Five reasons why The Apprentice does not remotely represent business – and five places where it does

12 May 2011 By Northern Lights

Five reasons why The Apprentice does not remotely represent business – and five places where it does image

sugarI am writing this blog as the titles roll at the end of the second  BBC The Apprentice.  And probably like most business people across the country, despairing of this as any kind of representation of business.

Where does it go so badly wrong?

1. Who would go into business with people you don’t know or trust?

Business is about leadership and delegation.  You need to know what the skills of your team are and to get the best person doing each task.

The idea of a new business with people who have never met, don’t know or like each other ….

2. New products and services need proper market research

You only have to watch that other TV stalwart, Dragon’s Den, to know that no matter how brilliant you think your product is, it could not matter less unless people want to buy.

Research doesn’t have to take months, but it sure has to take more than an hour’s brainstorm meeting.

And they never seem to have access to the internet, calling their friends and contacts – how ridiculous is that?

3. The customer never gets a look in

Rarely is there much discussion about who the customer is and checking whether the product will work.  Once in a series, there is a focus group – but the customer is never at the heart of any of these programmes.

4. The competitive element stifles creativity and success

Innovation requires failure.  And competition does not bring out the best in people.  An element of competition is healthy but not make or break.

5. You cannot achieve a new product to market cycle in a week

Zara set the pace by reducing its design to high street time from six months down to a phenomenal 10 to 15 days.  And this is one of the slickest retailers going.

We are all for speed, creativity and innovation and challenging the status quo.  But suggesting you can create, test, manufacture, market and sell a product in 48 hours as the norm is just wrong.


Despite these shocking negatives, there are elements that are worth taking out of The Apprentice

1.       Businesses can be set up quickly and succeed

2.       You don’t need a lot of money – or to borrow – to start up

3.       The focus on results and making money – completely right

4.       All elements of a business matter – the people, the product, the selling, the profit

5.       Recessions can provide some of the greatest opportunities of all – you can set up and do things quicker and better than the slumbering large corporates.

Now that would make interesting TV – get the apprentices to target a household name and find a product to compete in their market.

What have we missed here – or do you think it’s a realistic representation of business?

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Written by Northern Lights


  • Brilliant post Victoria. Market research is essential for a successful business/product. However ‘The Apprentice’ does not give that impression to its viewers. Throughout the previous seasons the candidates have relied entire on deceit and lucky (or as Lord Sugar stated; the world woke up)
    Hopefully Lord Sugar will promote better practices in the future episodes – because the show will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the future entrepreneurs and executives.

  • One of the key things that the Apprentice misses is that you need a mix of skills’ sets to run a business or to bring a new product to market The best businesses are teams that play to everyone’s strengths.

  • The new series moved to the search for a business partner – an entrepreneur – rather than an apprentice employee for Lord Sugar. This is very difficult to achieve in one or two day challenges. Moreover, entrepreneurial individuals (who are invariably strong minded) are likely to clash and face the wrath of Lord Sugar. Last, but not least, entrepreneurs are passionate about their ideas – and we have not seen many of them in the programme.

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