Belfast Telegraph

Nice guys don't finish last in today's market

By David Elliiot

Oh Jim. For so long you entertained us on The Apprentice with your persuasive sales technique, your take-no-prisoners boardroom showdowns and your ever-so cheesy clichés.

At one stage it looked as if Lord Sugar would be a fool not to hire the man from Cookstown but then we all remembered that this year he's hiring nobody except Nick Hewer and Karren Brady, his able henchman and woman.

Rather, he's going into business with lucky Tom Pelleareau who'll reap the benefits of a £250,000 investment and the most beady of beady eyes keeping a close watch on his burgeoning company.

That the 'nice' apprentice won is a coup for right-minded business people everywhere, particularly in this day and age when the economies of some of the world's greatest powerhouses are languishing in the gutter.

The bravado and gusto of traders in the dealing rooms of investment banks from London to Lisbon, Singapore to Sao Paulo were part of the reason the world's economy found itself in such a mess in 2007.

Emboldened by massive bonuses which rewarded risk (ones which show no sign of being pared back if the story on page 38 is anything to go by) they came up with new and confusing ways to trade the most outlandish 'products' which nobody, probably not even themselves, could understand.

In effect, they weren't that dissimilar to Tom in that they were inventors.

But these weren't professor types who designed a product you could hold, they were traders who designed a piece of paper which was worthless when the market collapsed. Now the economies of our nearest neighbours in the Republic, those in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and even the US are finding that even four years later, the after effects of the biggest economic meltdown in living memory is still being felt.

At least Tom's nail file will still find a market; maybe even his 'seating device' will too.

Conservatism is the new opulence, nice the new aggression. Certainly the latter is true in the current circumstances.

Ensuring good relations with customers and suppliers is essential in this age of late payments, trimmed margins and volatile market conditions.

You certainly get to know your friends in business when the chips are down, a situation that's not dissimilar to Lord Sugar's boardroom where the blame game moves up to the premier league.

Needless blaming and self- aggrandisement are all very well but when it comes to making it to the top - like in the first series of The Apprentice when 'nice Tim Campbell' was hired - it seems that respect, a little humility and a sprinkling of charm are top of the wish list.

We should have known Jim would struggle after one of his best quotes of the show: "I don't know what rapport is, if i did, i'd bottle it".