From the top ยท 2 November 2018

The Apprentice 2018: Every business lesson learned from episode 5 did the candidates go wrong in episode 5? | 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 a test of product and branding, episode 5 of The Apprentice 2018 saw the candidates’ creativity skills exposed. Typhoon and Collaborative were tasked with conceiving and selling a new footwear brand. Typhoon came out on top.

This week?s boardroom showdown took a dramatic turn when losing project manager Jackie?s selection of teammates was overruled by Lord Sugar. Having initially requested Kayode and Kurran joined her, the business mogul demanded all candidates return.

Rick ultimately received his marching orders, but Lord Sugar delivered final notices for some of the other candidates.

Following this week’s episode, 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 Typhoon surprisingly took the win this week. I say surprisingly, because the team, led by Sian, made a catalogue of errors throughout the task. They designed a product which deviated from their initial theme and then didn?t stick to the agreed pricing strategy, leaving the sub-team struggling to convert sales. That being said, they somehow managed to clinch the win on sales, rather than teamwork, initiative and strategy.

What the losing team did badly

This week, the losing team struggled with their marketing strategy. Instead of taking the results of the consumer research on board, they went ahead with their favoured approach. This was clearly the wrong decision, especially as the other team adapted their strategy based on consumer feedback.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Although project manager of the losing team, I feel Jackie came across well and was confident in her decisions and vision for the team. With a hands-on leadership style, Jackie led by example and secured the majority of sales for her team.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

This week was definitely a poor week once again for Rick and Kurran. Rick proved to be difficult to manage, showing unwillingness to take direction, becoming increasingly argumentative and defensive. Kurran seemed to be negative towards the whole task from the off. Regarding the urban/hip-hop theme, he aired his views against the idea, but didn’t seem able to accept the team’s direction and move forward with succeeding on the task. Both Rick and Kurran seemed to contribute less than the rest on the task and it resulted in both being under scrutiny from Lord Sugar, which ultimately saw Rick getting fired.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

This week definitely showed the importance of understanding your audience and adapting your products and communications to their wants and needs. It’s therefore important that entrepreneurs and small business leaders alike listen carefully to feedback, even when it directly contradicts their vision. Learning from others is ultimately what will help a business or brand grow and evolve.

This week?s episode of The Apprentice brought some laugh-worthy business fails and followed in the footsteps of previous episodes with neither team really doing anything that well.

Daniel Scott, founder CoinCorner

What the winning team did well

Although consumer research suggested their pink trainer was childish and for a much younger audience, Team Typhoon were able to talk the talk and actually sell a lot of their product to many of the shoe retailers. Almost every member of the team made a sale and this definitely worked in their favour, helping them to bring in just over ?20,000 more than Team Collaborative.

It?s shame that Sian and Daniel set such a strict pricing strategy (despite not keeping to it themselves!) as their sub-team could have made even more sales and helped raise the team?s total further.

What the losing team did badly

Unlike their name, Team Collaborative (in particular PM, Jackie) struggled to bring everyone on board and get the whole team excited for her high heel design. Partly caused by her bossy approach and quick decision-making, there were a number of team members (namely Rick and Kurran) who picked at problems throughout the task and made everything more difficult than it needed to be.

Jackie (with a little help from Jasmine) made all of the sales too – had the rest of the team tried harder when speaking and negotiating with the shoe retailers, Team Collaborative would have been in a very different position!

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Tom did well this week after giving substantial input during the shoe marketing process and not deviating away from the strict pricing plan set by Sian. He was quite a calm influence in the group and came across someone who works well in a team (sadly this probably means he isn?t leader material!).

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

As bad as Rick was (what a sulk!), Kurran wins this hands down! He started out the episode by saying ?it doesn?t matter what it is this week, I?m stepping up 100%? (to take on the role of PM), only to bow out at the last minute, saying that he knew nothing about women?s shoes.

