Lights, camera, action! Business lessons from The Apprentice 2018 TV shopping episode

Lights, camera, action! Business lessons from The Apprentice 2018 TV shopping episode
Ruby Lee
Ruby LeeFounder + Creative DirectorStudio 77

Posted: Thu 6th Dec 2018

Enterprise Nation member and Studio 77 founder Ruby Lee looks back at the business lessons from last week's episode of The Apprentice.

There are three tell-tale signs that Christmas is on its way; shorter days, colder temperatures and The Apprentice.

Now in its 16th season, The Apprentice has become an iconic programme for budding and established entrepreneurs alike. Having followed it on and off since it began in 2005, our design studio relaunch this year has had us focusing closely on how we run our business. So what better excuse to get hooked on this season's Apprentice and extract some business lessons.

Being whisked away to west London, the contestants face their ninth task housed in the former BBC Television Centre.

The contestants are met by Lord Sugar where they are introduced to their task; to select a range of items, then create a promotional video to accompany live telesales. The contestants were then placed under pressure to generate the most profit on a live TV shopping channel, an industry that shifts over £1,000,000,000 worth of sales per year.

As the task is explained, Lord Sugar makes last-minute changes to the teams. This immediately shifts the typically fragile group hierarchies, which leads us neatly into the first big business lesson we picked up on.

Leading from experience isn't always perfect, but it sure helps!

Although everyone in team Collaborative except Tom had experience with telesales, he was elected as the team leader for this task (was anybody else shouting at the TV when this happened or was this just us?).

Now coming at a project from a different perspective can be a great thing. You don't have to be an expert on the market your working in, but pitching a product on live TV is an entirely different skill set to pitching an idea in the boardroom.

Through fairly aimless and un-informed leadership, they misunderstood the platform, the clients and the product.

Rather than focusing on selecting high value (and high-profit) products, Team Collaborative focused their time on choosing products that were suited for Tom and Khadija's selling style, rather than on a product that their audience would see as desirable, meaning they'd misunderstood the platform and the client.

And as a result, not just one, but two members of team Collaborative were sent home.

What have we learnt?

It's so important to play to each team members strengths. You are likely always working with people who have wisdom and experience you don't, regardless of your position.

We can't place enough importance on utilising the talents and knowledge of your entire team and allocating tasks accordingly. A lesson that our beloved Tom learnt the hard way.

Take risks, but by Jove make sure they're calculated ones.

As every business owner knows, sometimes taking that significant risk can pay off. However, this one didn't.

Sian was adamant that if they could sell one or two pairs of high-end earrings, then they would be in the money. This completely disregarded the number one rule of selling. Know your audience.

By opting for a higher price tag, Team Typhoon comforted themselves with the idea of having to sell fewer products.

Collectively they forgot that if you're going to spend just short of £3,000 on earrings, you're going to want a bit of "love" (to quote Daniel) from the jewellers your buying from, as opposed to two people pressure selling to you. On live TV. With a time limit.

So what have we learnt?

Never lose sight of your audience; they are the Judge, jury and executioner of your business.

Making risky decisions is paramount to a business growing and evolving, but should always be taken with your audience in mind. Taking a risk with information and consideration can yield significant results, taking blind risks is just plain stupid.

Your current clients need love too

Team Collaborative made (another) fatal error in their selling strategy by drastically lowering the price of their most profitable item 30 seconds before the auction ending. By making the decision to penalise those who had already bid for the article, both sales of their pendants were abandoned.

Disregard of your current client base is a sure-fire way of not only losing valuable income but also devaluing your brand and credibility.

Team Collaborative proved that even though the two potential buyers had only been clients for the last minutes, if not seconds, their brand loyalty was just as (if not more) important then potential new buyers.

And the lesson?

Looking after your current clients applies to all aspects of business, not just selling. It's important to keep the clients you have happy, rather than devaluing their business to get more elsewhere. While onboarding new clients is essential for business growth, it should not be done at the detriment of your current client base. No one wants to get treated like yesterday's jam.

People buy personality

Despite Team Typhoon failing to create a usable 30-second promo video (did anyone else find themselves breathing on Sarah's behalf?!) they continued to win the task. Why? Because their personalities shone through.

While both teams had visible nerves and awkward pauses, there was much more of a rapport between those presenting for Team Typhoon vs Team Collaborative.

Daniel and Sarah were far more clear and articulate through the whole of their TV broadcast, communicating with less repetition than the opposing team, and remaining interested in the product.


When people buy your product or your service, they're also investing in you and your business. It's so important to let your personality show through your product and your brand. This is your customers chance to interact with you, your business, and the opportunity to build a relationship and sense of trust.

Authenticity and a good rapport can often be enough to sell yourself to your clients. The importance of these two factors to your business and your audience should never be underestimated.


We hope that our take on this week's Apprentice has been somewhat fun and helpful!

Coming from a more creative background instead of a traditional business one, we always find it extremely useful to dissect how other people run their businesses and draw from them what we can.

Through this, we learn what we can (and what we won't) implement in our business going forward. After all, every day's a school day.

If you're interested in learning about what we do and how we can help you develop your brand and how it speaks to your audience, then please have a look at my Enterprise Nation profile I'd be more than happy to grab a cup of coffee and have a chat!

Ruby Lee
Ruby LeeFounder + Creative DirectorStudio 77

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