Time to erase the 'bully boss' caricature

As we welcome another season of The Apprentice onto our TV screens, I’ll be watching with interest to see how many of the contenders genuine entrepreneurs there are.

By Paul Dawson.

I’m not knocking the show - far from it - it’s entertaining and certainly gives some of the personalities some money-can’t buy PR as they launch their recruitment business, beauty brand or consultancy. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance of prime time TV exposure for their soon-to-launch company?

The only element that I don’t like is the way they are encouraged to be so cutthroat, turning against each other in the boardroom. It’s pure TV of course, but it sends out the wrong message to young viewers, as real entrepreneurs look out for each other rather resorting to schoolground behaviour.

62% of respondents in a YouGov survey agreed that the portrayal of the entrepreneurial candidates in the programme could be off-putting for aspiring entrepreneurs considering starting their own business.

Starting a business, any business, from scratch is a daunting prospect so we don’t want to be turning people off the idea, as we need entrepreneurs. Having done it myself and succeeded, I’m more than happy to pass on any advice to others and share experiences. I know most others are too.

Entrepreneurship is on the up: research from the national enterprise campaign shows 526,446 businesses were registered with Companies House in the most recent 12 months, beating the 484,224 businesses recorded in 2012, and 440,600 in 2011.

An unstable financial climate forced creativity and entrepreneurship while rumours of recovery is starting to give more people confidence to take the plunge and there are many organisations providing support.

So the image of the old-fashioned bully businessperson is a little outdated. Really successful entrepreneurs grow their contacts and colleagues through empathy and a shared enthusiasm for the end goal. Millennials are seeking life satisfaction, not pure monetary gain, and a more human approach to business is starting to come to the fore as flexi-time and working from home or in collaborative workspaces increases. This is a good thing, as a happy workforce is a more productive workforce. I’m all for healthy competition and when needed, tough decisions. But the cartoon bad boss should be put out to pasture. Entrepreneurs support each other and help drive new businesses in their successes. That is the way to drive creativity, business growth and ultimately, economic recovery.