This week saw the airing of this year's The Apprentice. I don't know why I tune in. I must be some kind of masochist. What I find really painful is the picture this paints of business for our young people, and of British business for those who either work in other sectors or countries. I hate to think they might actually believe this represents our private sector workforce. The programme seems to extol values and behaviours that, if used in the real world, would actually be damaging to your career and your business...


Apprentice world: Accepting, of course, that this is a competition with one winner - the Board room show down creates a situation where candidates are encouraged to tear strips off one another. Real world: If you were applying for a job in the real world and spent your interview belittling your colleagues, current employer or competitors rather than demonstrating your own strengths you'd be shown the door.

The ends justify the means...

Apprentice world: Because success is measured at one moment in time and only in numbers, the candidates are willing to be underhand, rude, pushy and borderline dishonest to get the deal. Real world: These sorts of hard-sell practices would quickly catch up with you - business is a community in which people talk and your reputation really matters.

Shout the loudest...

Apprentice world: Put your hand up first without thinking it through, drown out your colleagues so your idea gets attention... it's like watching a bunch of toddlers. Real world: Whilst being responsive and quick-witted is definitely a virtue; listening has to come first. Brutish, bullying, behaviour won't build a sustainable business because customers have choices and will go to someone who respects them.


Apprentice world: All this me-me-me and hard-sell looks like a poor parody of the 80s business world. These candidates all seem to aspire to be Gordon Gekko, with "greed is good" ringing in their ears. Real world: The best, and most sustainable businesses, actually have a generous nature. This is exemplified in the content marketing approach where you give a lot of your material and best ideas away for free, because it builds a platform of trust from which to grow your business. In my book, Watertight Marketing, the phrase I use to sum up the values of businesses that achieve long-term sales results is Commercial Karma. The key difference, of course, between The Apprentice and the real world is that out here we have to live with the legacy we leave. It's the difference between the short and long term. An economy built on a short term view with Apprentice-like values is exactly what went pop in 2008. What we need from British business, and from the role models we're given in the media, is a commitment to long-term success. And, for this we all need to treat people decently. It might not make good TV, but it would make a much stronger Britain. And, I don't doubt Karen, Nick and Lord Sugar know this. © Bryony Thomas.

Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas

Author and Founder, Watertight Marketing

Bryony is an inspirational marketing speaker, and author of Watertight Marketing (Panoma Press, £14.99). Billed by Start Your Business Magazine as “a must for small businesses.” It was described by one MD as “the entrepreneur’s essential marketing manual”. By another, as the “best business book I’ve ever read.”

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