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Lessons to Learn from The Apprentice, Series 16


Who else loves watching The Apprentice?!


It has become a bit of a marmite series and has been slammed in recent years for having run its course, but I love watching it!


I’m not a fan of reality TV in general and, yes, The Apprentice can be a bit car-crash in some episodes, but I enjoy going on that journey with them each week and contemplating how I would have tackled each task.


Whatever your rating of the show, there are lessons to be learnt from the failures and successes of the teams.


Here are my views on the take-home lessons from the latest series…


Episode 1 – Cruise Ship


Faced with the challenge of coming up with a marketing campaign for a new cruise liner, the women’s team came up with an idea for an adults-only friends cruise, while the men’s team focused on health and wellbeing for older people.


Bouji Cruises confused the majority – including members of the women’s team who came up with the brand name – but it took the win because there was synergy between their brand, advert and their social media teaser.


Seaquility was the losing campaign, largely due to the poor logo design! With no brand name included on the logo and a very unappealing brown and green creation that was supposed to represent a yoga pose morphed with a sea wave, it was heavily mocked for looking like “a turd” in Lord Sugar’s words!


Lesson: Don’t force every element of your business into a visual representation for your logo – simple is often best if you want it to be memorable (for the right reasons!), and it should go without saying that your brand name needs to be seen.


There are lessons to learn from the winning team too though – remember that lingo can exclude people, and if that includes your target audience then you’re doomed.


Episode 2 – Toothbrush


The brief here was to come up with a design for an electric toothbrush for kids aged six to eight years, as well as an app that would teach them how to brush their teeth.


Wizardybrush was the men’s invention; Brushing Star was the women’s creation.


While the wizard theme was a good idea, the execution of it was terrible! Yet again, the men created a turd-like product – that goes in a child’s mouth! – and, even worse, they came up with an app character called Wiffy the Wizard. I mean, it’s really hard to understand why they couldn’t see where this was all going wrong… The cherry on the top that sealed their fate to be the losing team for a second week in a row, their app was incredibly boring.


Brushing Star wasn’t without its faults – it missed the mark in terms of its target audience because it was too ‘babyish’ and the app fell down because it simply didn’t do the job of teaching kids anything about brushing their teeth. They won because the opposing team’s was so much worse.


Lesson: Learn from your mistakes! First and foremost, think about your audience and what will appeal to them.


Episode 3 – Non-Alcoholic Drinks


Week three’s task was to create and brand a non-alcoholic drink. A shake-up with teams mixes up the men and women to create Team Infinity and Team Diverse.


Leading Diverse with his ‘industry knowledge’ was Nick, who pushed for a non-alcoholic vodka lime soda called Vodify. On the opposing team, Infinity went with a peach and mixed spice drink called Crafted and Spiced.


Neither of the drinks scored highly in the public taste test, so in the end it came down to the best branding.


Vodify was the clear winner with its simple, modern and sleek brand bagging lots of orders from retailers, while Crafted and Spiced used old-fashioned colours and imagery that focused heavily on ‘spiced’ and looked more like a label for ale, yet their drink was predominantly peach flavoured.


Lesson: Deliver what your label says you will. Like any business, if you sell something to customers that doesn’t match their expectations, they won’t be ordering from you again.


Episode 4 – Fishing


This time candidates enter the seafood market with a double task of catching their own fish to sell to luxury hotels and creating a fish dish to sell at a local farmers market.


Alex forgot to try and sell the crab they’d caught to the hotelier and their arancini with an expensive side-dish of garlic mayo and rocket ended in team Infinity’s boardroom demise. Victorious team Diverse won with sales of their fish tacos and hotel orders.


Lesson: Do your research on pricing and what else is out there in the market, so you don’t price yourself out of the game; keep a close eye on profit margin and trim unnecessary business costs that limit your return on investment; don’t forget why you’re in business – if the answer is to sell fish, then remember to sell fish!


Episode 5 – Gaming


Entering the huge gaming market, candidates attempted to create their own video game to pitch to the experts.


Team Infinity played it safe with a prison escape shoot-out using Kathryn as a Tomb-Raider-inspired main character. Diverse tries to shake-up the market with a climate change message.


