From the top · 26 October 2018

The Apprentice 2018: Everything you missed in Episode 4

Where did Team Typhoon go wrong? | Source: BBC

When Lord Sugar assigns his candidates weekly tasks on The Apprentice, real-life business owners are usually left seething in front of television screens at the show’s failure to capture the true tests of entrepreneurship in 2018.

In episode 4 of The Apprentice 2018, candidates swapped the boardroom for bodybuilding and attempted to sell gym equipment and services like massages and spray tans at an exhibition in Birmingham. The contest was familiar – most sales wins.

At the end of the show, Lord Sugar sent Alex Finn packing. As the fourth candidate to leave, Finn was fired ahead of Sian Gabbidon and project manager Sabrina Stocker.

A third of the way into series 14, Business Advice asked a panel of entrepreneurs and a former winner where the teams are going wrong, and what lessons the show can offer those in the real business world.

David Grimes, CEO Sorted

What the winning team did well?

Team Collaborative did exactly what their name says – they worked collaboratively. Although they didn’t secure the best product to sell, the gym equipment, they managed to pull together as a team and achieve greater sales on the task, clinching the win.

What the losing team did badly?

The losing team lost due to a catalogue of errors. Although they had a stronger leader with Sabrina, who led with positivity and enthusiasm, it was Sabrina’s lack of business acumen that led to mistakes that cost the team in sales and essentially the win. It is clear how leadership is more than moving a team forward, it’s essential that leaders can lead with strong business vision to support the task at hand.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

I’d say Kayode stood out positively last night, his can-do attitude and drive to succeed comes across in his work ethic. Although he didn’t get the position in the product team he felt he’d be better suited to, he took his role in the service side and gave it his all. He didn’t dwell on not getting his own way and instead applied himself fully to the task at hand, securing many sales and playing a pivotal role in his teams win.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

There were several poor performances this week, primarily from Kurran, Rick and Alex. All three struggled to fully understand their products which led to poor performance in their sales tactics, particularly from Rick and Alex. By being put in the massage group, Kurran was slightly let down by his team – he has one broken arm and wouldn’t be able to fully take part in the service they were providing. However, his role was to drive customers and push sales, which requires the gift of the gab, and the ability to adapt to a range of different situations, which he could have approached much more enthusiastically than he did.

What lessons and takeaways can small business owners take from this episode?

I think the key lesson to take away from this episode is the need for dynamic leadership. It’s essential for all budding entrepreneurs and small business owners to fully understand and be passionate about their products or service. This key understanding and expertise allows leaders to drive a team forward to secure the businesses end goals, with a clear and concise plan to execute. Had Sabrina had a better understanding of business and realised her high-ticket item would save the day, I’m confident her team would have stolen the win from the competition.

Peter Watson, co-founder and managing director of Distract

If there’s one thing every salesperson needs to know, it’s their product. Any savvy consumer about to drop thousands of pounds at an expo on a niche product is obviously going to want to know the ins and outs of that product, and that’s exactly why Alex floundered this week.

He can’t be entirely blamed for Team Typhoon’s demise though because they all failed to recognise that the high-end products should’ve been where they focused their energy, so he was definitely a scapegoat for Sabrina’s oversight. They did a good job getting people to try out the equipment, but it says a lot that they couldn’t push exercise products… at a fitness expo.

Team Collaboration were lucky this week. The saunas were a surprising success and that’s probably thanks to Tom. Meanwhile, Rick’s phone calls and strange comments were enough to have anyone running for the hills. Their service choice was definitely the best and proved that simplicity isn’t always a bad thing.

It’s still strange to me that people who have been selected for their business prowess seem to lack exactly that, but I can’t fault the energy of a lot of the candidates. Meanwhile, their apparent business skills are being put to as much use as Kurran’s broken arm.

Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams

This week’s challenge saw the teams go head to head peddling products and services at a bodybuilding expo. From this challenge, I would’ve expected to see strong decision making and awareness of the target market when it came to selecting the products and services.

The teams also needed to demonstrate strong relationship building skills with the product vendors who had the ultimate say over whether either team could represent their business at the expo. And of course, excellent salesmanship was also a key requirement in this week’s episode, with Lord Sugar relying on sales figures to decide the winning team. He couldn’t have made it clearer – every candidate was expected to make sales.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Team Collaborative were gifted with Kayode’s exceptional salesmanship and people skills, but this week’s team leader Sarah Ann failed to put his best skills to use, sticking Kayode with the service sub-team instead of the product team where he would’ve likely excelled.

What lessons and takeaways can small business owners take from this episode?

Under Sarah Ann’s leadership, the team failed to flatter the vendor of high-end gym equipment, focusing too much on driving down the cost price without putting any energy into building a business relationship. Business partnerships are based on strong relationships. Don’t assume others will automatically see the benefit of working with you. In a business relationship its vital to communicate why you want to partner and to communicate why someone should want to partner with you. Under Sabrina’s leadership, Team Typhoon demonstrated this perfectly, with the exception of Alex’s efforts.

What the losing team did badly

Team Typhoon’s downfall came when the product team failed to exploit the perfect opportunity to drum up sales of their low-selling high ticket items. Not only did they abandon the products for this opportunity, they focused on hosting a push-up competition instead of promoting what they had to offer.

Kurran would’ve undoubtedly been in the firing line had Collaborate lost the challenge. While the team accommodated for his injury, making him responsible for merchandise sales, he failed to muster up any energy or enthusiasm. Instead, Team Typhoon’s Alex became this week’s boardroom casualty, failing to impress the product vendor, fumbling through sales without enough knowledge of the products and blindly relying on potential customers promising to return to the stand. In a challenge like this, it’s essential to understand the market, know your product and learn how to close a sale.

