I’m not one to commentate on TV shows, but I felt I had to chime in on the results of The Apprentice final as Lord Sugar picks his new apprentice winner Mark Wright who cleverly weaved his way through all the other contestants to finally pitch a digital agency.
I’m a great fan of the show, it’s provided many an entertaining evening as I sit there with a look of incredulity as I watch upon novice entrepreneurs making novice decisions and resulting in epic fails.
One must remember that this is a TV show, which means the producers have picked certain contestants not because of their business prowess, but because of their potential as entertaining characters on TV.
Imagine if the producers genuinely picked a group comprised entirely of savvy entrepreneurial minded and experienced individuals. They’d smash every task given to them and bring in results for sales like they’ve never seen before.
No, that’s not the point of the show. In some respects, the show wants to create potential situations of extreme failure to teach the audience how not to do something. That’s a good goal, after all watching a bunch of successful talented entrepreneurs succeed every task every week wouldn’t really teach the viewing audience much about the mistakes one could make.
Saying that though, I personally think Lord Sugar has made a grave error this season in picking his winner and I felt I was in a strong enough position to comment.
Of course, I have been myself running a digital agency since 2001 and it’s been a rough ride having started out with less than nothing and clawing back up into making money and also falling from grace again. I’ve felt the highs and lows of running a small agency and even more pertinent is the fact that my own core skill in the successful years was SEO, the back bone of the business Mark Wright wants to build.
Someone in the audience during his final presentation said it best, he’s pitching a plan that would have been acceptable 6 years ago, but in today’s world is no longer the running strategy on how to succeed in digital marketing.
What struck me as odd was the fact that Bianca had a product which clearly filled a gap and would probably have been lucrative, not to mention probably make more money than all the other previous winners combined.
Mark pitched with what he thought were unique selling points to everyone, without the understanding of how to deliver those kind of results and remain profitable. He even mentioned the use of outsourcers at one point which I knew instantly was the talk of an inexperienced person because anyone in digital marketing can tell you that outsourcing digital marketing simply doesn’t work.
Most of the top agencies in the UK have learnt this lesson the hard way and have probably built their talent in house in order to provide the highly focused and specialist services which marketing are, to their particular chosen sub-segment of industries.
Wright will soon realise these points and perhaps try to manoeuvre to build a larger team to facilitate the promises of account managers and personalised service, but ultimately will run out of money because the biggest cost in a business like this is wages. I know this for a fact as I had previous wanted to scale my own agency, but soon realised that although our projects were increasing in size, even if I had procured a £0.5m project, it would have been the same work just multiplied 10 times over. Furthermore the only way to deliver such a project would be to hire more people.
In that situation, you are left in a vicious circle because after the project concludes or you lose it somehow, you have a massive financial gap to fill otherwise you’ll have to start cutting staff. The high turnaround of staff will simple lead to morale loss in the company and start on that tricky downward slope of never being able to recover.
I think what I personally take from this program this year is that no matter who you are, you can make mistakes and when the next season of The Apprentice is on air in 9-12 months time, we’ll start to hear stories of the past winner in Mark Wright and I predict articles of doom and failure and maybe an admission from Lord Sugar himself of the error in judgement.
We’ll just have to wait and see if I’m right or wrong, but deep down I know I’m right! Been there done that, got the t-shirt.