The Apprentice episode 7 – Can engineers be successful entrepreneurs?

Covered-MagLast night’s Apprentice show was as entertaining as ever, although it had extra appeal to the over 60’s and ‘lads’.

In my previous job I created and edited our staff newsletter, so this weeks project of producing a free magazine was of particular interest.

As is always the case with The Apprentice, the teams were given almost no time at all to come up with the concept, the title and some content, including a photo shoot. The next day they then had to sell their ‘finished’ product to three media buying agencies.

Team Venture sensibly went with the over 60’s market as this is now a fast growth area, thanks simply to demographics (see my blog on The growing grey market in the UK). The others more predictably went with the ‘lads mag’ target audience. Although they didn’t seem to be aware that this has been in decline for at least five years (see our YouTube video of Loaded founder James Brown).

Team Logic initially planned to go for something tasteful and business related, rather than the clichéd girls in their underwear approach. But, somehow they ended up with something quite tawdry. It may have had something to do with their project leader Natasha Scribbins‘ belief that ‘porn sells’, or perhaps the lure of a catchy headline, with ‘How do you blow your load’, being the most memorable.

The teams struggle to come up with decent names for their magazines, the 60+ one was called Hip Replacement (it was supposed to be ironic), reminded me of our struggles when creating our staff newsletter.

After a company wide competition, with some very poor entries, we ended up with the uninspiring name of ‘The Insider’. I also remember all too well the hours we spent toiling over our story headlines. If it hadn’t been for my colleague Christine, who it turned out was something of a natural sub-editor, our headlines would have been almost as cringe worthy as those on The Apprentice.

Once again the winning team were as surprised as the viewers at the outcome. In this case one of the media buyers decided to go for an exclusive with the tasteless ‘lads mag’, giving them a massive winning margin.

glenn-wardAnd on the losers team was Glenn Ward, whose misfortune was to be a software engineer. As Alan Sugar said ‘I have never yet come across an engineer that can turn his hand to business’ so Glenn was fired.

This seems a rather biased approach to the selection process, but as Nick Hewer explained on the follow up show You’re Fired, Sugar has twice given engineers companies to run in his business empire, and they both times they failed.

This seems a rather un-scientific sample to base his decision on. The names of Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Wozniak of Apple Computers, Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google,  show that software  engineers can indeed be successful business leaders.

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