The Apprentice 2019 corporate hospitality task analysed

The Apprentice 2019 corporate hospitality task analysed
Sheetal Revis
Sheetal RevisOwnerThe Pakora Explorer

Posted: Fri 22nd Nov 2019

Enterprise Nation member Sheetal Revis from The Pakora Explorer, Scotland's latest street food and spice blend business, shares business lessons from the latest episode of The Apprentice when the candidates were tasked with running a corporate event on a steam train.

I've spent 14+ years working in hospitality for most of my career with Hilton Hotels, specifically in conference and events. So, this week's task is right up my street having organised many different types of events for a variety of clients from charity balls, gala dinners to residential conferences, weddings and family parties.

I feel like I've had every type of client, every type of budget and every type of experienced which leads nicely onto this week's business lessons!

Understanding your clients

Empower (and Ryan Marc as PM) failed miserably to understand their client (STA Travel) and the needs of the team members working for that client who would be attending this event. It was put quite bluntly by Mary-Anne when she called Ryan Marc out by saying he has a "disconnect with the target demographic".

In the Hilton world, one of the first things you learn is to ask open questions to really 'peel the onion' on your client. Quite often the client that you think will have a low spend is often the client that will find the funds to make their event what it needs to be so we (Hilton) need to understand their needs and articulate that understanding in the products & services we offer them.

On the same theme team Unison, lead by Lottie as PM, did get an understanding of the client but failed to deliver on the one key aspect that was called out to them; unlimited drinks. This was particularly important given that client was a drinks manufacturer!

Speaking of wants and needs, here's business lesson number two

Your wants and needs are not the same as the customers…. really, you don't say?! Well clearly, I do need to say this to both teams!

What is luxury to one client is not luxury to the other. What is good service to one client is not good service to the other. How do you find out what the client means when they say they want good service or a luxury experience? You ask this simple question "Tell me, Mr Customer, what does luxury mean to you?"

With my street food business, the answers from my customers were all the same - we want an authentic taste experience and we don't mind waiting for it. I've had people queuing for over 15 minutes for my food (which believe me is incredibly stressful coming from a Hilton world where we don't like to keep people waiting!) but the reaction from them has been the same "this was worth the wait".

When team Empower tried to push their 'quintessential British experience' they clearly failed to understand what the customer meant when he said he wanted a "fun event to celebrate their 40th anniversary".

There are two more key business lessons that came out of this session. The first one is an absolute basic in the world of sales and hopefully shouldn't need to much explanation

Always sell your value before giving the price

Scarlett in team Unison did this wonderfully on the back of Lottie going through the various inclusions and confirming what the client wanted to focus on. Empower however, disregarded the customer's feedback about their event and went straight in with the price.

Some of you might be thinking, yes but if the client has a budget and we are over that budget we can't meet their needs. When was the last time you stuck to your budget when you really wanted something?

In both my Hilton and street food worlds, I have to sell the benefits before the price - be it, the hotel facilities, transportation links etc. In the street food world, I must sell the value of buying the additional sauce to go with my dish and how it really makes a difference - both examples make price a secondary consideration.

The final business lesson is about teamwork

At first I thought the way Lottie handled the situation with Karina was a poor management style. Demoting her midway through the exercise, not even speaking to Scarlet to check if she was happy to take on Sub team leader or even speaking to Karina about her decision.

However, on reflection, would I remove/alter positions in a team if it was business critical? Yes, I probably would. How I go about it however would be somewhat different (I hope) to Lottie, but if the success of the team and/or project is on the line, as a leader, you must make those tough decisions.

What we also saw from Empower, was Thomas stepping up to defend Pamela and putting himself and his place in this process on the line. We often see this in teams where one person feels so strongly on something that they stand by their morals and fight for what's right, at times thinking the rest of the team is behind them when in fact, most people shy away from 'standing out' in such a way. Having been in this situation before, I had to ask myself - would Pamela do the same for Thomas if it were the other way around?

Overall, I think this is a great exercise and one that I hope many sales organisations will play to their staff and ask them to critique what was shown so that they can learn from these lessons. Some of these are so basic, but it's amazing how many sales professionals, leaders etc still fall into these traps!

As for who's going to win this season, I think Pamela is one to watch out for. Let's see next week!

Sheetal Revis
Sheetal RevisOwnerThe Pakora Explorer
I am the Founder / Owner / Director / Chef & Sales Manager (basically everything!!) of The Pakora Explorer, providing authentic Indian street food & other homemade specialities Born out of a love for food & a passion for hospitality.  The Pakora Explorer takes one of Scotland’s favourite snacks and brings it to life in a truly authentic way using our secret family recipe and Mama Pakora’s special blend of spices!  Our spice blends for our Pakora are so popular that people kept asking us about other spice mixes, and so we also produce homemade spice blends (masalas) and homemade spiced chai tea I have 14 years experience in the hospitality industry working for Hilton Hotels, I held roles in reservations, front office, sales, business development and now my latest role as their European Sales Learning Manager.  Managing team from 5 - 40.  I continue to work with Hilton on a part time basis while also developing my own company. I am hoping to be able to support other entrepreneurs on their journey either as a sounding board to just off load those stresses and frustrations or using my commercial knowledge to support growth & development.    

You might also like…

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.