Thursday, June 12, 2008

A real apprentice for Arkwright

The clue is in the name. The search is for an Apprentice, not a fully rounded and opinionated business executive, polished and equipped with the latest in corporate BS, ready to run Glaxo or BP. Or even for that matter, neither is it a search for an entrepreneur busting to rush out and set up a mobile sushi delivery service with a fleet of girls on roller blades.

A business victim of Sir Alan Sugar once described his management style as akin to Ronnie Barker's misanthropic Arkwright, of "Open all hours" fame. Sugar is indeed the epitome of all-seeing shop keeper with the sole concern of selling something for more than it costs, preferably before its sell-by date. And if you reckon that know him well enough after four series, that you suspect that he might be capable of turning a blind eye to one of his Apprentices "adjusting" a sell-by date if it "became necessary", then shame on you for thinking such a thing!

It is therefore probably entirely appropriate that these "robust" standards are offered to the masses who aspire to start up and operate a business in a country where such an ambition has become progressively less achievable thanks to mountains of legislation and legions of enforcers that do nothing whatever to help anyone help themselves. The harsh fact is that unless you can win the lottery, you can no longer start a business and continue to own it without cutting a few corners. And if you don't understand that, then you are indeed better off applying for one of the zillions of unproductive jobs created over the past 10 years on the public payroll as one of Gordon Brown's loyal Bin storm troopers, a CSO - or if you are really daring, maybe a HIPS evaluator.

TMP is not the least surprised that "business leaders" regularly stand up to express despair at The Apprentice for sending out the wrong messages. Yet these are the business leaders that have formed unholy alliances with New labour where mostly irrelevant legislative impositions have flooded the process of managing a business in such a way that only the big companies can afford the fleet of unproductive staff to administer the various (mostly EU inspired) rules and regulations that apply to every aspect of employment, trading and accounting.

Unlike Sir A., these business leaders are generally so far removed from the "sharp" end of their businesses that they wouldn't realise if it stabbed them in the arse. Those who object at the exposure of the prevailing corporate culture of "blame storming" and general duplicity in the workplace that most candidates bring to Sir A's boardroom would do well to consider what the various "deals" between big business and government have done to the fabric and culture of enterprise in the UK over the past 10 years. It's been just as corrosive and unhelpful as anything Harold Wilson cooked up with his beer and sandwich sessions with the Unions.

Yet in Lee McQueen we have a diamond geezer in the same mould as the original winner, Tim Campbell. McQueen is widely appreciated by those who have worked with him, and he exemplifies the "determined doer" that never made the boardroom showdown once in the series. In fact, listen to Tim and Lee and you might wonder at the remarkable similarity in their voices. (Can we please see Lee and Tim in the same room together?)

There was one grating moment in the series that TMP objected to - Sir Alan's choice of interviewers leaves a lot to be desired. If they (and their glittering array of gas guzzlers) are examples of people who have "made it" then there is no hope for nice guys. The quite extraordinarily and unnecessarily unpleasant Paul Kemsley asked McQueen to do his pterodactyl impression, and then slated him for doing as he asked. What a complete c*nt.

The best bloke won.

No comments: