Outdated Alan Sugar is the wrong man for enterprise tsar job

He might be a larger-than-life TV personality and intelligent people know that his programme is manufactured for entertainment, but his apparent values and working practices are not appealing to young people.

The premise of his television show is the antithesis of the way in which successful millennials like to work. Connected, collaborative and communicative; they find the aggression and “every man for himself” attitude of The Apprentice to be unappealing.

At Falmouth University Business School, our Business Entrepreneurship BA is taught using the Team Academy model – students are placed in teams that set up, run and sustain real businesses. We use the model because we know that successful businesses need people that understand teams.

Over three years, our students develop an understanding of the need for a diverse team; gain an appreciation of the fact that teams can often be messy, experience the pleasure and pain of building a team from scratch and discover that a good team is greater than the sum of its parts.

As they run their businesses, our students learn how to function as part of a team; how to manage their colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses, how to negotiate internal conflict, how to harness disagreement for positive purposes – vital skills whether they graduate and go on to establish a future FTSE 100 company, or join an established enterprise as an employee.

The American business writer Stephen Shapiro says that the person you like the least is the person you need the most, and there’s a lot of truth in that. Strong teams (and therefore strong businesses) are diverse and full of people with different skills and strengths, but they’re also supportive and empathetic environments.

Our students are partly assessed on how they help others learn, but they also spend a lot of time learning about themselves and what makes them tick. In order to become a team player, they need to understand what they bring to the group. They are encouraged to be reflective and self-critical, but they also receive feedback from their colleagues.

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However, unlike in Sugar’s boardroom, there’s no finger pointing and blame apportioning; the feedback is constructive and purposeful. Through this process, our students become resilient and receptive to feedback; a vital capacity in any successful business person.

Sugar believes that entrepreneurs are born, not made and that in itself I disagree is clearly wrong. As well as accepting and acting on criticism, experience and the learnings that come with making mistakes all help shape and inform an entrepreneur.

It’s only by trying and experimenting and failing that people with aspirations for their own business can discover the realities of the business world. That’s why investors like serial entrepreneurs – even those that haven’t established market-leading successes every time – because they’re constantly honing their methods and developing their ideas.

There are also key entrepreneurial behaviours that can be taught and learned. “There’s nothing more practical than a good theory” is right and, at a business school like ours, students can blend academic study and practical experience in an environment that’s set up for them to experiment in safely.

It’s right that the government is taking steps to encourage and support entrepreneurship, but it can do better than appointing an outdated business icon of the 80s as an ambassador for enterprise.

Better to take a fresh look at the successful young British businesses of 2016, listen to younger voices and to provide more support for startups.

Jeremy Richards is MBA director at Falmouth University

Mark Wright reveals five things he learned by winning The Apprentice

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