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The Grand Tour’s secret to success: hiring the right people

Culture · 5 min read

How charm and persistence can make anything happen

We talk to Zoe Brewer and Chris Hale, CFO/Director of Production and Series Producer respectively at Chump, makers of The Grand Tour, about how to assemble the right team to take on the world.

As we’re about to talk to Chris and Zoe she reads out an email she’s just received: “We are now the most popular on-demand reality show in the world.” It’s clearly a big moment. So a simple question to ask them is: how do they make it all happen?

Chris Hale replies quickly, “Charm.” He elaborates, “People don't want to help initially, because what you're asking for is out of the ordinary. It’s going to cause them hassle. You can't make somebody want to help you, but you can get them to help you by asking nicely.”

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Clearly The Grand Tour has some simple but important lessons for any business, especially about putting the right team together.

“Say we’re transporting some cars, because they need to be at a location for 7AM the next morning. Just as they're about to leave, one of those cars breaks down. So you have to very quickly get a transporter in at the last minute. That's fine. Everything is going to be fine, you think, until that transporter breaks down in the middle of the night (not a DHL one, we at DHL must add!). So then you're not in a town any more. It is now 3AM and you are in pretty much the middle of nowhere. You have to come up with a plan and literally knock on doors in the village, in the middle of the night, and convince somebody that they want to help you. And it turns out that one of the people whose door you knock on, has a cousin who has a neighbor who is a delivery truck driver. And they wake them up. Then 45 minutes later you are rolling out with a sleepy-eyed local who is now your best friend because he's going to get you there the next morning.”

Hire the right people with the right qualities

Zoe explains, “It's  a constant game of Jenga, of checking and double-checking everything as you go. Inevitably, when you're doing something that large-scale, it's impossible to think that absolutely everything is going to go according to plan when you are in a foreign country. You have to be aware that it is potentially going to go wrong, then that mitigates the disaster level.”

TV production is a good analogy for any supply chain within other production businesses. Everyone is waiting on the constituent parts to start their job, so you need people who are both completely reliable and capable of daily miracles.

Getting and keeping the right people is more of an art than a science. “On a production there are about 25 or 30 people,” explains Zoe. “Then there’s the crew. So if we are at a big shoot, the whole crew numbers about 60. So you interview. You don't get it right every time. But once we do find the right people, we encourage them to stay, to move up within the ranks of production and make sure people always feel challenged.”

A crazy business needs organized minds

As Chris explains, it takes a certain sort of person to succeed on The Grand Tour team: “This sort of willingness to strive, to achieve something stupid, that everybody will tell you is impossible; that is a great challenge to get into. It is also negative, because any rational person would give up. But then we are not necessarily rational in that respect.”

“So then,” adds Chris, ”it's a very reactive thing, and it's about having the right people with us, and us being the right people as well to kind of think ‘What is the problem?’ 'How do we solve this?'”

Clearly running a critical operation like this involves more than just charm. You have to be driven, too. “Control is an interesting thing,” adds Chris, “because I think we are all control freaks. It’s all about wanting to know every element of the process, but then entrusting and empowering the right experts in the right places to do their job, but also to be across all of the strands of it.” 

Zoe: “We obviously do thorough checks on all the particulars.”

Versatility is another key attribute: “The plan you go with is just something to deviate from, a lot of the time. You might get a problem one day. The solution for it that day is different from the solution to it the next day. Then the next day it's a different problem, but the same solution. It's constantly shifting sand, because of the nature of what we are doing.”

Every business is different, but it’s clear that assembling the right personnel to make it happen is the key to success. Think you have the right team? Then talk to us about taking your business worldwide.

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