He was critical of the heel design from the start but offered no alternative solution or useful design input. Essentially, his involvement was purely negative and he sought to distance himself from any blame ? not a good trait for a potential business partner.

If Kurran doesn?t win next week?s task, the writing must be on the wall for him!

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Whatever your product, it?s very important that the whole team is united and supportive of it. Try to keep squabbles to a minimum and emotions in check. It definitely helps to remain calm and positive throughout a project!

Peter Watson, co-founder and managing director of Distract

Terrible products and terrible marketing from both teams should?ve seen everyone back in the boardroom this week. It was a miracle anyone made any sales thanks to consistently bad business decisions and polar opposite leadership styles from the PMs.

Sian caved far too easily to Camilla and Daniel?s wishes and ultimately ended up with a trainer that was best left in the box. Somehow Team Typhoon took the lead on sales despite this, but without much help from Khadija?s inability to pick up on social cues and continued to word vomit her sales pitch to a less than enthusiastic retailer. Fair play to Sabrina for stepping in before she force fed the bright pink monstrosity to the poor guy.

Meanwhile, losing team Collaborative were equally shambolic. It?s good (and necessary) for any leader to take charge and lead the team but in this case, it was to failure rather than victory. Jackie?s assertiveness proved successful with the retailers and was the only one really closing deals. However, it was at the expense of being collaborative. She left it far too late to get everyone?s opinion on her shoe design and shouted down some sensible suggestions from Kurran ? who clearly regretted not taking on the PM role.

I?m looking forward to a Rick-free series now that he?s been given the boot. There?s nothing worse in business than seeing a professional spit their dummy out ? especially in front of potential business. Tom?s consistency stood out to me this week and I really wasn?t keen on Daniel?s approach to selling at a lower price without keeping everyone in the loop. Sian should?ve taken charge instead of letting Daniel do his own thing but at the end of the day, they came out on top.

Source: BBC

Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams

This week?s episode lacked the drama of previous episodes but we didn?t see the theatrics that have become the signature of the show replaced with any real improvement to either team?s ability to collaborate or communicate effectively. Tasked with designing, launching and selling a designer shoe, the teams needed to demonstrate a knowledge of their chosen target market, creative flair for the design and marketing of the product and of course, the ability to sell, sell, sell.

As a swimwear designer Sian was the obvious choice for team Typhoon?s project manager, but she failed to take charge of the design team, instead allowing Tom and Camilla to more or less take over. Sian needed to be less democratic in the design process. She wasn?t wrong to state that she needed the team to believe in the product to be able to sell it, but the product design failed to impress the wider team when it was revealed to them. Had the swimwear designer taken charge of the design, she could have won the buy-in of the wider team.

Another irksome moment came when the marketing sub team chose to name the brand ?nu:switch? which is more than a little similar to an existing brand that already dominates the sneaker market; New Balance.

It was Sian?s adaptability that eventually saved team Typhoon. Following the consumer research, Sian made the right decision in re-targeting towards a younger market, but they didn’t aim low enough. Their chosen market ? teenagers ? still felt a little too mature for the product. She also adapted in the sales process, realising the team needed to ditch the rigid pricing structure. However, this was not communicated to other members of the team who lost out on sales without being able to be flexible on the price.

Leading team Collaborative, Jackie chose to target a market that she showed little understanding of. In designing the urban, hip-hop inspired heels, the team signed off the final design without fully agreeing whether they had created a product any of them would want to buy themselves.

While the team had an assumed knowledge of urban culture, none of the team really seemed to be in tune with their target market. Never assume you understand a market you?ve only studied from a distance. This became evident during the consumer research when younger people said the shoes looked like something older ladies would prefer, and older ladies did indeed react well to them. I could certainly imagine Theresa May rocking a pair of Fleekies.

During the selling process Rick seemed intent on stamping out a good sales opportunity, near enough sabotaging a difficult negotiation with bridal shoe stockist. Just like last week, Rick failed to make a single sale so it wasn?t a surprise to see him go. A good sales person should never be afraid to negotiate.