Source: BBC

Ricky Martin, CEO Hyper Recruitment Solutions and The Apprentice winner

What the winning team did well

This week I don’t feel the winning team won by leadership or collaborative working but with sheer luck in securing the most sales. That being said, the task was based on selling a product and an experience, and with supreme seller Kayode on the winning team I’m not surprised they managed to clinch the win!

What the losing team did badly

It was a close call this week and I feel team Typhoon lost out with a small margin which all came from poor business decisions from project manager Sabrina who failed to capitalise on the higher ticket item to secure the win for her team. Although Sabrina led with enthusiasm and energy, her failure to see the bigger picture when it came to maximising sales she led her team to fail the task. Going forward it’ll be important Sabrina doesn’t let this loss bring her down or take away from her positivity and energy to future tasks, I always believe having a positive outlook and bringing a can-do attitude to any task is a key element to success.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Although Sabrina made a catalogue of mistakes in the task for her team, her leadership style to positively reinforce the work of her team and to lead with energy and drive proved to be successful in securing the most sought-after product – the gym equipment! I’d also say Kayode excelled for team collaborative, getting stuck into his role and ensuring maximum sales for his team to drive the win for the team. What’s more impressive is how Kayode took on the role even though he felt he’d be better in the product team rather than the experience team, yet he took his position on the chin and got on with the task in hand for the greater good of his team! A real team player and definitely one to watch!

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

This week wasn’t a great week for several candidates. Namely Kurran and Alex. Although Kurran has an arm injury and perhaps his Project manager Sarah could have better placed him to work on the project team, he had the opportunity to drive sales by bringing punters in for the massage team, yet it was clear he wasn’t comfortable in selling and proved to be a weak link in the winning team!

For Alex, his performance proved weak throughout, he showed how he wasn’t easily managed either not happy to accept direction from his PM Sabrina, and responded negatively to a change of role and task, he may have survived the cut if he’d taken a leaf out of Kayode’s book and thrown himself into the task given and applied himself to aid the wider team’s chances of winning.

What lessons and takeaways can small business owners take from this episode?

As ever this episode highlighted the need for strong and diverse leadership. I was surprised team collaborative took the win considering there was very minimal leadership, yet, they succeeded partly down to the hard work and selling ability of the team even without clear direction! The key points to take away for any budding entrepreneurs and small business owners is to lead with a clear and positive outlook, yet to fully understand the products and area of business you’re looking to sell or work within. Without clear experience and understanding of the business area you are in, you set out to fail as you can’t execute the actions needed to achieve success.

Faisal Nasim, founder ExamPapersPlus

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Both the best and worst candidate this week were on the losing team. I was really impressed with Camilla. She may have struggled to get the spray tanning booth working at one point, but actually, she was a great salesperson on the day. You can see her tactical sales approach working – she knows what to say and when.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

At the other end of the scale, Alex was really poor. He deserved to be fired and it came as no surprise to me that he was the candidate getting the axe. He had no experience or knowledge of the fitness industry, granted. But in those cases, you pick up as much as you can and be led by those who do have experience.

Throughout the pitch to the product vendor, his line of questioning was awkward and he did his best to demonstrate his total lack of experience. Add that to the fact he made zero sales on the equipment and he was the right person to go.

What the losing team did badly

Where the losing team went most wrong was on the service sales. On the product side, there was only £20 of sales in it between the two teams. But on services, Collaborative were streets ahead. At one stage, Sabrina opted to leave the tanning stand empty while they all went on stage and at the end of the day, everyone was running around selling low-value merchandise instead of focussing on tanning sales.

That’s ultimately where it was lost.

Danny Doughty, director Roch Valley

As the cortege of Black VW’s rolled towards the Albert Hall, Sarah Ann proclaimed that her team would need to put “a hundred and fifty million per cent into this one”, surely they couldn’t lose with that kind of commitment?

Of course, talk is cheap and one of the most underrated skills in business is listening. It always pays to carefully analyse Lords Sugar’s brief because the clues to success are always in there. In this case, the crucial messages were, firstly, “sell the big-ticket items,” then secondly, “I expect each and every one of you to sell”. For me, these are conflicting messages designed to create conflict and as a result, good TV. Any good PM would get their best salespeople in the right job slots, but everyone here knows that they will have to personally make sales, otherwise they could be in the next Black cab to Euston.

Despite missing out on the desirable high-value gym equipment as a result of fixating on getting discounts rather than showing enthusiasm for the products (have they never seen the show before?) the winning team made the correct call by choosing massage over spray tan. Luck or judgement? They were certainly lucky to have star salesman Kayode on their team, whose charisma shone through once again during this episode.

The losing team did well to get their preferred big ticket item thanks to Sabrina’s enthusiasm but they failed to make the sales on the day. Poor Alex was like a rabbit caught in the headlights and should have been shunted away from sales much earlier. Despite Sabrina’s errors, I think she is one to watch. She shrugged off last week’s appalling bullying to emerge as a confident and assertive PM. I was pleasantly surprised by Tom’s salesmanship skills. He did well to shift a sauna under the circumstances.

Unfortunately, Alex had to go this week. He was clearly out of his depth but give the lad a break – he’s only 21! I’m sure he’ll go on to have a successful career, I have to say that Kurran the unidextrous massage salesman was very lucky to be on the winning team this week.

In real business you don’t have to be better than all your team members at everything, you just have to allocate your resources effectively and show strong leadership but, hey, that doesn’t make always great TV!

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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