Friday 25 October 2019 6:41 am

Why The Apprentice is actually really good for business

James Reed is chairman and chief executive of recruitment firm REED.

Last week, Matt Clifford was lambasted by Lord Sugar on Twitter for his piece in City A.M. on why The Apprentice is bad for business.

But having watched the past 15 series of the UK version of the show, there are many positives about the programme. 

The business world is constantly changing, but the fundamentals that The Apprentice teach us remain constant. From how to create products to marketing them correctly, these are skills that many people want to learn, whether they’re planning to build a business or not. 

Having an entertainment show that offers this advice is invaluable for many budding entrepreneurs.

While some of the tasks seem far-fetched and the candidates often appear eccentric, the show teaches us a lot of truths about the world of business. The occasional on-screen chaos it portrays can even be a lesson in how not to succeed.

At the start of each episode, Lord Sugar announces that The Apprentice is “the job interview from hell”, and certainly, over the course of a 15-week selection process, it’s unlike any other job interview or investment pitch you’ve ever heard of.

But although an extreme example of a conventional interview, the show still has lessons for both employers and candidates. For employers, it’s a crash-course in how to identify possible weaknesses in an application and how to unmask an applicant’s true character, while for candidates it’s a chance to see how others deal with tricky questions under pressure and learn to present yourself professionally.

Each of the team challenges are a lesson in how to manage different personalities successfully (or indeed, unsuccessfully), such as how to get the best out of the talent you have within your team. 

The show also conveys how being the team captain can feel like a lonely place at times, especially if things go wrong – and this can very much be the reality of a business founder or chief executive. 

Of course, The Apprentice is an entertainment programme first and foremost, but that doesn’t mean that the stories and successes of past winners do not inspire the next generation of business leaders in the UK. 

The show itself opens doors, and is positive force in encouraging would-be entrepreneurs to pursue their good business ideas.

Admittedly, episodes can be shouty at times, but you can’t deny that it has created some successful new businesses. Take for example, 2014 winner Mark Wright’s digital marketing firm, which turned over £5m just two years after receiving Lord Sugar’s investment, or Ricky Martin’s recruitment company, which made a profit on £1m last year.

And it’s not just the winners who benefit, as there are also successful runner-ups like Ruth Badger, who has her own consultancy firm, and Luisa Zissman, an English retail entrepreneur and reality television personality. 

The fact that The Apprentice has been running for 15 years is testament to the show’s appeal and the enduring business lessons we can all learn from it. 

Unlike the X Factor, The Apprentice doesn’t promise stardom, but instead it provides the very real prospect of building a genuine business that will enrich the lives of others.

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