Lee visited an agent who was selling their products. It appeared that the agent rarely heard from the bag company and wasn’t even aware of the range of products they offered. Oops.

Bryan’s other big idea was for the agency to have a presence in London. The company’s joint managing director was happy to go along with the plan, but exasperated when the trip to London to view potential locations turned into a fiasco. In fact it was a good idea, and the agency did open a London office a few months later, but management is as much about execution as it is about having good ideas.

Lee certainly scored on execution, and was undoubtedly helped by Bryan’s second-in-command who seemed to have plenty of good ideas and clearly felt much more enthusiastic about his “new” boss and frustrated with the old one. It would be fascinating to see how that one finally played out!

The problem with reality TV is that you never know how much of it is real. The presence of TV cameras alters reality, and editing can change the story. There may not be a script (well, not in this case, at least) but after the filming has finished the programme makers will want to present a story. In this case, the story was that Lee was a big success and Bryan was a failure. Maybe it wasn’t really quite that simple, but Bryan must be wondering what on earth possessed him to agree to appear on this show.


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