‘Normally my job is to make people laugh, now I had to tell them they were not doing well’

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In Other people’s business Comedian and business economist Kamal Kharmach focuses on the accounting of ailing companies. Tonight in episode one he tries to save a West Flemish bakery. “Normally my job is to make people laugh, now I had to tell them they were not doing well.”

The general public knows Kamal Kharmach mainly as a comedian. It is a well-kept secret that the man also likes to read a trade balance as a way of relaxation. When Kharmach is not on stage, he steals the show at the Antwerp Karel De Grote Hogeschool, where he teaches business economics and economic education. A double role that makes him the right man for the new One program Other people’s business to talk to each other. Or not?

“I am a pleaser”, he says. “I make people laugh. That’s my job. I don’t like conflict and never seek confrontation. But that was not an option when making this program. I had to tell people more often than I would have liked that they were not doing well. ”

Starting tonight in Varsenare, where Kharmach, as a lover and connoisseur of the better patisserie, is allowed to visit Bakkerij Laurens. There, after a penetrating look at the books, he comes to the conclusion that Laurens (the baker) and Melissa (his wife) work fourteen hours every day for a starvation wage of 1.75 euros per hour. A message that has a strong impact on the bakers couple. “That’s usually the way it went,” says Kharmach. “Initially, all those entrepreneurs think it’s fun to visit such a BV. But when I come up with the figures, the atmosphere usually changes quickly. ”

Emergency grab

Not that baker Laurens De Vestele was completely blind to the shortcomings in his business plan. “We knew there was a problem,” he says. “Otherwise we would not have registered for this program.” De Vestele explains that the bakery’s machinery collectively gave up immediately after he and his wife took over the business. “We have had to replace many devices. That has pushed our figures into the red. ”

A problem that the bakers couple tried to solve by working extremely long hours. An emergency measure that Kharmach often saw in the companies he did in recent months. “Many self-employed people work very hard in their business, but far too little in their business. They think too little about the numbers behind the things they do. In the past, anyone wanting to start a business had to get a degree in business management. That obligation has disappeared in an attempt to stimulate entrepreneurship. But the result is that many self-employed people do not know even the most essential economic concepts. ”

Kamal Kharmach studies the products in the Laurens Bakery in Varsenare.Image VRT

At Bakkerij Laurens, this lack of economic insight was reflected in a proliferation of products on the counter: from pancakes, over pralines to kiwi ice creams. All things that perhaps broadened the range, but hardly contributed to the turnover of the bakery. Convincing the bakers couple to put the scissors in the range required a lot of massage work.

“I understand that,” says Kharmach. “They grew up with the idea that the customer is king. That is true, of course, but it must not become dictatorship. In everything you do, you have to keep economic reality in mind. Even if that means that from now on you will only have thirty instead of fifty types of bread on the shelves. ”

Throughout the series, Kharmach’s insights often clash with the ambitions of the entrepreneurs. And his figures-based criticism is not always well received. “Such a business is a bit like a child”, baker Laurens tries to interpret those sensitivities. “And nobody likes it when their child is scolded.” Certainly not if that criticism comes from a BV that mainly made a name for itself as a comedian. “In the beginning I felt a bit suspicious”, says Kharmach. “Logical, because we ask a lot of the people we try to help.” Access to their accounting, for example. Kharmach: “There are two things that the average Fleming does not like to share with the rest of the world: who he votes for and how much he earns. And the latter was exactly what we wanted to know.” This was also a barrier at Bakkerij Laurens. “We talked a lot about that beforehand. But we also knew that Kamal could only help us if we were completely open. ”

Which immediately brings us to the question of one million: is Kharmach’s advice actually worth anything? “I can’t tell much about that yet,” says Kharmach. “Only that we have not made it easy for ourselves. I could have chosen six companies that we could get back on track with some minor interventions. But I only chose cases that really interested me. ” Like that of Bakkerij Laurens. And the arrival of Kharmach did have an impact there. “We work more efficiently and don’t launch anything new without first calculating three times whether we can actually make a profit with it.” An approach that also makes itself felt in the figures. “Although that is a side issue,” says Kharmach. “The fact that Laurens and Melissa, thanks to their new, more efficient approach, finally had time to go to Plopsaland with their daughter, pleases me more than the doubling of the profit figures.”

Other people’s business, Wednesday at 8.40 p.m. on One





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