Nick Hewer's lessons from The Apprentice
Nick Hewer, former advisor to Lord Sugar, shares his memories of The Apprentice with Alec Mackenzie, ahead of his appearance at the ICAS Conference on 27 November.
Few of us would be eagerly rushing home for an engagement with a past employer but that's exactly what Nick Hewer is planning to do over the next few weeks.
Ahead of his appearance at the ICAS Conference in Glasgow on 27 November, the former right-hand man to Sir Alan Sugar is looking forward to the new series of The Apprentice, despite having parted company with the business magnate last year. The long running hit television programme made a reluctant star of the PR consultant, who became famed for his exasperated eye-rolling and acerbic analysis of the candidates' efforts.
"I certainly shall be watching," he says. "Each series produces a bit of magic and there's never been a dud. In fact all the shows get better and better. It's just a genius format and that's why it's travelled all around the world. Everybody can sit at home and scream at the television saying I could do better than that. It truly engages people, it engages whole families, and that's a huge thing."
Nick Hewer also stresses that there's an inherent value behind the frenzy of the tasks, the grandiose team names, and the intrigue of the boardroom.
"From my point of view, and indeed from Lord Sugar's point of view, it's a worthwhile programme because it teaches people, young people primarily, about business. That's why we did it. All the business lessons are there, they just happen to be embedded in a very clever broth of entertainment."
I've got no bad experiences with accountants at all. Sometimes they can be very expensive and you've got to be able to judge the sort of service that you want for your size of company.
No doubt Nick will be imparting a few of these lessons when he delivers his speech, titled Observations of a Restless Leader, to an audience of CAs. It's a profession he thankfully has a higher opinion of than some of The Apprentice's more hapless candidates.
"I've got no bad experiences with accountants at all," he says. "Sometimes they can be very expensive and you've got to be able to judge the sort of service that you want for your size of company."
Nick Hewer's own business was a highly successful PR agency that counted the electronics company Amstrad among its clients. It was this long-standing relationship led him to become Lord Sugar's eyes and ears on The Apprentice in 2004.
He says: "As soon as the BBC realised Lord Sugar was the right guy they then looked around and said 'what about your advisors? Nick would do.' I put up a spirited defence, but in the end he sort of bullied me into it and actually I'm very glad he did."
It's a worthwhile programme because it teaches people, young people primarily, about business.
Having never actively pursued a career in television, Nick is nonetheless still in front of the camera as the current host of Channel 4's Countdown and he doesn't seem to miss his previous life in the world of PR.
"I couldn't do it anymore. We were, I suppose pedestrian in the way we approached things. Nowadays it's all torn jeans and Twitter and the rest. I'm very confused about it all."
It's a typically self-effacing comment from a man with over 227k Twitter followers of his own, and one who recently became the ambassador for Bark.com, a newly launched skills marketplace website for local services. Nick is also very active as the patron of three charities, including Hope and Homes for Children, Pancreatic Cancer Action and Street Child. The latter is helping rehome Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone and he is preparing to make his second visit to the country in support of Street Child's work.
From public relations guru, to television presenter and business spokesman, Nick Hewer's career to date appears to exhibit much of the entrepreneurial spirit championed by The Apprentice. How does he think he would have fared on the show as a young professional?
"I would not have had the self-confidence," he admits. "I know I would have been terrible and run a mile!"