"Ghastly reputation" of UK business pinned on The Apprentice

14 October 2014 -


“Reality business” shows blamed along with lacklustre government support and disgraces of high-profile managers for “souring” the image of corporate life

Matt Packer

Reality shows like The Apprentice are partly responsible for British business’s “ghastly reputation”, according to research from training company Caffeine on Demand. Conducted in partnership with YouGov, the firm’s survey of more than 2,000 people has revealed that UK citizens are prepared to attach a variety of negative descriptors to the modern business world, with their main preferences panning out like this:

Dog Eat Dog 47%

Full of jargon 29%

Corrupt and dishonest 20%

That lack of confidence in the corporate world has ensured that only a few are happy to describe it in positive ways – for example:

Something I’d like my kids to go into 7%

Caring and responsible 3%

Attracts nice people 3%

Caffeine on Demand business development guru Dave Kean – who has advised several FTSE 100 companies – points the finger at “reality business” shows on TV, lacklustre government backing for corporate life and the ongoing problem of business figures who have fallen from grace. “We have all, particularly younger people, been ravaged by Dragons and soured by Sugar,” he said.

“A generation of bright, decent people has been put off going into business, because they believe you have to be a ruthless fictitious stereotype. Heaped on top of this is the miserable failure of the government to present business as an attractive option. Throw in a raft of media scandals surrounding a few bad-apple business figures, and a perfect storm is created to turn people off going into business.”

Kean added: “The ghastly reputation that the world of business has managed to acquire is a danger to our economy, a danger to our young and a huge pity for us all. We need to bring back the noble art of looking after customers, providing a decent service for them and to remember that we can do this. We are, at heart, a nation of industrious, conscientious, natural business owners and workers.”

The survey showed that, if members of the public got the chance to set up their own businesses, they would focus on the following priorities:

Getting customers 71%

Researching the business sector/market they want to work in 71%

Getting financed 68%

Writing a business plan 66 %

Finding out about government rules and regulations 66%

Finding a good accountant 41%

Legally protecting inventions 30%

“Overall,” Kean stressed, “the survey shows that the Great British Public knows what it takes to make a business work – ie, getting customers. Which begs the question: why is there such a paucity of advice about how to do that? Why is all the focus on getting finance, getting lawyers, and tax systems? The government’s online guide to starting a business kicks off with advice on debt and bankruptcy, for heaven’s sake.”

He concluded: “The findings of this survey support our original hunch that there is a real need for grown-up business advice that is less hysterical, more measured, less patronising and more experience-based than what's been available.”

For more on these issues, check out this forthcoming CMI seminar Setting Up Your Own Business.

Image of Lord Sugar courtesy of Featureflash / Shutterstock.

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