Throughout this week?s task Kurran just tried too hard to show his strengths but just ended up frustrating the team?s efforts to excel. Had he been fully engaged since the beginning of the series, he wouldn’t have to be trying so hard to be noticed.

Source: BBC

Faisal Nasim, founder ExamPapersPlus

We really started to see some fighting spirit with some candidates last night. It?s getting to that stage in the series. But not with Kurran, who was again quick to put himself out of the firing line and sat back doing very little throughout the entirety of the task.

The winning team did two things better than the losing team last night. Firstly, they created a product with more mass appeal despite the project manager?s initial reservations. And secondly, they all rallied together as a team to make it work despite any personal reservations about the product itself. And that eventually is what saw them win it.

Team Collaborative, despite excellent project management, were divided in some parts which cost them the task. Never has a team name been so ironic. Despite the defeat, the standout candidate was Jackie. She was decisive and strong in the whole task and she sold amazingly well too.

The weakest link last night was Kurran. He has been consistently poor throughout the process.?It was a lesson in teamwork last night though and any entrepreneur can relate to that. If everyone isn?t pulling in the same direction, things will get messy.

Danny Doughty, director Roch Valley

What the winning team did well

This week was interesting in that Jackie, the PM who showed the most decisiveness and appeared to have a clearer vision, lost out to the one who allowed herself to be manipulated by her team members. Although Sian of team Typhoon constantly deferred to Daniel and Camilla, it had the effect of creating a product which had a broader appeal than that of the opposing team.

Although some members of the winning team had reservations about the finished article they resolved to make the most of it and overall, they approached the task with a positive attitude. Typhoon also managed to react to the market research and adjust their offer which was crucial. The other important factor, as always, was sales. Team Typhoon all managed to sell and that was the difference in the end.

What the losing team did badly

Jackie?s team produced a shoe which had a narrow appeal and in the end that restricted their sales. They failed to act on their market research, and Jackie?s dictatorial leadership style didn?t help to foster team spirit.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Jackie?s salesmanship was outstanding, but unfortunately, this was tempered by her unwillingness to allow input from other team members. I found Sabrina to a positive presence again despite having an uncomfortable moment with Khadija in front of potential clients.

Daniel and Camilla were both assertive in putting across their views which influenced Sian to adapt her ideas.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

Rick and Kurran were both poor this week, Kurran had his chance to be PM and chickened out but then failed to make a positive contribution, he only saved his own skin by pointing out that Rick was even worse than him! Rick seemed at odds with his team for most of the day and was quite a negative influence.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Always think carefully about your target market and do your research thoroughly before launching a product, find your niche and aim for it. Today?s marketplace is so crowded that you must be very clear where you offer fits in, if you don?t you will risk wasting valuable time, energy, and of course money.

Bruce Spencer-Knott, managing director Minister Surfacing

Once again, this week?s fired candidate proved that a bad attitude is a business person?s downfall. Rick showed himself up in front of what could?ve become a genuine business enquiry. In business – especially if you?re in a particular market where circles run small – you never want to burn bridges in favour of being efficient.

In a real-life scenario, those retailers would probably never contact Rick again after that encounter and ultimately that costs future sales and business leads. His interaction at the prop house also left a bad taste in the mouth, again showing that a bit of patience and human decency goes a long way. Maybe there is something to learn in all of this after all!

Over in the winning team, Sian?s willingness to listen to her teammates and take on board their suggestions demonstrated potential for great leadership. It also highlighted that sometimes, you have to go with your own decisions and give yourself the credit that you deserve – you?re in charge because people trust your decisions and you?re experienced in your field. There?s definitely a balance to be struck in leadership and if you merged Sian?s approach with Jackie?s, I think it would?ve been achieved.

At the end of the day, Lord Sugar is looking for someone to make him money and I?m not sure I?m seeing that potential in any of them at the moment. There are still plenty of weeks to go though!

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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.