Why shows like The Apprentice make small businesses look bad…

The new series of The Apprentice has started on the BBC and we have been introduced to another set of candidates who are supposed to be the creme de La creme of the business world.
We should start this blog post off with a disclaimer: we know that the producers in charge of finding the contestants have used the “very best business brains” in an ironic and extremely loose sense. We also know that the show is purely for entertainment purposes – and not an educational program in the least.

But with that disclaimer out of the way, if you’re interested in running your own business (or perhaps you already do) then you’ve undoubtedly tuned in year after year to see whether the contestants on The Apprentice give a little taster of what a true entrepreneur looks like. After all, the premise of 24 people battling it out for a £250,000 investment in a joint venture with Lord Sugar sounds as though it would bring out people who have their self together, who know their stuff and who could pitch their way out of a paper bag…instead it just brings out the those who are more interested in the business of being famous.
Which is bad if you’re an entrepreneur because it’s giving you a bad rap.
A recent YouGov poll showed that shows like The Apprentice and Dragons Den have actually poisoned young people’s view of business and entrepreneurship. Out of 2,000 people who were surveyed almost half said that they would describe the world of business as “dog eat dog,” 29% of people claimed the corporate world is “full of jargon” while a fifth called it “corrupt and dishonest”.
But whilst these shows should be aimed at inspiring and motivating the country to get started in business, they do little more than just help us unwind at the end of the day. The stereotypical view of the ruthless, aggressive business people that are highlighted in these shows simply isn’t true when it comes to real entrepreneurs.
They ignore that most people start businesses because they want to fit their work life around their home life or just want the freedom that self employment brings – not because they want to take over the world and be the next Lord Sugar or Richard Branson. They also fail to highlight the amount of work it takes to set up and run a successful small business.
So what’s the solution? These “business” shows need to stop being so concerned with sensationalism and creating celebrities and start thinking about educating aspiring entrepreneurs and the wider general public about business practice.
We need programs that show the true ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, an inside look at the gritty realism of the work needed to get a business off the ground and for it to succeed. Something to encourage not just the idea of being a small business owner but to inspire action for the viewer to follow their dream through.
Anyone these days can put a website up, have some fancy business cards designed and start pitching, but without the essential skills such as money management and customer service, it’s unlikely that dream will be anything more than a few megabytes on the internet.

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