The Blog

'Apprentice' Final - Facelift or Better Buns?

You have to wonder what next year'shas in store for us? Badger-culling services? Assassination on-demand? If you really want to ensure that people don't get disfigured by cosmetic treatments, don't sell them, and don't promote them on taxpayer-funded TV.

"Facelift or better buns?" - The unedifying, if perhaps appropriate, choice that computer industry veteran Alan Sugar had to make in last night's Apprentice final.

At least half the viewers were sitting there hoping that the show would throw up another first: don't choose either of them. Maybe 'Cloughie' could come back with a new business, perhaps selling 'Right Man, Wrong Plan' T-shirts (although he'd probably still want you to print them yourself)?

Luisa's idea of 'Baker's Toolkit', a range of cookery goods that could be sold to the trade, at least had the benefit of being a socially useful business, if you discount the link between cakes, obesity and death. What it lacked, though, was clarity as to what it wanted to be. Every time it was explained (and this is in other episodes as much as in the final and after-show), it never seemed to be clear whether it was purely a business to business sale, or whether some or all of the goods would end up being resold to consumers. That may have been the edit, and the Apprentice is famous for the cruelty of its cuts, but as it still seemed unclear in the live show, perhaps even Luisa isn't sure. But then that is where a good business partner would be an asset, helping to clarify and refine the idea.

But there is a reason why she never stood a chance, and to be fair, Lord Sugar was pretty upfront about it. She's already got a load of businesses. Where's the 100% commitment to Team Alan? And, you suspect, she might not live up to the Sugar ideal of the perfect business partner, which looking at the winners from the last two series (alternately uncomfortable and demented in the audience) seems to be to shut up and do what you're told. Tom Pellereau, mad inventor extraordinaire, was allowed to pursue his business plan for all of five minutes before being "persuaded" to go back to the very thing he was fleeing: nail files.

Dr Leah Totton, on the other hand, seems to fit the bill perfectly. 'Niks' might be a completely stupid name for a cosmetic surgery clinic, but you could see the way the wind was going when it was suggested that 'Dr Leah' might be a better choice. Lord Sugar's comment when Leah said she really didn't like it: Change your name then. And yes, 'Dr Leah' will be the name of a medical chop shop near you soon.

You have to wonder what next year's Apprentice has in store for us? Badger-culling services? Assassination on-demand?

The morals and ethics of the new business were dissected ad-nauseam on the show. The pitch is that if someone is going to do this anyway, they might as well get someone who knows what they are doing to do the procedure, which is a good point. A better point might be that if you really want to ensure that people don't get disfigured by cosmetic treatments, don't sell them, and don't promote them on taxpayer-funded TV.

All of that aside, it is great to see innovation being pushed on prime-time TV. It is no secret that the country is suffering from a lack of growth, and that is only cured by new businesses starting up. And nothing gives a new business more of a chance than money and expertise. You need wise counsel to make sure you don't repeat easily avoidable mistakes, and hopefully to show you that you don't need to be a sociopath to succeed in business (although it probably helps).

But does this show what a "partnership" really is? In the case of these two finalists, perhaps a bank loan and bit of mentoring might have been more appropriate. My business partner went to the "other" school in Hackney just a few years after Alan Sugar. He works 100% for our business, and we work well together because our skills complement each other well. He does not attempt to dictate every path we take or decision we make any more than I do. We discuss, we argue, we agree. We might be completely wrong, but at least when we hit the ground in flames, it will be in blissful agreement.

You don't need a partner to succeed in business, and there would be a lot more entrepreneurs in prison for murder if it were mandatory. But to maximise your chances of success your good idea always needs refining, and it probably needs funding. That is where a mentor (or a good partner) can really help. Even Alan Sugar has "trusted advisers".

Don't make the mistake that you are only a success if you only did it your way. Listen, learn, and take a leaf out of Alan Sugar's book: always try to get free TV publicity wherever you can.