Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Bite at success can leave bitter sweet taste

Sir Alan Sugar on Sunday finally hired a new apprentice, bringing to a close what is supposed to be a contest between some of the UK’s sharpest young business minds.

They might be wearing suits, but really the show is just a reinvention of the reality show concept that gets a shower of cocky wannabes desperate for their 15 minutes of fame to make fools of themselves for a cash prize — in this case a “six figure salary” job with the soon-to-be Lord Sugar.

The motley crew of entrepreneurs were sent on weekly business-linked tasks cleverly designed to show up their unpleasant traits, lack of common sense and inability to back up their ridiculous claims about themselves.

They talked about being hungry for success, giving 110%, being born leaders, not being afraid of rolling their sleeves up — a treasure trove of management speak clichés. Until the final few weeks Sir Alan himself looked a bit jaded with it all. After five series maybe he thought it would be less tedious to just get a head-hunter in to recruit new blood for his “organisation”.

His Holywood-born sidekick Margaret Mountford — she of the raised eyebrow — has obviously had enough of the bravado, and won’t be back for next year’s show, more’s the pity.

In his wisdom the new Enterprise Tsar eventually hired restaurant owner Yasmina Siadatan over licensing manager Kate Walsh. They were two of the more credible candidates. Most others suffered from delusions of grandeur or were under the misconception that aggression was the key to success.

Ulster’s representative, trainee stockbroker Ben Clarke, was guilty of using bullyboy tactics to try to steamroller his way to the final. His threat to a boardroom rival that he would “bite his bloody teeth out” to win might make for great TV, but in the real world, probably won't get him hired.

Ego, arrogance and ruthlessness all have their place in business. But in Northern Ireland’s relatively small business community trampling on and rubbishing your contemporaries to get to the top is likely to live long in the memory.

One Apprentice hopeful said you don’t have to make friends on the way up if you’re not coming back down. Predictably he got the boot the next week.

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