A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
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THE APPRENTICE



I watched an old edition of The Apprentice the other night, and was a bit saddened by missing the first show of that season.  Now that's because I’ve been a fan of the show since the very first series, and I used to think it was something that all aspiring entrepreneurs should try watching as an integral part of their basic training. But now I’m not so sure. I think it could give them a false sense of security.

You see, in the first series, they had candidates who could be described as quite normal. They approached tasks in a rather rational (if sometimes misguided) way, and most of them treated the others with something approaching respect. Most had ability too.

Good for reality… but not so good for reality TV.

The programme producers - realising that the biggest untapped audience will normally come from people filling in time before the next series of Big Brother starts, rather than real entrepreneurs - have clearly decided that both conflict and eccentricity are what ‘sells’. And so they’ve filled the show this time with a collection of characters who make for far greater entertainment, but who I wouldn’t personally employ even if they worked for free.

For instance, there’s the ultra-alpha male, the toff, the superbitch, the emotional wreck, the David Brent clone… get the idea? The end result is that of great entertainment, and even the least business-savvy of viewers gets to believe that they could probably do better than that – which they probably could.

If you didn’t see this particular show, let me give you a little test. At short notice, you have to pitch to a hotel to do their laundry for an evening, and need to quote a price.

Do you:

a) Ring an established service to get a feel for market prices and then base your price on theirs?

Or…

b) Pluck a price from out of thin air while in the car on the way to the meeting?

If you answered ‘b’, you should almost certainly be killed, but having said that, you’d fit in well with the women’s team on the programme. Because that’s precisely what they went and did… they just guessed at a price. But even worse than that, the figure they chose was £4.95 per item laundered… which is about 25 times more expensive than the going rate was!

A Business plan...

Now anyone who was more concerned with common sense and effective action, than all the strategy meetings, brainstorming, synergy, customer interfaces and the myriad of other corporate crap which these people seem to be able to regurgitate on tap, would have realised two things; Firstly, that guessing a price in a market you know nothing about is simply moronic, and secondly, that guessing at a figure that is more than the item would cost to actually replace, just has to be wrong. Even a child could have worked that one out.

The simple fact that a single one person came up with this plan was bad enough, but when all of her team mates were so devoid of any nous that they went along with it… well that’s really worrying.

So watch The Apprentice for the entertainment value by all means, but don’t ever be fooled by the notion that any of these people are any way the ‘cream of young British business talent’, and you could probably do better. You almost certainly could do better, but doing better than someone who, but for their over-inflated ego and pure comedy value, who would most likely find themselves employed flogging double glazing or toting time share holiday villas, is no real great achievement.

I suggest that for some real business insight, you watch Dragon’s Den instead. There are still quite a few numpties on there too, but at least you’ll get to see them sweat.




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