And so, another series of BBC’s The Apprentice has come to an end, with 24-year-old Dr Leah Totton winning a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar for her ambitious cosmetic surgery venture. In opting for Totton over Luisa Zissman – whose bakery business has now attracted funding from the Angel’s Den investor network – Sugar admitted he was taking the riskier option, but that the profit margins on offer ultimately made the risk worth it.
Since its conclusion, the show has once again attracted some fairly negative press, with many business tycoons suggesting that it doesn’t send out the right message to aspiring entrepreneurs. The constant infighting that tends to accompany each and every task, in addition to the rich array of resources made readily available to the contestants, paints an unrealistic picture of the traditional path to entrepreneurial greatness, it is claimed. Far from being an educational programme for the business leaders of tomorrow, The Apprentice is fast becoming regarded as just another reality show, acting as a quick route to televisual stardom for the 16 candidates. That said, the candidates who reach the final are generally there on merit, having presented a viable business plan and entrepreneurial spark worthy of Lord Sugar’s thousands. Where, then, does the small business world stand on one of the BBC’s flagship shows?
“It has made entrepreneurship far more appealing,” says Ceri-Jane Hackling, managing director of Cerub PR
The Apprentice is, first and foremost, entertainment, and we shouldn’t forget that. A programme with a ‘proper’ business focus wouldn’t attract viewers in the same way that The Apprentice does.
While some of the behaviour seen in the show is a lesson in how not to do business, I believe that programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den have made entrepreneurship far more appealing and accessible to people, particularly young people, and demonstrate how sales skills, negotiating skills and team management can apply to any kind of business.
Twenty years ago, there were no popular programmes on business or entrepreneurship and for many people, the reality of running their own business seemed to be an unrealistic ambition. The business programmes currently on television have made people realise that a good attitude, common sense and the ability to get involved and get stuck in can be more important than an MBA and that if these people can do it, perhaps they can too.
While The Apprentice is not perhaps a ‘credible’ business show, it has done a huge amount to make people engage with the idea of running a business, which can only be a good thing.
“Not the full picture of how to be an entrepreneur,” says Alex Uprichard, managing partner of Mums In The Know
The Apprentice used to be really good but it has lost its way in the most recent seasons. I like the way the prize is now more realistic and appealing to entrepreneurs. However, being an online business entrepreneur I feel huge aspects of the way businesses work are completely lacking in the show. How come nobody is ever on their laptop researching the market they are doing tasks on? Why are they running round the streets and using the Yellow Pages? It just seems a little unrealistic.
I can reach out via Facebook and Twitter to a chosen demographic instantly to evaluate their thoughts on a marketing concept / product idea and garner statistical evidence to build my plans around. So why are Lord Sugar’s prospective business partners displayed on this show wandering up to random people in the street and basing decisions on what a handful of passers-by think? Why is no one using the fantastic tools we all now have access to via the internet and smart devices to instantly crowdsource opinion and research sales opportunities and marketing strategies?
I do love Lord Sugar’s rise from barrow boy story, and the idea of putting candidates in these sorts of situations to test their mettle – but it really isn’t the full picture of how to be an entrepreneur in 2013.