The Apprentice: A rocky road ahead?

Those in the UK will no doubt be aware that last Sunday saw the finale of The Apprentice, where the nerdy inventor Tom Pellereau triumphed over the hyper-organised and arguably more capable Helen Milligan (here).

In contrast to previous series’, where the winners were “rewarded” with a job at one of Lord Sugar’s subsidiaries, this time round the prize was the opportunity to go into business with the peer as a 50/50 partner.

Out of curiosity, let’s see what lies in store for this particular partnership:

Starting with the 4G profiles, although there should be a caveat that we cannot say for sure what someone’s profile is without first taking the 4G questionnaire, we can make an educated guess in this case.

Tom’s profile would seem to be 1Ti, this means he is naturally curious and innovative, likely to be at his best when given freedom and few organisational constraints. He is also analytical and enjoys acquiring specialist knowledge of subjects. Furthermore, Tom is likely to seek out situations which are undefined or where the variables and outcomes are unknown.

This contrasts with Lord Sugar’s likely 4G profile of 3Se. This means that he is primarily focused on the here and now. He is also likely to be much more drawn to dealing with practical and tangible issues as well as searching out for quick and tangible returns.

From first glance we can see that both individuals are quite distinct from the other and for many this would indicate that both individuals bring contrasting yet complementary skills to the table. So what happens when 1Ti and 3Se come together to start a new company?

We know by using 4G that this gives us a Relationship of Discovery. The key aspect about this particular relationship are the high expectations of productivity at the beginning of the relationship, yet as time goes on it becomes harder for both partners to reconcile their own interests and motivations.

It is these high initial expectations that often lead to problems as both partners exert more and more energy in terms of trying to understand and effectively collaborate with their colleague. Inevitably this can lead to a certain level of dissatisfaction as the relationship fails to yield the productivity that was initially envisaged.

In terms of specifics, within this relationship problems are likely to come if Tom feels under pressure to compromise or not fully develop his ideas because of time or other pressures. Likewise he may find that Lord Sugar is making decisions in a hasty or rash manner.

From Lord Sugar’s perspective, his frustration is likely to come from situations where he believes Tom fails to seize the commercial initiative or takes too long to develop or perfect his ideas. A further source of frustration may also arise if Lord Sugar believes that Tom has not done all that is imaginably possible to maximise the returns from a certain product or service.

In terms of contextualising this information, clearly there is a seniority dynamic at play here which means that the pressure will be on Tom to adapt more to Lord Sugar’s natural working style than the other way around. Likewise a key issue is the amount of contact between individuals on a daily basis. Close personal contact is likely to result in frustration and disagreement, whereas a more “arms length” relationship may in the long-term prove more productive.

In summary, here is what we would suggest to Tom and Lord Sugar; firstly don’t expect too much from the personal relationship, this means that the composition of the team is likely to be particularly important in terms of making this venture work. Finally, both partners need to be aware of the natural dynamics of this relationship and understand that it will be very difficult for either individual to fully adapt to their partner’s natural working style.

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