I’ve always been entranced by The Apprentice, and over the years there have only been two series that I’ve missed. There were years when I used particular episodes as an example of how to do something, or NOT do something, but I don’t think there was ever any year where I thought ‘WTAF’ until this year.
I know I’ve spoken before about the fact that the would-be apprentices are recruited based on their personalities and video auditions, rather their business acumen, because after all, The Apprentice show is a piece of entertainment. It is designed to keep us watching, and to keep tweeting, or talking about it at work the next morning.
I have never wanted to give up on a series as much as I’ve wanted to this year. Many of the episodes left a foul taste in my mouth. Here’s what I’ve personally objected to (you may disagree, or you may have other examples).
My biggest bugbear? None of the candidates who made it through to the last five of The Apprentice had a business plan that was workable. Most of the candidates didn’t have scooby-do how to conduct themselves in polite company and lacked zero respect for other. Let’s take a look at a few of these.
Nice-but-bland Sarah wants to upscale her business. What she means by that is develop a website, have workable SEO and come up in the search engine results. She’s been ‘doing the groundwork’ for her business for SEVEN years, but as the penultimate episode demonstrated, her website doesn’t actually work. She supplies sweets in a cute (heavy sarcasm there) plastic cup, just as a number of other competitors do (but hers are apparently hand packed) and finished with a ribbon. Splendid. Just what the world needs, another over-priced online sweetshop using outdated packaging. Maybe I’m just weird, but if I want a sherbert dib-dab, I don’t want to pay over the odds and wait three days for it to arrive. I’ll just pop out to one of my local sweet shops and help a small business, thanks very much.
Bossy and over-bearing Elizabeth. Hmmm. Lord Sugar seemed to have a soft spot for her, and I imagine that she is hardworking and efficient, but she is that person who always needs to be right. She has three florist shops and wants to expand into corporate gifting. I can see that working, but, have you had a look at the corporate gifting market? Gift ideas are pens, and nonsense, plenty of branded plastic tat. Novelties that are anything but novel. It’s a great way for big business to waste money for sure. Lord Sugar wasn’t sold on it.
Joanna. She was an interesting contestant – but only in the last few episodes. Argumentative, aggressive and hostile, through most of the episodes, she came into her own as project leader on the fashion task, certainly showing potential. However she knew absolutely nothing about the fashion industry, and at twenty-three, with a degree in politics, has had limited career experience of any sort. I finally warmed to her when she mentioned about dressing girls for success in Africa, supplying them with school uniform, out of part of the profits of her women’s work wear business. Unfortunately, her business plan was weak, and combined with her lack of fashion experience and zero knowledge of how wholesale works, The Apprentice said bye-bye Joanna.
Michaela wasn’t aware of how many businesses she’s started up. In some ways she was amazing – building a business from scratch to £3million turnover. Her business idea sounded interesting to me – it was the only one of the five that had potential and sounded serious. Unfortunately, Michaela is flighty, and because she’s from a working class background and lacks the finesse and confidence to move in many business circles, she was handicapped in certain situations. She didn’t know how to talk to the fashion crowd. They found her blunt. I thought she was interesting and I’d have liked to have seen some mentoring for her, to build her confidence and address some of her brashness. It seems exploitative to me, to use her fiery, earthy personality to sell The Apprentice (she was very watchable) and then throw her out because she didn’t fit the assured ready-made business model they wanted.
Compare Michaela to James. I had to scratch around in my head to remember his name. James with the hair. Handsome James from a privileged background. James who has worked in the recruitment industry and been fired for it because he went behind his boss’s back. Untrustworthy James who wants to make his Dad proud (in and of itself not a bad thing). James who thinks he can turn over £9million within three years, although there seems little hope this will happen. James who oozes confidence and manners. Yes, James made it into the final. Yawn. And HOW?
I’m tiring of The Apprentice. I hate how bad they are at presenting to clients in spite of their gung-ho attitudes. I hate how they don’t listen to each other. I hate their ignorance about the world, and how dim they sound, like they’ve never picked up a book or read a newspaper in their lives.
I honestly wonder whether The Apprentice producers ban the contestants from sharing vital information that the sub teams need to know, because several times this series, the project leader has refused to talk to the sub team, or cut them off mid conversation, while we sitting on our sofas at home scream, ‘but they need to know that!’ The project leader says, ‘there’s no time, bye!’. It’s infuriating when you’re a business owner to see this happen. Yes, this is business we’re talking about. If it was your business you would make time and you would ensure your sub team knew exactly what they needed to know. Maybe I’m the voice of age, reason and experience, who knows? I tell you this. If I had someone working for me, who put the phone down mid-conversation on a colleague who needed clarification, I’d fire their backsides faster than you could shout, ‘Taxi!’
Also, do the producers ban Google? Week after week, teams lose the task because they don’t know what something is or don’t take the time to research properly. For crying out loud, just google it on your posh phones! Or perhaps this is representative of the arrogance of a new generation of entrepreneurs. Do they think they know everything and have nothing left to learn?
So yes, I’m heartily tired of The Apprentice.
Do you know what would make The Apprentice more interesting to me? A new format incorporating the following:
Don’t choose ‘personalities’. The hostile, bitchy, aggressive side of anyone is not attractive.
Make sure everyone selected has a workable business plan
Choose people who have a sustainable business idea – one that can grow long term, is good for other people, and the planet
Choose people who want to learn, who value and respect the business acumen of those around them
Choose people who are happy to work within a team for the greater good, because they in turn make the best leaders
Give those people credit when it comes to hiring and firing.
Look at including introverts (there are many high functioning introverts who can do great work) and the disabled. Promote social mobility. Raise the age cap for the show. We don’t stop needing opportunity at the age of 30.
Make sure it is a hiring/firing process that enriches the lives of those who take part.
In fact – choose the best. A £250,000 investment is nothing to be sneezed at, give it to someone worthy, not the person who performs least poorly.
I’ll probably watch The Apprentice final, but I don’t care who wins. It’s turning into a concept lacking intelligence, and it offers nothing to the twenty-first century. Is it trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator? A kind of Big Brother for Big Boring Business? Neither Sarah nor James really deserve the money or investment, or a mentor’s time, quite honestly, although I suppose at least Sarah has shown some skills. There are hundreds and thousands of small business owners in the UK, far better qualified, with great ideas and more experience, who could benefit from some professional input instead.
Over to you
What do you think of The Apprentice this season? How would you like to see changes to the format and what would they be? Add a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook 🙂