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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 17:21 GMT
Top four compete for 100k salary
John Caudwell
Would you want to work for this man?
John Caudwell, mobile phone magnate of Stoke-on-Trent, is number 31 on the Sunday Times Richlist this year.

He thinks most British bosses are "corporate tossers" so he's launching his own hunt for the young "high flyer" who he can entrust with running a part of his company.


Well, I can't tolerate failure obviously, cos the business is too dynamic, too aggressive

John Caudwell
The winner will receive a salary upwards of 100,000 in total and be expected to stay on the fast track to millionaire status.

It's a kind of "Business Pop Stars". But the young hopefuls don't sing - they just bare their souls and squirm as first Mr Caudwell's Head of Recruitment, "Martin-the-rottweiler Grey", and then the big man himself interrogate them about who they "really" are.

Failure intolerant

Mr Caudwell knows the secrets of success.

Twenty years ago he was selling used cars. Now he's richer than James Dyson or Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Sara Dinham
Will Mr Caudwell warm to Sara's personality?
He didn't get there by being nice, so not surprisingly he's not looking for "nice", and then there's his use of the "F-word".

He says: "Well, I can't tolerate failure obviously, cos the business is too dynamic, too aggressive and failures are devastating to the business and to all the employees - because I have to protect their jobs."

Four contestants have made it through to the final round.

Comparing skills

There's Scott Ritchie - hunky Ulster rugby champion who's already started his own business.

He's had success on and off the sports field and takes everything in his stride.


Don't be fooled by the fluttering lashes, Sarah's the mistress of manipulation

The highest earner of the group is Jason Kaye. At 27 he's a family man with comprehensive corporate experience.

He's worked in management consultancy and in recruitment.

Not surprisingly therefore he speaks fluent "boardroom".

Manipulative and cocky?

The only girl in the group is Sara Dinham - the 25-year-old former City banker who trades on her personality.

Gareth Jones
Will this be Gareth's first failure?

Reminiscent of the early "Posh Spice" she's dealt in bonds and equities at the age of 22 and moved fast up the ladder.

But don't be fooled by the fluttering lashes, Sarah's the mistress of manipulation.

Football team captain Gareth Jones has also made the final four.

At 22 he's the youngest competitor.

He takes advice from no one - not even his father; has "never failed" and not afraid to say so - could this be a first?

Will Mr Caudwell find him confident or cocky?

Self-confessed extremist

They're all achievers in their own right - although not necessarily academically.

But the "Caudwell way" makes allowances for that.

What it doesn't tolerate is a quitter of any kind.


Darren has to juggle the task of increasing sales with keeping heroin addicts at arm's length

Mr Caudwell admits he's an extremist: "You don't get to the top by being middle of the road".

He wants the "Linford Christie's of the commerce world" to boost his bottom line, and he's willing to pay for it.

Candidates will have to show they've got what Caudwell calls the Four Cornerstones of Success: Ambition, the Will to Win, Commercial Intellect and Resilience.

Demanding results

Trouble at the Top also follows the winner of a previous round, former City banker Darren Jones, as he tries to turn around a troubled Glasgow phone shop.

He's got 12 weeks in total, but Mr Caudwell expects results within the first week.

Success will be richly rewarded, but failure isn't an option.


Is there ever a right time to say 'yes I'd stab someone in the back for my own gain' in a job interview?

Darren has to juggle the task of increasing sales with keeping heroin addicts at arm's length from his staff.

Most of the Argyll Street store's clientele don't have a credit rating so selling mobile phones here is hard - never mind beating the regional average sales target.

Back-stabbing

Nevertheless, this is the likely first project for the successful "high flyer", so they really do have to have the will to win.

What will they reveal of themselves along the way?

Is there ever a right time to say "yes I'd stab someone in the back for my own gain" in a job interview?

And what is the right answer to the question: "What's the biggest lie you've ever told in your life?"

These are the sorts of questions they all face - it's no ordinary job interview.

Like Mr Caudwell himself - the rule book has been thrown out of the window and each of them has to guess the right answer for the mercurial man.

Only the very best will make it all the way - who will have what it takes to become a "Business Pop Star"?

Watch BBC2 on Thursday at 2150 GMT and find out.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Business
Mobile phone firm to employ children
24 May 01 | Business
Graduates eye 60K salaries
25 May 01 | Business
Graduates lured by top salaries
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