There is a perennial debate over the role TV 'business' shows like The Apprentice and Dragons' Den have in inspiring and educating small businesses and would-be entrepreneurs. Business podcaster Guy Kingston claims that they do not paint a real picture of what it is like to run a business. In this article, we ask some of our experts what they think
"More than half the country's gross domestic product comes from small businesses, but the popular TV programmes do not help them one bit," says Kingston.
However, with viewing figures in the millions, it is clear not everyone agrees. Andy Preston, director of sales performance training company Outstanding Results, says these TV shows do have a role to play. "They are first and foremost entertainment, but they are also quite inspirational and could motivate some people to start their own businesses," he points out.
Preston, who follows both the UK and the US version of The Apprentice, adds, "These programmes are definitely intended to make good TV rather than specifically to help entrepreneurs, and they are edited accordingly. I have to say the sales skills of the people in the show often appear to be somewhat lacking."
When it comes to Dragons' Den, however, Preston says, "In terms of the presentation and negotiation skills needed to pitch to the Dragons, I would say they are the same skills you'd need if you were approaching a business angel or venture capitalist for investment."
However, Dee Blick, director at The Marketing Gym, says, "Let's not kid ourselves, programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragons' Den do not exist to inspire and motivate would-be entrepreneurs. They're great at helping us unwind at the end of the day, but do very little to illustrate how a small business is run. We need programmes that present genuine 'warts and all' business case studies and that provide stimulating and practical advice if we are to really understand how to make it in business."
Of The Apprentice, Kingston says, "It really only prepares people for working in a big corporation. It might help you if you are a middle manager looking for the next rung on the executive ladder, as it highlights successful strategies for pleasing the boss and undermining colleagues. But if people think it gives them an insight into running a business, they are being sadly deluded."
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