Posted: Wed 28th Nov 2018
We are big fans of The Apprentice in our household. Even my seven year old and four year enjoy the series, doing their own impersonations of Lord Sugar's "Your Fired" to each other.
The latest episode saw the teams travel to Glasgow to try their hand at selling art to the local public and corporate clients.
Here are my business lessons from the show.
Understand your brief
When the sub-team of Collaborative visited their corporate client, they didn't ask the right questions or fully grasp what the client was looking for. They didn't understand the business' "innovation, provenance and experience" values and so were not fully clear on what the client was looking for and able to it back to the rest of their team.
As this information was crucial to determine the right type of art, it was a huge mistake, and resulted in the team purchasing art for the mass market and losing out on a potential £4,000 sale.
Lesson: There is hearing what your client is saying and actually listening. It's important that when gathering requirements, you take the time to fully understand what your client is asking for. Ask the right questions, seek clarification and make sure that you understand the brief, so that you can confidently implement it or in this case, share it with others.
When connecting with a client for the first time, whether it's through your intake form or in the initial consultation, gather all the information you need in order for you to take the next steps. Don't feel shy for asking a lot of questions as it's better to have more information than you need. However if you do find yourself in a situation where you are unsure, don't be embarrassed to go back for further clarification.
Choose the right person for the job and be a team player
Sian studied art and Tom had family members who were artists. Jasmine just liked art but she became the project manager.
Now this isn't always a bad thing, as you can still lead a team and not be the subject matter expert, but in this case Jasmine didn't call upon the expertise of her fellow team mates. She was focused on her own approach to the task and failed to take on the suggestions or recommendations of her team members.
Lesson: The reason we have teams is to call on the strengths of those around you. There will be people who are more knowledgeable than you, have skills you don't or have access to information that you don't. A good leader knows this and will look to involve all members of their team, listen to suggestions and leverage the strengths of the team.
Regularly check in with your team to ensure that things are progressing as you would expect. Give consideration to their suggestions and be willing to do things differently if you need to.
Importance of relationships and building rapport
Sabrina and Sian built a very good rapport with their corporate clients which meant that they were able to understand and clearly articulate what kind of art they were looking for.
When the clients came to review the art, they were expecting to meet Sian and Sabrina to help them complete the transaction and were disappointed they were not there.
The brief was somewhat lost in translation as the piece of art that was presented to them by Jasmine was not the first choice recommendation of the sub-team and they almost lost the sale. It was on the insistence of the client,that Sabrina and Sian were allowed to come out and meet them.
Lesson: It's always a risk when you change the main contact during business negotiations. It can unnerve a client, there is potential for confusion and it could lead to a lost sale. Jasmine should have let Sabrina and Sian meet their client and complete the sale, instead of trying to do it herself.
When you have someone who has good rapport with a client, do not underestimate how powerful this is. People buy from people and don't like to have to repeat themselves to someone else. If you do have to transfer a client to a new person, be sure to have a good handover, so that key information is retained.
Sticking to the plan but also remaining flexible
When working with others, it's really important to be clear on your approach in meetings and how you are going to implement things, especially when it comes to speaking to potential stakeholders. Knowing who is going to speak when and what you will say, helps with professionalism and establishes the flow of the conversation.
Even though they had agreed a plan, Tom and Jasmine found themselves talking over each other and it came across as unprofessional. Don't do this in meetings! Have an idea of who will say what and when, but be flexible if you do need to jump in with additional information.
In another example, Jasmine had the plan of herself and Tom remaining on the gallery floor to make all the art sales, but when it became clear that the other team members were needed to close the sale to the corporate client, she had to adapt, although it wasn't without a fight and was ultimately at the request of the client.
Lesson: Have a plan. It's a good starting point but constantly be assessing the environment and adapt when you need to. Don't be afraid to speak up when things don't make sense or are not going well.
For all Sabrina's faults, she makes good suggestions and observations. She was the one who highlighted that it wasn't the best decision to leave the gallery and sell the merchandise to the general public but meet the corporate client. If she had left, then they would have definitely lost the sale as they would not have been around to close the sale.
Chichi Eruchalu is a business strategist and coach who is passionate about bringing your business to life, through creative strategy and purpose-driven action. Connect with her on the Enterprise Nation platform.