By Clarie West

He may be the doyen of the boardroom, but Lord Alan Sugar leaves small business owners cold, according to research by business software and services provider Sage UK, which saw the former Enterprise Tsar emerge near the bottom of the pile when it comes to business partners SMEs would like to work with.

Just 13% of small business owners chose Lord Sugar as the business partner they would most like to work with from a list of celebrity entrepreneurs.

Celebrity Dragon Peter Jones was by far the most popular choice, taking 35% of the vote in Sage’s monthly Omnibus survey of UK SMEs.

Lord Sugar was also less popular than Dragons’ Den personality Theo Paphitis, and even fellow Apprentice star Karren Brady, who received 15% and 18% of the vote respectively. It wasn’t all bad news for the electronics turned property entrepreneur however, with Donald Trump and Deborah Meaden proving even less popular among the 500 small business owners surveyed by Sage.

While The Apprentice is must-see TV for nearly 8 million viewers, Sage found only 11% of businesses thought the series offers an accurate picture of what modern business is really about, and just 21% thought the show - famous for big egos and boardroom bust-ups - gave a positive portrayal of British business. Far from the ‘win at all costs’ mentality already being displayed by some of the more vocal candidates in the current series, the Sage survey found integrity, commitment and interpersonal skills were the qualities most sought after by small business owners.

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Sage UK, commented: “There are few bigger personalities in British business than Lord Sugar, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying that his style isn’t to everyone’s tastes! Shows like the Apprentice present a deliberately skewed view, but few other programmes have been so successful in getting Britain talking about business, even if it is generally to discuss which of the candidates is the most clueless.

“Thankfully, based on my own experience speaking to small business owners every day, I’m happy to confirm that the talent pool among UK entrepreneurs is a great deal deeper than the Apprentice might lead us to believe.”