From the top · 16 November 2018

Every business mistake made in The Apprentice Episode 7

The Apprentice Episode 7
Was it Kayode’s time to go?

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 7 of The Apprentice 2018, Lord Sugar set up Collaborative and Typhoon with the most hands-on task yet – create an urban gardening business and bring summer to drab courtyards around London.

Early favourite Kayode Damali received his marching orders, earning Lord Sugar’s first “with regret” of series 16.

We asked our panel of entrepreneurs which candidates impressed them the most, and what business lessons can be adapted to the real business world.

Daniel Scott, founder CoinCorner

  1. What the winning team did well

The winning team made much more effort with the commercial area. Sarah listened to what the client wanted and offered some good ideas on how to achieve their vision and although they wanted to keep the profit margins high, they didn’t try to cut corners on things like product quality, meaning that the end result was a professional-looking space.

  1. What the losing team did badly

The losing team made the mistake of skimping on the commercial area in terms of planning and materials. With previous experience in landscape gardening, project manager Tom really should have paid more attention to this job to ensure it returned a healthy profit.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Sarah – for her efforts on the commercial garden, listening to the client and helping create a decent outdoor space.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

Tom. With previous experience in this area of business, Tom really should have excelled at this task, but that was just not the case.

In his role as project manager, he made the big mistake of over-promising to clients, which resulted in a number of poor decisions e.g. cutting corners to save time and money.

Jackie. In this episode, Jackie was particularly rude to Khadija and quick to blame her for everything that went wrong – not very team-like! It’s hard to work as a team if those you are working with are out to work for themselves.

When working as a team, especially in a professional manner, it’s important to key any personal issues to a minimum, as conflict can hinder progress.

  1. What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Don’t make promises if you aren’t 100% sure you can deliver. If you think you are going to struggle to meet a deadline, then talk to the client to see if an alternative can be arranged.

Don’t cut corners! It’s obvious and only creates more work (and probably not for you – the client is likely to use someone else who can do it right first time!).

Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams

This week’s challenge saw the teams getting their hands dirty by jumping on the urban gardening trend. While tree surgeon Tom could put his green fingers to work as project manager, the rest of the contestants were revealed to be somewhat green behind the gills.

In a challenge where neither team emerged with one happy customer, there’s not much to be applauded about the winning team’s performance. As project manager of winning team Collaborative, Daniel declared that his sales skills would win the task but went against his own motto, ‘don’t over promise and under deliver’, agreeing to supply expensive AstroTurf for the corporate client without estimating how much this impact the budget.

Daniel did show promise with his people management skills, attempting to split up bickering teammates Jackie and Khadija. Yet when Jackie resisted, Daniel caved and moved Camilla to the corporate team instead. Fortunately, the girls did set their differences aside for day two of the task, yet their practical abilities proved to be dismal.

As PM of losing team Typhoon, Tom’s first failing was sourcing materials for the corporate client’s rooftop space. The brief was something modern and sophisticated but the team delivered a minimal and messy redesign. The client was also dissatisfied by the fact Tom was not on hand to manage the task, having sold the client on his gardening expertise. He did demonstrate good upselling skills but his biggest failing was failing to ensure tools and materials would arrive at site on time, causing the team to miss their hard deadline.

Kayode’s poor performance really stood out in this week’s challenge. His major failing was bringing in a loss, after pulling a price out of thin air. He also showed resistance to taking directions from his PM. While he started the series as the golden boy, the last few challenges have proved Kayode can talk the talk but he just can’t walk the walk.

While gardening and outdoor work were clearly beyond the remit of almost every contestant, each should have been able to sell their services to prospective customers, understand each customer’s individual requirements and price each job accordingly with margins and deadlines in mind. As entrepreneurs, they should have been able to deliver on each of these requirements despite lacking the practical skills to complete any of the jobs to an acceptable standard.

Faisal Nasim, founder ExamPapersPlus

What a disappointing week this was. There was no single strong candidate across the whole task.

The weakest, by far, was Kurran, who once again gave a masterclass in indecisiveness and showed absolutely zero enthusiasm during the pitch. He did once again try to wriggle his way out of it in the boardroom, but Lord Sugar had had enough and he was given his marching orders – arguably a few weeks later than he should have had them!

The losing team’s downfall came in two areas. First of all, their message was completely inappropriate for an airline. It promoted boozing and partying, a clear aviation safety issue quickly identified by the experts. It was the wrong message. And their TV commercial didn’t make clear what service they were offering. That was 100% down to Kurran.

