This week’s episode of The Apprentice was the toughest yet, as the teams got their hands dirty running their own handyman businesses. Last year’s runner-up, entrepreneur Bianca Miller, and Neil Dagger, senior product marketing manager for domain name registry Nominet, provide their expert commentary on the show. Warning: contains spoilers.
Missed the last one? Catch up with our commentary on episode 5.
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If I could summarise this episode in one word, that word would be “explosive”. Another word would be “carnage”.
That aside, this week made for very good television. The teams were set the task of starting a handyman business. Many of you reading this probably have experience of starting a business and know how hard that can be. I can say from experience that the rules and regulations of the television world make matters much harder but in this particular scenario it seemed the teams made their lives additionally difficult by failing to use any common sense or paying any attention to detail.
The task: create a handyman business and maximise profit by doing odd jobs for commercial and residential clients. The team with the most profit wins.
The whole show was thoroughly entertaining and certainly worth watching, often from between your fingers. Lord Sugar had his finger out ready to do some damage and three people ended up being fired. See, I told you it was explosive.
Business lessons from this week’s episode:
Understand the project in its entirety before providing a quote – it is good to go over and above for a client to ensure you do a better than average job but not at risk of missing the deadline or not completing the job the client actually asked for.
Consider your value and the value of the team – sometimes in business you need to work backwards, by asking yourself what you want to earn, or what your estimated annual revenue goal is, before figuring out how much you need to charge per hour, per day, or per member of staff to achieve that. In this week’s episode April sold three members of staff for £10 per hour, hardly worthwhile and definitely not legal. In summary, as my dad would say, “don’t be a busy fool”.
Do what you do well – in business there is always a balance between being a “jack of all trades, master of none” and taking the Richard Branson philosophy of saying you can do something then finding out how afterwards. Luckily for Mergim, one client didn’t ask to be compensated for the rather large hole he created in her wall or for painting over a sign. Longevity in business is built on quality, trust and credibility all of which are easily diminished if the person tells you they can do something that they can’t.
“Under promise, over deliver” – this was definitely highlighted by Scott’s propensity to promise the world to the client, offering to landscape and refine the customer’s whole garden in a short period of time and potentially without the expertise to do so. Over promising leads to businesses having to reassess the offering and change the level of expectation – which of course affects the business commercially. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver – sure you might be able to get that product to them the next day but if you say 2-4 working days and its comes the next day it’s a pleasant surprise.
Ask for the business – this task is proof that knocking doors, making calls and asking for new business works. It is quite easy in this digital world to forget all about the traditional ways of gaining customers.
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The Apprentice was right back on form this week with an episode brimming with useful business lessons and handy tips for startups. The two rival teams were cast in the roles of handymen equipped with hi- vis jackets and white vans. The task was simple – quote for some basic odd jobs, agree a price, and get it done maximising profit. Team with most profit wins.
Well, it all sounds simple enough but it never really works out that way – luckily for the viewer. If it did we’d soon get bored and switch over to Strictly Cooking in the Attic or some such nonsense. Five-time loser Elle headed up one of the teams. Big ‘specification’ Scott took over the other team. Elle missed her deadline for the production of her sales leaflet leaving them without any marketing. Lesson one: respect your business deadlines and never lose sight of them.
One of Elle’s team, Mergim, created his own handwritten flier and whilst agreeing with a local tradesman to put it up in his window didn’t miss the opportunity to ask for some business, offering to clean his windows for a small fee. Lesson two: turn your suppliers into customers, always ask for the order and never miss a revenue opportunity.
While Brett was busy over-delivering on his big project to clean the stands at a football stadium he taught us our next lesson. As he had his team doing extra time-consuming tasks that weren’t required or expected, they ran out of time and weren’t able to finish. Lesson three: be sure you have agreed the work, exactly what is required for a successful project. Focus on the important things the customer values, and don’t be distracted by additional tasks the customer wasn’t expecting. This mistake cost him money when the client withheld part payment.
For Elle self-doubt was creeping in and her commitment was crumbling. We could see she was imagining herself in the taxi to oblivion. In the final analysis Scott scored the highest profit and won the task.
Back in the boardroom it was carnage. Elle was dismissed even before the final three were identified such was Lord Sugar’s dismay at her performance. The final three were then selected from the remaining quaking losers and Alan sacked two more. Only David limped back to the house to fight again another day.
So to summarise, don’t miss out on your marketing to ensure a regular flow of new business, always ask for the order, turn your suppliers into happy customers and be clear on what success looks like. Ask what the customer expects and focus on what is important to him.
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