Posted: Fri 7th Oct 2016
As BBC TV's The Apprentice returns with another bunch of wannabes competing for Lord Sugar's investment, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Women in Leadership, pulls out some business lessons from the first episode.
The Apprentice has hit our TV screens again, providing a business springboard for 18 new businessmen and women. A partnership with Lord Alan Sugar and a Â£250,000 investment is up for grabs.
The usual standard separation between boys and girls was announced, and the first task was revealed; separate the trash from the treasures (a metaphor perhaps) that have been stored in a lock-up garage. The teams need to decipher what is valuable and what is 'toot'.
With the interest in car boot sales, auctions and charity shops increasing, and with high end places in London to create great selling opportunities, the products should be an easy sell, if the products and audience are researched well.
When the teams were choosing their team leader, the women refused to put themselves forward. This was because they didn't have experience in antiques and vintage goods. However, this project was about selling to the correct audiences and setting the correct prices, which everyone should have experience in. And also, business succession is all about leaving your comfort zone.
Overall, the girl's team lost and the first casualty was team leader Michele Niziol.
Both teams were unable to grasp any idea of placing value on the antiques products, or an understanding of whom they were selling to. But it was the women who learned the hardest lessons.
As a team, it is important to work well together and identify each other's strength and weaknesses. This is the key to successful management.
Experts are there for a reason, listen to them and take their advice on board. Ignoring them is only a bad decision, but it is also time and resource wasting. Why have them there in the first place?
And use this information to make the right decisions. The girls decided to go to Camden instead of Portobello Market, which is where their audience is based. And there was a bad combination lack of communication and decisive behaviour and rushed attitudes. This led to multiple small sales at small pricing, costing them the challenge.
But this was all because they had a bad leader, which affects the entire team. Michele lacked business acumen, strength and management skills, and was lost amongst the larger and louder personalities.
The boy's team had a great strategy, and pricing structure, which they were sticking to. But they were scared to lose their comfort zone and lacked confidence when selling their products. Several of the boys expected to be carried along by the others.
You can't be quiet in business, especially in direct selling. In this case, they were selling antiques at an antiques market meaning that they weren't unique. But they needed to convince their customers that they were. And this is the case for all businesses when shouting above their competitors. Unfortunately, there wasn't much shouting.
This task called for strategic thinking, more than any other task in previous series. The business owners and entrepreneurs are strategically thinking about themselves, and not the team. Forgetting that the success of the team is dependent on their own.
The best quote in the board room comes directly from Lord Sugar himself: "Team Nebula sold the items so cheap the buyers could be arrested for looting."
The boys are perfect examples of the results that can be achieved when you are patient, organised and confident enough to up-sell. But they still have a lot to learn about their markets.
In conclusion, this task's success was dependent on knowing how to sell, how to work as a team and knowing your market. Not on the actual product. Three simple traits of building a business, and traits that you would think the candidates would already possess. Afterall, this isn't The Apprentice for Dummies.
We will see. At the moment, there isn't anyone standing out as potential winners yet, but only time will tell (and they don't have a lot of it.)