Why ‘The Apprentice’ is bad for business

Lord Alan Sugar of The Apprentice
Lord Alan Sugar of The Apprentice

For years I’ve been avoiding avidly watching ‘The Apprentice’. Last time I watched it, I saw them attempt a dreadful rebrand of Margate. But this week, I was asked to give it another go and I found myself hating it even more.

The group had the task of creating a new dessert product to sell into the major supermarket groups and the team who did worse only managed to create and sell 15,000 units in their allotted few days, whereas the winners sold 23,500. So why do I think this is so wrong?

1. The competitors behaviour in the boardroom was horrific. Initially they worked as teams but were encouraged and delighted by the fact that they should back stab their other team members in front of “Lord’ Sugar. I’ve been in business for a long time and maybe I’m the naive one, but a situation where the other person has to lose for you to be able to win is not a situation I recognise or respect. I don’t believe it sustains good business.

2. ‘Lord Sugar’s’ feigned ignorance was appalling. He sneered at one of the competitors for referring to their target audience as ‘grazers’ If he genuinely didn’t understand this term, is he qualified to judge such a programme?

3. The situation itself was completely ridiculous. For young people to believe that it’s the norm to pop into a development kitchen and create a new dessert without even a nod towards costing it up properly (more Saffron anyone?) is bad enough, but for them to carry on the myth by pretending they had secured pitches in front of Tesco and Waitrose is even more ridiculous. For them to pretend that they then ordered units without any production ability or drawn out negotiation just perpetuates the stupidity.

4. And then it came to the judging. The esteemed ‘Lord’ Sugar decided who he wanted to belittle first. A young lady with an idea about a healthy eating restaurant chain emanating from Sunderland was literally laughed out of the boardroom. But what had changed? That was the business idea she had pitched to get onto the programme, so when did it suddenly become something worth ridicule? It was nasty and spiteful and all to do with bullying on TV. She had been set up for that fall since she agreed to join the programme.

For me, business is built on the old fashioned values of mutual respect, trust and hard work. Throw in some luck and grasping the good opportunities that present themselves, whilst knowing which ones to pass over, is the difference between success and failure.

The Apprentice is X Factor business. Nothing to do with ANY of these business values and everything to do with creating shocking TV and making money at any cost, despite how many people you harm on the way. If this is the impression we give young people about how business behaves, in my opinion, very few of them will choose to join us. Those that do will be horrendous colleagues trained in the very worst of business behaviour.

This isn’t an apprenticeship, It’s an ugly beauty parade that’s causing harm to the future of business.

Thanks to TV Choice magazine for the picture of the pin up boy for business, Lord Sugar.

7 thoughts on “Why ‘The Apprentice’ is bad for business

  1. Spot-on John!
    The question is whether or not what they are doing is adding value; as with most dilemmas in life. The answer is no.

    Unfortunately, today we live in a world where the news, and TV programs like X-Factor all sensationalise sound bites for greed fuelled by the get rich quick money gangs headed by Sugar, and Cowl, alike.

    I no longer watch the news in fact, and I don’t follow politics. I cannot understand the difference between the ‘shows’ since the characters in them appear to have similar agenda and all are headed by shallow demigods. To my point; they give me no value.

    For a more enlightening way to bring value in life and the work place; Stephen Covey’s: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is a great place to start. Here, he explains the value of win/win. https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php

    I understand he’s thinking of writing a book about ‘The 7 most ineffective people’ based on characters in the UK, where he promotes lose/lose. It’s a tough call to reduce that number to just seven, oh and wait – that show’s already been done many times over… More Apprentice anyone?

    Keep on trucking John!

    1. Oh, and on another note, can you really imagine anyone constantly calling senior buyers ‘guys’ throughout a pitch and not getting thrown out? How can that possibly be a good example to set?

  2. Had Steven Covey not been dead a) I’d buy that book and b) wonder what would he make of The Apprentice now? If you were to take his 7 habits as an authority on leadership and then comparatively examine the Apprentice, which I no longer watch either, on principles, I wonder how frequently Sugar’s approach to leadership would be questioned?

    1. Lord Sugar on leadership. That would be a very short and completely illiterate book that you coils learn how NOT to do it right. If every single decision within a business is driven by money it would be a pretty awful place to work. I wonder if that is why NONE of his previous ‘apprentices’ continue to work with him?

  3. John, I gave up on this ‘show’ some time ago. You have it sorted – it is a take on X Factor. It needs the drama to be ‘good TV’. Sadly it’s not. It is a bit of a joke and does belittle people. The show when they get ‘grilled’ by Lord Sugars ‘closest friends’ is even more cringeworthy. Thankfully it’s just TV and not reality! You can learn more about business from Coronation Street…

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