The prison game-drama, Time, immediately looked like a better fit for the market with recognisable gameplay and a strong character identity, whereas Artic Saviour had questionable fun factor and some big inaccuracies as it featured penguins that do not live in the Arctic!


The inevitable loss was the climate change game, which was ultimately down to the obvious typo that should have been corrected to Arctic Saviour.


Lesson: Aside from the obvious one of spell-checking, if you’re going to try and break into a new market you need to be really thorough with your research. Sometimes following the crowd pays off because it’s a tried-and-tested idea that is known to sell.


Episode 6 – Wales


I always love the tour guide tasks! You just know there are going to be golden TV moments when candidates have to suddenly become knowledgeable in a location they’ve usually never visited before!


Tasked with setting up a bespoke guided tour of Wales, selling tickets and giving guests a great experience, the focus here was all about profit.


For team Infinity, their focus on making the most money made them seriously overprice their tickets at £90 each, a decision that was borne out of poor negotiation with the activity provider. But, they did deliver a fun experience with tons of enthusiasm, despite the wet weather.


Team Diverse got a much better buying price for their train ride but didn’t fair so well with negotiating on a commission rate for the whisky they tried to sell at the end of the trip. Watching this team was painful as they had to quickly wrap up their outdoor painting session when the heavens opened and had little enthusiasm during their whisky tutorial and train ride narration.


It was quite astonishing that Diverse won the task, as I think every viewer knew they’d have rather been on team Infinity’s tour, but profit always wins.


Lesson: Always make the first offer when negotiating – don’t be led by the supplier and end up with nowhere to go.


Episode 7 – Pods


Tasked with designing an electric driverless vehicle, known as a Pod, and then pitching it to potential corporate clients and leasing companies, Infinity committed to a theme of environmental sustainability while Diverse went for the party market.


BeePure took over a million pounds in sales, despite their pod’s design looking like a Cbeebies tour bus.


Starpod was the idea driven by bar-owner Sophie, who was voted in as team leader over car-loving Akshay, but the theme was too niche and a bit tacky with its hen do styling, so it failed with only £535,200 in sales.


Lesson: Play to the strengths of your team. If someone on your side has a real passion and understanding of the market, listen to their ideas. If Akshay had been in the driving seat, it could have been a very different result.


Episode 8 – Silverstone


A corporate away-day at Silverstone was the theme for this week’s task, with teams battling it out for the best ticket sales and profits.


Diverse looked set to fail again right from the beginning due to poor negotiation on the price of tickets, getting pushed down heavily by their corporate clients. Team leader Stephanie’s tactic seemed to be to get everything mid-price but sell it at a premium, which doesn’t work if the experience customers get is mediocre. Which is exactly what happened here.


Their tour was excruciating to watch as the tour leaders seemed clueless about where they were going and were so ruffled that they didn’t engage with the crowd and left them floundering as to what they were supposed to be doing there. This led to a quicker-than-expected arrival for dinner, which not surprisingly wasn’t ready! They lost after having to give back 20% in refunds.


Infinity had quite the opposite approach as they were spending large sums in fear of any refund demands at the end. There were plenty of flaws in this team, not least their mis-selling of a driving simulator as a VR experience, but ultimately they won the task because they did succeed in giving their guests a great experience, with their tour guides on top form.


Lesson: Be prepared. If you haven’t mastered how to deliver what you’re selling to customers, you’re not ready. If you’re promising a top experience, you can’t wing it.


Episode 9 – TV Selling


The live TV selling task makes my toes curl – it would be my worst nightmare!


It’s definitely not an easy challenge, even for those experienced in sales, as the pressure of live TV and being shouted at through an earpiece cannot be underestimated. But this task isn’t just about your selling skills, it’s also about selecting the right products.


A failure to build a positive relationship with the retailer resulted in team Infinity losing out on the big-ticket ring, leaving them with the air fryer. The blows kept coming as Stephanie struggled to perform infront of the camera with team leader Akshay shouting loudly down her ear – often telling the sellers to make false statements that they then had to retract - but, the ultimate sin was when Stephanie swore on live TV, forgetting her mic was on.


Bagging the expensive ring meant team Infinity only needed to sell a small quantity to be in a good position to win this task, but their other item choices meant victory was not guaranteed as teammates chose an inflatable flamingo, an owl light, and a bedding set! Ultimately though, the ring saved them as their profits beat Infinity’s.