In a week when nobody really seemed to do particularly well, Jasmine was just about the strongest. She was serious about the task and was, quite rightly, trying her best to keep the team focused on the airline messaging rather than the poor comedy they were trying to get into their ad.

The winning team really only did one thing better and that was the TV ad that Jasmine really helped to tone down a little bit at least.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Simplify your message and master the elevator pitch. Nobody could make out from Collaborative’s ad was it was even about. They really couldn’t explain their business in a sentence or two and that’s where it went wrong.

Bruce Spencer-Knott, managing director Minister Surfacing

Daniel and Tom – two team leaders, one big error. Failing to follow the money.

For some reason, Tom moved away from the most profitable work and allowed cheaper distractions to draw his attention away from the real cash generating work. It’s all too easy to let this happen as the boss, but it’s a recipe for trouble.

On the other team, Daniel sent his sub-team off to negotiate prices with the boat restaurant owner without any guidance. As a result, they went in too high and lost the job.

It wasn’t all bad though. I was impressed with the mature way Daniel tried to manage the feud between Jackie and Khadija. He took a big risk in leaving them alone on the second day but that sort of relationship can’t be allowed to fester. His gamble didn’t pay off, and his team only won by chance, but he needed to act. In business, sometimes the only thing worse than doing the wrong thing is doing nothing.

Tom, meanwhile, seems to have passion without the bull and a strong, fair style of leadership which could serve him well under a mentor like Sir Alan. Overall a good watch this week.

Danny Doughty, Director, Roch Valley

  1. What the winning team did well

Gardening, the classic overpromising and under-delivering task! It’s so easy to underestimate the amount of time-consuming manual labour involved in this line of work and the cost of materials. Team Collaborative actually listened to the client and did their best to meet the brief, as a result, they were able to come up with a product that (more or less) matched the customers’ expectations.

  1. What the losing team did badly

Both teams made numerous mistakes but Typhoon’s howlers were the biggest. They absolutely over-promised and under-delivered, giving their client the impression that they would come up with something “stylish and sophisticated and smart”, and then rushing off to the garden centre to grab a few cheap plants and a tin of paint. That was never going to cut it. They also pitched to the boat restaurant with no grasp of the margins which resulted in trading at a loss –  unforgivable. To compound their errors, they failed to give directions to the equipment van which meant they weren’t finished by opening time, potentially losing money for their customer.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Daniel approached his PM role with confidence, and on the whole seemed able to command the respect of his team. He quickly grasped what his customer was looking for and was the driving force behind delivering the project, he almost sabotaged his own efforts by not thinking through the practicalities of his design, and by suggesting the Astroturf without knowing what the cost would be but somehow go away with it, probably because the other team’s performance was even worse than his team’s.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

As always there were numerous contenders for this accolade, Kayode’s business naivety was cruelly exposed when it became apparent that he just didn’t understand the pricing structure, all the charisma in the world can’t save you if you’re selling at a loss. However, I simply can’t forgive Tom for overpromising on the rooftop project and then disappearing to the sub-team when it came to delivering his promises, leaving poor Sabrina to make the best of a bad job and then face the unhappy client.

  1. What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Simple, don’t promise what you can’t deliver. It’s only natural to want to impress your potential client at a sales pitch, but the skill is in effectively communicating to them what they can realistically expect for their budget. You might get the first order, but you won’t get the second.

Peter Watson, co-founder Distract

Finally, we got an episode packed full of genuine business tips courtesy of Lord Sugar’s hopefuls. As always though, it was more of a lesson in ‘how not to do it’ from the losing team than any stellar performances.

Don’t over promise and then under deliver. Team leader Tom made the classic mistake of trying to please a potential customer by promising the world. If that’s what you can deliver, great, but if, as in his case, the business plan is to squeeze as much profit as possible out of each job then you’re bound for a fall somewhere down the line.

Don’t sell yourself instead of your business. It’s an easy mistake for entrepreneurs to make. You’re the one with the passion, you’re the one who set up the business and you want to be the one to deliver the new work by sharing your passion with each new customer. That’s fine, but if you won’t be the one delivering the work, make sure you spend as much time selling the merits of your team as a whole. Tom failed to do this – instead choosing to switch sub-teams after the corporate customer had really bought into him.

And it sounds obvious, but don’t miss a deadline – if a client sets a reasonable deadline from the start and you agree to it, don’t be surprised if they’re unhappy when you miss it.

The right team lost. I’m not sure if the right candidate was fired.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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