My application to be on The Apprentice TV Series

Years ago, I applied to be on the British TV Reality series The Apprentice. I was in my early twenties and I fancied myself as an Entrepreneur. The application process was quite easy, compiling personal information, career highlights and a bragging section. So, I applied, the result was I didn’t get through. My TV career didn’t quite happen for me as I had hoped. I wonder how things would have turned out if I had been accepted onto the apprentice? Would Sir Alan have said “Dean you’re fired” in the first week or would I have progressed to the final. We will never know. In some ways the application process challenged me to think about what I wanted to do with my life and also what skills I have. Despite not getting through the application was helpful.

The TV show annoys me a little because a lot of the contenders had an unfair advantage in that their backgrounds made it easier for them to excel in business, they had the right start in their business careers because of their background and their family connections. It’s easy to grow a business, if your family have money to help you. I realise that was a sweeping statement but to be honest, the only genuinely self-starters  I have ever seen on the The Apprentice was Ruth Badger and Michelle Dewberry.  Ruth was a self-made woman who took no-nonsense and got the job done. She is an example of someone who has fought and battled to get where she is, all credit to her. I remember watching her and whilst she didn’t waste time on heirs and graces. She battled with the other contestants who had affluent backgrounds and the right connections. Eventually she came second, to Michelle Dewberry who also came from humble beginnings, working on a checkout at Kwik Save. Michelle has seen developed a consultancy and media business and Ruth runs a sales and marketing consultancy.

Watching The Apprentice has proved to me that people with privileged backgrounds can get a head start in life. but it doesn’t mean that with a little hard work, determination and common sense you cannot make a better future for yourself, whatever your background.

It’s interesting to note, that Sir Alan himself was from humble beginnings who has worked hard and taken risks. He grew up in a Council flat in East London in the 1950’s and started in business selling car aerials out of the back of a van. Today, thousands of people from all backgrounds apply to go on a reality TV programme and fight against others, risking everything, to work for him.

Forget instant results…it’s all about the journey.

With all the personal connectivity we have these days it’s impossible to keep up with the posts, tweets, private messages, friend requests, connection requests, emails, sms, phone calls and letters. We all exist in an age of communication overload.

Because the world has become instant, it is easy to get offended if someone doesn’t reply to your SMS, call you back or email. I am guilty of this myself, getting frustrated when people don’t respond fast enough, but more so, I am just as guilty of not getting back to people. Sometimes there is just too much going on to keep up. Anyone else get that feeling sometimes?

I think history will look back on this time as the Instant Age. Just like our communication, our expectations have become more immediate, requiring instant gratification and immediate results.

Instant messages, instant emails, same-day delivery we even have instant meals. Our society has come to value and demand things faster and in some cases does not appreciate things which take time. I was in a fast-food restaurant recently and I was feeling dissatisfied after waiting 3 minutes, when did things get so instant?

In times gone if someone wanted a new item of furniture or to make a significant purchase, it would be expected that they would save for it. Today, we buy it on credit with convenient monthly payments. In it is the same in achievement, many people who have built successful careers have worked hard for many years, struggled and battled through to achieve success. Reality TV series like X Factor and Britain’s got Talent are all offering instant success further perpetuating the instant results, quick fix culture we seem to be developing.

There are good and bad aspects of the progression and development of a quick fix culture. The downsides are that we diminish the value of a journey. It can be good for us to work and struggle to reach or obtain something can build inner character and help us value achievement.

Saving is a discipline which will prove fruitful in your life, if you can master it. Instant results and instant fixes can short cut us to our destination but at the same time can bypass the necessary things we need to learn to make that destination a home, rather than just a two-week holiday.

Jayson DeMers in his article ” 7 Reasons You Won’t Ever Be Succesful” says….

Tasks that you can complete in a day or two, and that have immediate payoff are AWESOME. Addictive, even.

But every successful entrepreneur knows that in order to build something strong and sustainable, you have to invest time now; and the results often don’t manifest themselves for years.

If you can’t deal with that, you simply aren’t thinking long-term enough. If you can only think about short-term rewards like what your next paycheck will look like because of work you did this week, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals.

I strongly recommend you read his very interesting and insightful article.

2 reasons why the Journey is important.

  • The person you are at the beginning and the person at the arrival point are completely different. Your journey grows you and prepares you for arrival.
  • Easy come, easy go. What we come by easily, we tend not to value as highly.

A famous speaker was once asked “How did you become an overnight success?” the speaker replied graciously “I had been working to become an overnight success for 30 years”.

Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.

