The dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” But there’s so much more to it than that. It takes courage and determination to be a successful one and there will be failures along the way. But the best men and women will succeed. Inspiration can come from various sources, including TV shows. But which ones are the best for budding entrepreneurs? Here’s our pick of the bunch.
His way or the highway
1 The Profit (CNBC)
A surprise hit when it launched in the United States, the show has gone from strength to strength and the fifth series aired this year. Marcus Lemonis runs a huge corporation, Camping World, but his ‘hobby’ is turning around struggling businesses in exchange for a stake. There’s a sting in the tale though, as the combative Lemonis expects to get his way every time as he helps them back to profit. That doesn’t always end well and there are LOTS of lessons to be learned here. Perfect entrepreneurial TV.
The perfect pitch
2 Shark Tank (ABC)
This is the American equivalent of Britain’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ which places would-be entrepreneurs in front of five business big hitters to pitch their ideas and seek investment. It’s survive or perish, the entrepreneurial equivalent of a gladiator’s arena. The results can be brutal, but also inspiring when the sharks like what they see and hear and compete against each other for a slice of the business. It’s a simple format which has been franchised all over the world. This one is the best of the lot and essential entrepreneurial viewing.
Back to the shop floor
3 Undercover Boss (Channel 4)
First aired in 2009, this is another show with different versions across the world. That’s hardly surprising, as the format is simple and compelling: Entrepreneurs who have started and grown companies go undercover in their own businesses to get a view from the worker’s perspective, making some interesting discoveries along the way. The results can be funny and heart-warming, but the show’s central theme is an important one: ‘Don’t lose touch with what’s going on in your business.’ The Channel 4 original is still the best in our book.
The millionaires club
4 How I Made My Millions (CNBC)
If this 2011 series fails to motivate you, you’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. Many big companies were once start-ups and this introduces us to people who have been there, seen it and made their first $1million (and more). The lessons come thick and fast, with patience, hard work and a sprinkling of luck being the key messages. Many of those featured have gone on to build multi-million-dollar businesses, so make sure you take notes! And if you’re thinking of making a million, company formation agents are the place to get started.
A smooth operator
5 Mad Men (AMC)
It’s no longer in production sadly, but this multi award-winning series set in a 1960s ad agency is worth catching on Netflix if only for Jon Hamm’s character, Don Draper. He proves that even if your private life is falling off a cliff, it’s possible to keep your professional one on track for your goals. Draper knew his audience and his clients inside out and never let personal issues intrude. Just don’t drink, smoke and philander as much as he did and you’ll be fine.
Dungeons and dragons
6 Game of Thrones (HBO)
What could a drama full of sex, violence and dragons possibly have to do with being an entrepreneur? An awful lot, actually. The constant jostling for power, changing loyalties and fortunes and the unexpected loss of major players are a pretty accurate reflection of modern business life. If you want to get to the top, you’ve got to be smart, act fast and avoid the pitfalls along the way. Just ask Jon Snow.
The lives of others
7 Million Dollar Listing (Bravo)
How could anyone resist watching wealthy, good looking people selling dream homes in the sunshine? That’s the premise behind this series, which started in Los Angeles in 2006 and led to spin-offs in Miami, San Francisco and New York. But it’s not all glitz and glamour. These real estate agents are under intense pressure to deliver the goods in a cut-throat market. The rewards are huge and there’s a lot to be learned from these uber-confident operators. Now in its tenth season.
Living the dream
8 TVF Pitchers
Chances are you won’t have heard of this Indian series. But it’s definitely one for the entrepreneurs. This one-season drama follows four friends who quit their dull jobs to pursue their business dream. Naturally, things don’t go smoothly across the five episodes as they chase the big time. The series was shown on an Internet channel and became an underground hit, drawing five million You Tube subscribers. Surprisingly, plans for a second series have been scrapped.
The master juggler
9 Gilmore Girls (WB)
Another left-field entrant to the list, but anyone trying to juggle a hectic home life with running a business could learn a lot from, Lorelai Gilmore. Ostensibly a family comedy drama, how Lorelai combines being a single mother and start-up business owner will strike a chord. The series ended in 2007 but for all frazzled entrepreneurs out there it’s well worth revisiting.
A risky business
10 Startup (Sony Crackle)
Now in its third series, Martin Freeman, Adrien Brody and Ron Perlman star in a saga about three very unusual tech entrepreneurs, their new digital currency (GenCoin) and the corrupt FBI agent on their trail. How topical is that! Bankers, gang bosses, hackers and federal agents plus the opulent Miami locations spice up this tale of a high stakes business and on-the-edge business initiative that’s heading for big trouble.
Trumping the opposition
11 The Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)
A huge hit when it first aired, the celebrity version took it to another level from series seven. Its original presenter, a Mr D.J. Trump, left for a new job and it after one more series, hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, producers announced: ‘It won’t be back.’
The main lesson for budding entrepreneurs throughout is not how to do things well, but an even more important one: How not to mess them up! Compulsory viewing for all would-be businessmen and women.
Fighting to survive
12 House of Cards (Netflix)
Without giving away the plot, we must emphasise that the first lesson to take from this cult drama is: ‘Don’t murder people to get what you want.’ Entrepreneurs should focus instead on the machinations and manoeuvring of Presidential candidate Frank Underwood as he and his equally ambitious wife Claire scheme their way to the top. Watch too how Frank reacts to the unexpected events which would take down a lesser man. You can do this too, only be nicer than him!
Into the Valley
13 Silicon Valley (HBO)
This is entrepreneurial manna from heaven and it’s funny too. Following five men (yes, no women) and their Silicon Valley start-up, it’s a tale for the digital age as the disparate characters go from small fish to big fry over five series with their aptly-named business, Pied Piper. A sixth series has been commissioned, so start catching up now. You may not be the next Mark Zuckerberg, but who knows?
Coping with chaos
14 30 Rock (NBC)
There are some crazy workplaces out there and if you want to learn how to cope with them, then watch Liz Lemon navigate her way through the egos, tantrums, and eccentricities of a live comedy sketch show. She had to be creative at all times, while dealing with some extreme HR issues and a boss who defies description, although ‘unhinged’ and ‘unsupportive’ will do for starters. Sound like somewhere you’ve worked?
Whole new ball game
15 Ballers (HBO)
On the face of it, a comedy drama about the world of American football. But there’s a rich entrepreneurial seam running through this, as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s character, Spencer Strasmore, tries to launch his new business as a financial adviser to young players after quitting the game. He may be in the same business, but his new career takes him into a whole new world. Spencer also has to contend with a looming health crisis while building his brand.