This is a blog post about the BBC show The Apprentice – but stick with me if you don’t watch it, I’ll still try to make it make sense to the uninitiated.
The show is basically an extended selection process to find a business partner for Lord Sugar who’s willing to invest £250,000. It’s cleverly cast, produced and edited to paint all the contestants as entertaining grotesques, but despite that I think that this season has lead to a final 5 contestants that are all distinct archetypes of business people:
Luisa is the purest entrepreneur of the group. She sees an opportunity, takes the risk to start the business, gets it on its’ feet and making a profit, then gets another idea and the cycle starts again. She already has 3 businesses, so if she wins she’ll have a 4th on the go. She’s probably the most likely to get the business off the ground if she wins, but what then? She definitely needs partners to run the businesses once they are going concerns, because she’ll be off on her next idea.
Francesca also has her own business, but she’s stuck with the same one for a decade, and she seems to have concentrated on consolidation rather than growth or diversification. She seems to be more a definition of a self-employed business person rather than an entrepreneur.
Jordan thinks he’s an entrepreneur – he was President of the Oxford University Entrepreneurs’ Society – but actually he’s an investor and consultant. His history shows him spotting people with good business ideas, and helping them succeed. This could be seen as parasitical (as one of the interviewers called him), but he doesn’t seem to want to take glory or control – I think he’s more likely to end up as an Angel Investor in the future.
Neil has loads of self belief, drive, energy and an ability to connect with and get the best out of people. But he doesn’t seem to have any credible business ideas. In short he’ll probably make an excellent manager – perhaps he could look after Luisa’s businesses once she’s bored of them?
Leah is a medical Doctor and has no business experience. This makes her a big risk because whilst she’s used to the immediate pressures of A&E how will she react to the creeping cumulative pressures of business? But she’s intelligent, has shown that she can learn and implement what she learnt during the series, and has seemingly spotted an opportunity, researched it thoroughly, and come up with a credible business plan that leverages her expertise. Her trajectory would probably be one of creating and expanding a chain of businesses, rather than serial start-ups or consolidation.
The show might just be a piece of fluff, but this year I think it’s really shown something about business people.