The Apprentice: is £100k really worth it?
Linzi White, Operations Manager for uSwitchforbusiness.com, explores the new series of the Apprentice and what the new prize - once a six figure salaried role with Sir Alan, now a £250 000 business investment - says about today's economic climate.
The new series of The Apprentice kicked off last Tuesday, and with it the start of what could be an interesting debate: would you prefer a 100,000k role within Lord Sugar’s empire, or the opportunity to start your own business with a 250,000k cash injection and Lord Sugar as your business mentor, and as the man himself described, “an uncivil partnership”?
In the current economic climate, some people could not think of anything less appealing than risking everything and starting up a new business. Of course, the lucky candidate will be given the stake money on a plate, but will it offer the same security as a permanent role within an established company?
I’m sure many people have had to ask themselves the same question in recent times. In the past year, unemployment in Britain rose to an all time high, and despite a fall in the first quarter of 2011, there are still 2.48 million people out of work, the highest since 1994 in the wake of the last recession. These are figures which would certainly prompt those individuals with any hint of entrepreneurial enthusiasm to roll up their sleeves and go it alone, whilst the sceptics ask if there is really room for more SMEs in an ever increasing arena.
Those less inclined to take a risk, who may have found themselves under the threat of redundancy during the recession, have experienced pay freezes and have felt lucky to have jobs rather than chasing pay rises and success. People with perfectly good degrees have taken a career path detour taking ‘anything out there’ to avoid the dole queue, and retirement of under 65s recently grew to the highest figure since records began.
According to the Telegraph, the number of people working full-time increased by 66,000 on the first quarter of 2011 to reach 18.2m, whilst the number of people working part-time or in self-employment because of a lack of full time employment increased by 44,000 on the same quarter to reach 1.19m, the highest figure since records began in 1992.
There are merits in each approach, but if you ask yourself what you would do given the choice between a full time job in an established business, or be your own boss and take your destiny in your hands, what would you choose?
‘Market stall to market leader', Lord Sugar certainly believes that in the current climate, the only barrier to the success of the self-employed is the individual themselves, opening the seventh series of ‘The Apprentice’ with the belief that starting a business in 2011 is no different than in 1967, with the key ingredients being an idea, product, concept or service, coupled with hard work and determination to succeed. But is it really that simple?
In today’s competitive market, it will take more marketing than a market stall to attract new customers, and will take a serious product or service break through to keep them. More than ever, customers are in tune with the concept of ‘shopping around’ and unless your offering fills more of a cavern than a small ‘gap’ in the market, the idea of self employment, freedom and being in control can quickly find you running to the nearest job centre.
But for those that do manage to tap into the market and fill a void, the future could look bright. Boris Johnson is all for new business ideas and the people behind them, and feels that “new enterprising start-ups are going to be ever more important to our city’s prosperity”.
The Mayor has started new business ‘bootcamps’ with the support of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the European Union, and will offer up to 1,000 entrepreneurs and new business owners an opportunity to learn ‘how to build a successful businesses.’ So, with the Mayor following in the footsteps of Lord Sugar, they can’t both be wrong surely?
The positive thinking is that the rise of new and promising businesses could lead to more opportunities for employment in the long run, which will help boost the number of people able to return to full time employment. However, Brian Johnson, an insolvency practitioner at HW Fisher & Company accountants says, “if employment in the SME sector is going to rise, the banks need to lend to fund expansion growth."
So where will the money come from? We have already seen the redundancy of ‘middle management’ and the pressure on the public sector to ‘mop up’ the private sector overflow, so does staying put in a full time role really offer the security it used to?
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned that unemployment could increase by 100,000 over 2011, to 2.6m, which suggests that whilst we are out of recession, people may not be as safe as they think they are. So is the risk of new business any more than the risk of staying put?
If you are in a business that is defying the gravitas of the recession, has already found its niche, is established, and is continuing to grow onwards and upwards, why would you take a risk? Ride the wave of success, work hard and one day, it will pay off. It takes as much determination to grow with a business nowadays as it does to start a new one, and even if your career path ebbs and flows as you do so, perhaps taking you from company to company, at least you are gaining friends and learning from peers along the way, rather than ‘going it alone’ where the business world can be a lonely place.
Leave a comment below and let us know if you think Lord Sugar’s offering is really the ‘business deal of the decade’.
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