TV programmes often give the impression that business is all about being hard headed and ruthless. No it's not, it's all about relationships.
I'm baffled by this TV phenomenon that is The Apprentice. The US version with Donald Trump isn't remarkably different from the UK version, either.
The voiceover on the BBC version constantly describes Alan Sugar's Amstrad company as a technology innovator. Which is odd, I think, since a little internet research suggests that – like Trump – he makes most of his money from investing in property, as you might expect from a lord.
There's nothing wrong with real estate, but it's not the most innovative business in the world. And what bothers me about the programme is the image it portrays of the technology industry.
Everyone, from the judges to the contestants, is desperate to show how ruthless and unscrupulous they can be. That strikes me as a very odd take on business.
It's an outsider's impression of commerce. I believe that all media has a warped idea of trade. If you watch a drama on TV, the word "businessman" seems to be shorthand for some kind of ruthless, narrow-eyed sociopath. We're not all like that at all, Lord Sugar!
If you watch The Apprentice you can come away with an idea that the best way to impress the boss is to scratch another's eyes out and fight like desperate rats in a sack. That's not a good long-term plan.
These images on TV can't fill potential customers with much hope. If wannabe "apprentices" are encouraged to act like that towards their own colleagues, imagine what they'll do to customers they've never even met.
I don't know about the property business, but technology is about people. It has to be. In technology (as in most businesses) you have to work really hard maintaining long-term relationships with people. The more friends you have, the better, and you don't achieve that by shafting people at every opportunity.
People buy from people; it's a cliché, because it's true.
Besides, I don't like this idea that someone is a business guru simply because they had a successful company they sold for millions of pounds. Just because you have a villa in Spain, a Porsche and a perma-tan, doesn't make you a business guru.
These are often the hallmarks of the one-hit wonder.
Sometimes a man who appears on TV as a business guru is primarily there because he's photogenic. Looking good under the studio lights appears to be more important to the broadcast media than a track record in business.
If you examine the guru's record (as the researchers ought to have done) you will find that they only had one big success. Possibly they've taken up a media career because they know how difficult it is to repeat that success.
But you know how those one-hit wonders got their one hit? They were in the right place at the right time, and they took their opportunity.
If you happened to be a salesperson in the early days of the internet, you couldn't help but make money. If you were in the industry before other people, you were a few rungs up the ladder, ahead of millions of others.
Not only did you have a product that was in massive demand across the globe, you had the skills and experience to manage people below. These were not geniuses. It was often a case of the bland leading the bland.
Anyone could succeed if they had the people skills. Which is a big "if", because many people at the first hint of success get delusions of grandeur and start lording it over people.
Those who got in early on, say, in mobile phones or storage or laptops, could make a fortune as long as they could hang in there, working hard and not clashing with other people.
It's a bit like surfing. Every now and then, a big wave comes along. Often, it's sheer luck that someone catches a wave that takes them all the way to the beach – although it helps if you can develop an instinct for a swell and keep paddling away towards the right position.
Once you're on that wave, you need to be cognisant of others, choose your channel and avoid clashing with anyone else on the journey.
The next big wave starts with a swell, a company that's growing fast. My advice is to look for one that seasoned wave watchers – such as IT industry analysts – all seem to have recognised.
Do your own research as well, then get on that wave early and keep paddling away. Hard work may pay off if you can keep your balance, and you may then experience the most exhilarating ride ever. With this in mind, there is a big swell at the moment in datacentre technology.
Alan Campbell is regional director for western Europe at Nutanix
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