lord alan sugar the apprentice

The Apprentice – Should We Be Taking Tips?

Is Alan Sugar just trying to increase viewing figures with his outrageously arrogant candidates and tough business style, or is there a lesson to be learnt for our own work?

For most people, watching The Apprentice fills us with a certain sense of loathing. Yes, it can be amusing to watch ten grown men argue how to make a beef burger, and the boys verses girls team rivalry does have us rooting for the girls (however irritating), but it is hard to watch the overt arrogance of the candidates. It leaves us ordinary viewers wondering whether this really is the personality that is needed to succeed in business?

By selecting Ricky Martin as his season eight winner, Lord Sugar must, at least in part, be endorsing such claims as, “I’m truly the reflection of perfection” (said during Martin’s interview to appear on the show). Or is it that the show’s producers are simply chasing viewing figures and appealing to their reality TV loving audience?

We’ve selected Lord Sugar’s top five tips for candidates and tested how applicable they are to our own work.

1. Have a clear business plan

Whilst it is entertaining, every series, watching the final five candidates have their business plans ripped apart by Alan Sugar’s most terrifying friends (does he have friends?), failing to plan must surely be useful advice. Indeed, whether you are starting a small business selling ice cream from a van, or expanding a world-renowned corporation, every business needs a plan, and it is hard to imagine a cohesive workforce or successful manager without one. Equally, anything over complicated or over ambitious is a non-starter. It doesn’t have to be pages long, but knowing your target market and business model are essentials.

2. Don’t panic

It’s human to panic a little bit under pressure, and if they weren’t so self-assured, we may even have sympathised with the candidates who were given a few hours create a corporate ‘bonding’ away day for regional managers from Barclays Bank and But what separates the winners from the losers is being able to calm any nerves and keep a clear head in stressful situations. This is advice that is undoubtedly useful –  if not always followed – throughout life in general, and not just at work.

3. Stick to what you know

The advice given by Lord Sugar to this year’s candidates before the show had even started was perhaps surprising, given that he is an entrepreneur who is known worldwide for taking risks. Nonetheless, he claimed that people start a business “because they think it’s fashionable”, when in fact they should be sticking to what they know. Whilst we agree that the best businesses are born out of a personal passion for something, we equally feel that this guidance is dependent on an individual’s personality and situation; after all, if you want to learn a completely new trade and have the financial stability to do so, then why not?

4. Listen to your colleagues

This all-important word must be uttered by Karen, Claude or Lord Sugar himself in every episode, and yet listening is something that few of the candidates appear to bother with. Indeed, it sometimes seems incredible to viewers that any of the candidates can be considered potential business partners by Lord Sugar when they only seem interested in the sound of their own voices. Listening to others is a good piece of advice that we should all adhere to; after all, no one knows everything.

5. Keep focussed on the profit

A particularly pertinent message in this series, and Lord Sugar’s advice to Danny Grant, his first victim of 2017. This is an obvious tip and one most are unlikely to forget as it is the underlying principle for any business. All business-related decisions should be made to this end, but it should not be prioritised at the expense of all else – and an awareness that it may take up to a year for a small start-up business to turn over any profit is useful.

Photo Credit: Taylor Herring

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