Lesson: Selling is just as much about listening as it is about ‘talking the talk’. If Infinity had engaged better with the retailer and been more personable then they may have got off to a better start, and if they’d communicated better as a team then they wouldn’t have made so many live TV blunders.


Episode 10 – Baby Food


For this task, the remaining candidates had to create a healthy baby food, then design the branding and packaging before pitching it to retailers.


Diverse selected their team leader as Aaron, seemingly because his only matching credential was that he was a father. It was probably not their wisest decision to leave him in the kitchen as his thick beige mush failed miserably on the taste test. Branded (ironically) as Little Taste Adventure, it would have been destined to lose, had it not been for the disastrous branding from the opposing team.


It all started well for Infinity with foodie Harpreet in the kitchen, who created a good dish of salmon and spinach curry, and their brand name of First Time Foodies seemed like a good one.


Where could it possibly go wrong?!


It was a real hand-over-mouth moment when their label design showed a terrible placement of two bowls for the o’s in foodie, leaving the big, bold message of FIRST TIME DIES!


Both teams set a new record for zero sales across the board, meaning there were no winners. Despite the great flavour combinations in Infinity’s baby food dish, the label’s message was too much for retailers – and, no doubt, parents – to get over.


Lesson: Don’t get so close to something that you can’t take a step back to review it from your audience’s eyes.


Episode 11 – Interviews


I never enjoy the interviews stage as much as the hands-on tasks. I particularly don’t like the rude manner in which the interviewers speak to the candidates – why do they always ask them questions and then interrupt them when they’re trying to answer?! They’re always brutal and this series was no exception.


There are lessons to be learnt from each candidate here.


Brittany – her biggest flaw was naivety and inexperience. Her business plan was extremely light and without the details and all-important figures to review, it was a no-brainer that Lord Sugar would choose not to invest. Not to mention there had already been a protein-based vodka drink on the market that had failed – and Brittany knew nothing about this. Lesson: Do the maths. And your homework.


Stephanie – in her own words: “I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just pretending”. In her defence, this was her reaction to being put on the spot to authenticate an item of designer clothing (which she got wrong), but her business plan clearly stated the authentication process would be outsourced, so it was never going to rely on her to get it right. But, what really tripped her up was that the outsourced company she planned to use didn’t authenticate clothes (only shoes and bags).

Lesson: Research the processes and suppliers that your business will rely upon.


Kathryn – it was embarrassing to watch Mike Souter expose her foolishness at not having bought the website domains for her brand, and almost cruel to see her face fall as he went on to declare he had now bought them. She also came under attack for her claims of sustainability when her business plan revealed she was manufacturing her pyjamas in China. She still made it through to the final, but a lesson many business owners should learn is: don’t leave things to chance, and don’t make claims you can’t back-up.


Harpreet – the biggest attack on her, aside from the revelation that her dessert business was actually co-owned by her sister, was the hard-nosed way she had portrayed herself in her business plan and throughout the series. We saw a softer, more human side to Harpreet after the interviews.

Lesson: be yourself.


Episode 12 – The Final


So, after eleven gruelling weeks, Kathryn and Harpreet were the last two standing in the final of The Apprentice 2022. Battling it out for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment was matching family pyjamas and a dessert parlour.


Both finalists did an okay job of presenting their business, but Kathryn’s logo was uninspiring and her expertise was undermined in the Q&A section when the fashion buyer for supermarket label George showed her up by claiming the jungle trend was no longer current.


Harpreet was declared the winner; I suspect because Lord Sugar saw an opportunity to franchise the dessert parlours following advise from the British Franchise Association.


Look out for a branch of Oh So Yum! opening near you soon…


What’s the ultimate lesson to be learned from The Apprentice?


Well, I think it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely to expect success with anything that is churned out in a matter of days!


While it’s easy to shout at the TV screen when we watch the candidates making dreadful mistakes or creating truly awful products, it’s completely unrealistic to expect polished results in the timescales they’re given.


What company do you know that will come up with a brilliant idea then design a brand, an advertising campaign, a social media teaser, and pitch it to the market within one week?!


Still, it makes for excellent viewing in my household, and I particularly like the discussions I have with my family about how we would have tackled each task and the sharing of our own ideas!




Image credits: BBC

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