Lessons we can learn from The Apprentice

The perfect moment in any football fan’s season is five minutes before kick-off on the day of the first game. The moment where anticipation, excitement and optimism come together.

With just hours before The Apprentice returns to our screens, this is not going to be one of those moments. Viewers may be excited and watch in anticipation, but the optimism is purely with the candidates. They have enough to go around.

So, the week after Inventor Tom, winner of last year’s series, launched his Stylfile Nail care range (or should that be re-launched) it is perhaps fitting, and absolutely no coincidence at all (does sarcasm work in writing?), that Lord Sugar’s show is back on our screens.

The Apprentice is back, retaining the same prize as last year, namely the opportunity to go into business with Lord Sugar and a £250,000 investment. It was, in my opinion, a huge improvement on the previous prize and brought a new dimension to the show. There was always a strange dynamic to the previous shows as the candidates completed task after task, many of which demonstrated their entrepreneurial flair, to ultimately win desk jobs.

It therefore came as no surprise when several winning candidates, complete with new-found confidence in skills they didn’t know they had, found the restriction of a role in one of Lord Sugar’s companies just too sour and left.

The winners must now demonstrate to Lord Sugar that they are not only capable of creating and running a business but, perhaps more importantly, they are capable of a working relationship with him. Tom fitted the bill perfectly last year, mirroring many of Lord Sugar’s business partners past and present.

Tom’s Apprentice experience is a mini case study in the rocky road that striking out on your own can be. Despite his best efforts he was on the losing side eight times, but he never gave up. He learnt from his mistakes, worked hard and had a keen sense of what changes needed to be made within tasks (even if he was ultimately ignored). He’s a man who tried to launch his business previously with limited success, in many peoples’ eyes failing. It doesn’t sound like a great track record does it?

It could say more about our British way of viewing entrepreneurs than Tom himself that he was labelled a failure. In American business terms that kind of track record is almost seen as a rite of passage, part of the process of becoming successful.

In preparing this article I reviewed my Apprentice blog from last year’s series and it makes for interesting reading. Who could forget Jedi Jim and his mind control techniques? Remember Leon and his finger hook? Who will be this year’s Melody or Natasha? And most importantly, will we get another Dogtanian like Vincent?

It’s a slightly older group of 16 candidates this year, though all would still qualify for a Young ‘Un’s award (although only Jenna Whittingham represents Lancashire). They make, as always, an eclectic bunch, ranging from a professional wrestler and a shark diver to a county Camogie player and former ice skater.

To save time I’ll just summarise by saying that they have all had their TV makeup applied with the ‘over-confidence in their own abilities’ brush.

It should make for fun viewing.

Some stats from last year:

  • Winner Tom Pellereau lost eight of the eleven tasks
  • Helen Louise Milligan was on the winning team in nine of the eleven tasks
  • The losing project manager was fired on six of eleven occasions

Simon Brooke is a director at Happy Creative. For a review of the latest Apprentice episode, to vote on your choice of winner and to join in the conversation during each episode, follow Simon on Twitter @simonbrooke