Thursday 19 April 2007

Apprentice cowboy gardeners

I watched last week's episode of the Apprentice earlier this week. I'm talking about the episode where Sugar gives the teams £200 to use to build a "business" in a day and bring back a profit.

The winning team spent the day basically conning residents of Richmond into getting some gardening done ("Hello, I am from a gardening company, I have a team of five gardeners ready to ..."). There followed chaotic scenes of mowing wet grass, hacking away at hedges, mistaking roses for brambles, etc. Appalling, to suggest that good "business" involves offering a service you are quite unqualified to provide and charging for it nonetheless.

And they only made £190 in the whole day, between 6 of them. About £30 each. Less than the minimum wage! (The losing team was even worse, making I think £60. £10 each.) And Sugar in the debrief made out they had been really successful, and that their performance showed that you still could, in this day and age, set up and run a "business" with very little start-up capital. Surely they would have been better off just each going to a temporary employment agency and working as labourers / kitchen hands / warehousemen for the day? Or (as James in our office suggested) buying cold drinks and coolbox and selling them in the park (something you see often in American public parks, I've never seen this in a British park).

Trouble is, these are not "12 of the best entrepreneurial brains in Britain" (or whatever the intro voiceover says). They are just 12 people who the producers think will make good TV.

I am a big fan of Sugar, but I don't think this programme does anything for the image of "business" in the UK.


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