Several of our Financial & Professional Services team are avid Apprentice viewers and in previous years we’ve delighted in writing about the tribulations of the candidates each week (Michael Sophocles and Alex Epstein being two of my all-time favourites).
To my mind, this year’s crop have been less exciting and able than previous vintages, but that didn’t stop me from tuning in for the final last weekend. What I saw though was deeply disappointing.
The Apprentice claims that it aims to find an entrepreneur to “kickstart a company”, backed by the “nation’s most demanding investor” who is “willing to bankroll new business in tough times”.
For the Government, intent on job creation, actively promoting the entrepreneurial spirit and keen on encouraging the “industries of the future” that sounds like manna from heaven – what better shop window for the nation’s entrepreneurial talent than primetime television? Yet once the candidates revealed their ideas and business plans I noticed a distinct trend – for reference their ideas were as follows:
Ricky – a specialist recruitment agency for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries
Tom – a hedge fund focused on the wine industry
Jade – a call centre aimed at securing and selling customer leads on specific product lines
Nick – an online website for ordering recipe lists direct from supermarkets
My disappointment came when I realised two things – firstly, that with the exception of Nick, all the ideas were copycat businesses based on the jobs they already worked in (for example, Ricky is a recruitment consultant). And secondly, that all four of them are essentially service-based companies (again, with the possible exception of Nick).
Nothing wrong with that you say – the UK economy is built on services after all. Yes, that’s very true and services will continue to be the bedrock of the UK’s economy, because, well, we’re very good at it. But considering the Apprentice likely attracted over 7 million viewers on Sunday, surely the public and especially the Government (with its desire to reinvigorate manufacturing and high-tech industries) deserved better than to see a services clean sweep?