Most long-lasting businesses, projects or achievements take time. The journey is the training course for your successes to have longevity. Enjoyable or painful, make the most of your journey.

With great power comes great responsibility

Many years ago, I was working with a client who had grown rapidly through buying other businesses. In the usual M&A fashion it was all financed through debt. Within 2 years the company had grown to a £42m turnover by using £23m of debt. An empire had been built which was impressive by anyone’s standards.

There was impressive news articles, awards and the CEO was often quoted a as leader in the industry. This was just before the banking crisis and it looked like the best days were ahead. Then, one of the larger clients decided to downsize and cut back. Ouch that was painful, but, with a sales force of over 100 people, we were sure, more work would come in. After all, we were one of the biggest companies in our field. We could compete for the big work that smaller companies could not do.

We often look at people who have built massive business empire’s with a degree of envy. People such as Bill Gates and Rupert Murdock and imagine the high-life, private jets, being waited  on hand and foot. It sounds ideal. Unfortunately, that bit is accompanied with the pressure, constantly having to keep the empire functioning and developing.

Just like Captains of ships, Emperor’s go down with their empire. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, the captain was resting. As the ship sunk the Captain had a responsibility to keep the ship afloat for as long as he could. He also went down to the bottom of the Atlantic with it. Emperor’s and Captains are the object of envy but their duties can also be brutal.

The quote “With great power comes great responsibility” is so true.

Coming back to my client, a year into the business empire being built, it took a lot more effort to maintain than it was to build it. With such a big debt to pay back the pressure was on to get the orders, keep the factory busy and get work invoiced quickly. Sometimes we envision we want to build a big business empire we can preside over, but in truth, empire’s need a lot of attention. In the end, the empire was so wieldy and difficult to control, it collapsed, 400 jobs were lost and the emperor disappeared into obscurity.

I too have been guilty of empire building. I wanted freedom, the ability to work when I wanted to, escape the 9-5, but I thought the route was to build a big business – WRONG. I went from a one-man band to a 16 staff operation. I did stop doing the day-to-day work of order processing and being face to face with customers, but inherited a whole new set of tasks, cash-flow management, credit control, work flow management, HR and a million other things.

We can easily deceive ourselves into thinking building big and power mean less responsibility. In reality, the more power, influence the more responsibility you have. So, if you are trying to build a business for an easy life, it’s often easy to keep it smaller, less responsibility, more flexible working times.

4 tools for business owners

Wherever you are in life, if you aspire to grow your business, you have to grow yourself too. A one-man band outlook will not help you when you have staff. In order to grow your business, you have to grow yourself too. There are lots of famous quotes out there, we have all seen them, but the truth is this, if you don’t grow, your capacity as a person won’t grow and so, you limit your own capability.

Human beings are capable of such much, yet we so easily rest on our laurels and don’t like to push our capabilities, stretch ourselves to reach new possibilities. Have you ever read the 4 hour work week by Tim Ferriss? His book is full of radical ideas, but what impresses me about this guy is his eagerness to conquer obstacles such as winning competitions with only a few hours preparation or learning a language in a few days. It shows the potential and ability of the human mind when it is set on a task.

Here are some of the tools I recommend to help you stretch yourself and grow…

1. Google Apps

For years I struggled with managing email, then I discovered Google apps. Mail, Calendar, Tools, Contacts all sync’d with your phone. Not only that, with Google drive you can create all the usual Microsoft office documents and have them stored in your drive for use anywhere anytime.

2. Evernote

I used to come across loads of great articles and inspirational ideas to help me in business. The problem was, how would I remember them all. Well, Evernote is the solution. Using my phone app and desktop tool I can cut and store articles to help me read them and recall them later without any stress.

3. Entrepreneur Magazine

What I really love about this online magazine is that it is incredibly practical. I have learned so much from this site and my Evernote is busting to the seems with useful material to help me learn and re-learn new ideas and remind me of the old ones. Some of my favourite articles are….

The Simple Secret to Making an Instant Connection With Everyone You Meet

Coach Yourself to Success With These 6 Tips

5 Ways for Bootstrapped Startups to Get Through the First Year

4. History

There is nothing new under the sun. Technology may develop but people despite this are pretty much the same. Looking at history and what people have done throughout time can bring you incredible inspiration and insight into how to grow as a person. I find the Bible gives me insight and wisdom. One particular part of the Bible which brings me inspiration is the Book of Proverbs. This book is crammed full of inspirational wisdom on life, business and how to grow as a person. I recommend it as a good read.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another   Proverbs 27:17

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.  Proverbs 22:7