As 4.6 million viewers tuned in to catch the launch episode of the most recent series of The Apprentice, the long-running business competition show can still garner interest from the British public, despite many critics suggesting it has run its course.
While The Apprentice enjoyed its best premiere since 2017, viewers are more aware of the show’s unrealistic challenges and false presentation of entrepreneurialism. The show’s challenges not only expect contestants to create business concepts, branding, marketing campaigns, and investment pitches in a matter of hours, it perpetuates the notion that a business is based on the ‘one brilliant idea’ from ‘one brilliant person’. Each contestant is representing themselves as a person with a fantastic business plan or as the genius behind a very successful brand. The thought might have been theirs only to begin with, but businesses are very rarely built by only one person.
It takes a team of people, all with different talents, knowledge, and expertise to build a business from a plan on a piece of paper to a fully incorporated, profitable business with scalability opportunities. Alan Sugar’s business competition program not only places entrepreneurs into business situations that are unrelated to their own business journey and experiences but can sometimes fire them for reasons viewers can’t understand. The winner receives the ultimate prize of a potentially life changing investment in their business idea but are contestants truly there for the investment in the first place? The show is excellent exposure for them as individuals but we only learn about a few of the actual businesses and in the contemporary world of business, there are many investment alternatives that provide incredible support for start-ups or growing SMEs that do not require the same public spectacle.
“There is a common perception that an entrepreneur is an individual who has a lightbulb moment and then sets about turning that idea into a business reality. This perception is created and reinforced by the media who understandably love larger than life characters such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson through to the government which seems to focus on disruptive technology businesses whilst fast growing companies in other sectors receive much less attention. The reality is that many great businesses owe their success to a team of risk takers who share a strong vision and complementary skill sets, rather than just one individual. As a private equity investor, this team balance is the most important ingredient we look for in any business we back. Furthermore, starting a business isn’t the only way to earn the entrepreneur status – a team risking its own capital to fund a management buy-out is every bit as entrepreneurial as that individual with the lightbulb moment.” Claire Madden, Managing Partner at Connection Capital
Business owners like Steven Bartlett, Ben Francis, and Grace Beverley inspire generations of entrepreneurs but there is a growing emphasis on the fact that these individuals didn’t reach their incredible achievements alone; each of them have relied on talented, reliable team members working together towards a shared goal.