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What reality TV has really done for entrepreneurship

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Winner of The Apprentice in 2015, Joseph Valente, founder of ImpraGas, is perhaps the best case study. He entered in the hopes of gaining valuable advice, but has also been at the viewing end of the show. He told Real Business: “Reality TV highlighted for me what business entrepreneurship is all about.

“It’s helped to make it exciting, fun, sexy and attractive but it also shows the gritty, raw, hardworking dark side of business. Showing that it’s not all plain sailing and instant success like social media is guilty of portraying these days.

“The Apprentice changed my life first hand teaching me business lessons in every sector and winning the show has helped me to build a multi-million pound organisation. I?m not saying the show can do that for everyone, because there can be only one winner, but the point is that these shows inspire and that is what it’s about.”

Indeed, it seems to be working wonders in attracting people to the concept of creating a business. Chris Phillips, CEO and co-founder of investment company Just Develop It, echoed the sentiment, noting that reality TV can keep you up to date with current trends and emerging ideas.

Phillips added: “I know from starting up my first business at just 16 how tough it can be to get people to listen to you, especially if you don’t yet have a proven track record in business. These shows can normalise the process for budding entrepreneurs considering a business venture, showcasing the steps you need to go through for investment and providing key learnings from the cut-throat feedback of the panel on the likes of Dragons” Den and The Apprentice.”

A combination of the two programmes, alongside X Factor, led to Phillips’ creation of the ENTERPRiZE Award, which endeavours to encourage young talent to present ideas to the team across three different stages. The winner, in true reality TV style, will receive £35,000 in equity-free seed funding.

Be that as it may, the corporate word hasn’t always held reality TV in high regard, least of all for its portrayal of management. Gordon Ramsey’s aggressive attitude and the Dragons picking apart the tightest of business plans are there to fuel the drama that comes hand-in-hand with an entertainment programme.

“Although teamwork is encouraged,’such programmes focus on any tension or drama as those who fail usually turn on each other as they try to shift the blame,” said Bev James, CEO of the Coaching Academy. “This behaviour continues in the boardroom and is no doubt encouraged by the show’s producers who require this infighting for viewing figures, as without the required drama shows like The Apprentice would be of little entertainment value.

“This might make interesting viewing but it does not present business in the best light or provide businesses with a positive role model to follow. The Apprentice would have people believe success is about getting one over on your peers, and selling at all costs. Any team work is usually undermined in the boardroom when contestants are invited to backstab to stay in the game. It’s an unhealthy portrayal of the collaborative and happy environments many businesses have worked hard to create.”

A fictional stereotype has the corporate world on its shoulders, impacting on what young Brits believe are the necessities for doing their job and transforming plan to business. The ease of which some find finance has left a false impression on many, entrepreneurs claim.

Either way, as former business secretary and current Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable once claimed, TV shows are made for entertainment. While they do give an indication of what life in the fast lane could be like, it should be no means impact on the decision of whether or not to become entrepreneur.

“If young people can’t realise they are watching a televised caricature of entrepreneurship,” Frances Dickens, co-founder ofAstus Group told the Guardian,?”then we have a problem. The thing is, entrepreneurs matter. They see opportunities no one else has, and use them to radically improve business performance or serve unsatisfied demand. They provide income and create new jobs for the economy, and are a crucial source of business innovation.”

And if reality TV does foster the embers for entrepreneurship, as long it isn’t viewed as a full run of a working day, then surely it’s doing some good.

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