Customer satisfaction was the name of the game as the remaining nine candidates threw two very special children’s birthday parties for episode 8.
Neil Dagger, senior product marketing manager for domain name registry Nominet, brings us expert commentary on the show while this week SME Insider’s editor Fraser Simpson fills in for last year’s runner-up, entrepreneur Bianca Miller. Warning: contains spoilers.
Missed the last one? Catch up with our commentary on episode 7.
Join the conversation on Twitter: @SMEInsider #TheApprentice #BiancaMillerSays
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This week the remaining candidates had to organise a children’s birthday party. Child’s play, or so you’d think.
It occurred to me that the sight of scary Claude at a child’s party might not be prudent and may result in children running in tears to parents and a police SWAT team being deployed. I’m looking forward to him dissecting the candidates’ CVs in the final stages of the competition. Always the highlight. For those you who would enjoy seeing Claude in action see this short clip:
Anyway, let’s drag ourselves reluctantly back to this week’s task. The candidates were introduced to two sets of parents prepared to spend the outrageous amount of £2,000 on their child’s birthday party. Ok, now we all feel really guilty. I suspect the BBC were probably funding this as if I were spending £2,000 on a child party I’d prefer it to be with someone else’s money. Hang on, that’s our money, as TV licence payers. Well, it had better be a spectacular party and I want some cake!
The first task was to research what the pampered offspring wanted at their party and their interests. Fair enough. Always good to do a spot of market research upfront.
One team forgot to ask for contact details for follow up and upselling on goodie bags and extras. The other team were warned to be aware of anything that contained nuts as the child’s mother had a serious nut allergy. They promptly scurried off and selected cake ingredients that stated ‘may contain nuts’.
They did warn the family but were unsure of product name or brand and the family’s day was ruined over concerns that they were to be imminently struck down by potentially hazardous confectionery. Call me old-fashioned, but I think its always good policy to avoid poisoning any clients.
The parties got underway and were as exciting as an Ofsted inspection on a rainy Tuesday. The entertainment was anything but entertaining. The food was late. The parents were growing frosty.
By not researching the customer requirements properly, both teams badly misjudged the need for party bags and one team overspent on undesired tat and poor quality T-shirts. The team that had failed to get the family’s contact details took a gamble sourcing goods and spent money on unapproved and unresearched items for the party bags. Always dangerous. The parents refused to pay up.
The business lesson is to always research in detail what your customer expects. What do they want and expect? What product or service would be suitable, meeting expectations, and what would fall below that level? And don’t spend unapproved budget hoping to claw it back later. Result: financial ruin and an unpleasant boardroom meeting.
David who had blundered over the shoddy T-shirts and woeful entertainment was singled out as the candidate most responsible for the failure. And in no time he was heading home. Hopefully his parents will put on a nice children’s party for him. Tizer and jelly for all.
Quote of the week courtesy of Joseph: “It left a sour taste in the clients eye.” Proof that the whole programme may contains nuts.
Fraser Simpson – editor for SME Insider
This week’s task was to set up and host a children’s party, all in the space of 48 hours.
With tempers still flaring from last week’s confrontation between Brett and Scott, it was essential for Team Connexus to keep a cool head when dealing with some potentially difficult clients.
There were some fundamental mistakes made by both teams this week, with Connexus and Versatile giving aspiring business owners lessons in what not to do when running an events business.
Team Versatile lacked charisma and a proper financial structure, spending way too much on cheap party bag gifts, but Selina’s team Connexus didn’t even take down their client’s phone number!
Being frugal won it in the end for Selina’s team, who earned £300 more than Gary’s group, but Connexus failed to carry out even the simplest of tasks.
Business lessons from this week’s episode:
Listen to your customers – When meeting your client for the first time, it is essential to sit back and let them do talking. You are there to listen and gain an understanding of what your customer wants. Strike up a friendly conversation with your customers to make them feel at ease, which in turn will create a productive collaborative atmosphere.
Do the simple things well – Planning is an essential part of any business, and in order to create a successful firm, you have to be meticulous in every aspect of your operations.
The nut cake blunder from Team Versatile is a prime example of not planning properly. Delivering a nutless cake was a simple task that could have been carried out easily.
Like Karren said during the task, that blunder ‘‘dented the client’s confidence’’ and it went all downhill from there for Gary and Team Versatile.
For any SME owner or entrepreneur, if you carry out the simple tasks effectively, you are on your way to building the foundations of a successful business.
Communicate with your staff – Event planning is a huge business, with the children’s party industry contributing £2 billion to the UK economy every year, so when you are taking on a project with such a large scale, you need to communicate with your staff during each stage of the party planning process.
Both team leaders struggled to converse with their groups this week, leading to a big argument within Team Versatile when they were sent back into the boardroom after failing the task.
Charleine tried to throw her weight around by shouting at the guys in the boardroom, but Lord Sugar soon put a stop to that. Shouting is never the way forward in business – you always need to keep a cool head.
As a business owner, you need to speak clearly and efficiently to your staff, but you should take their concerns into consideration. Team Connexus won the task because Selina listened to Richard and reined in their costs. Moral of the story – communication is key.
Count costs – When taking charge of an event, you have to ensure two things: making the party seem expensive while keeping an eye on the purse strings. Keep a detailed record of your expenditure and try and find the best deals for every product that you purchase.
Ensure customer satisfaction – As Claude said during his observation of Team Connexus: ‘‘There are two customers. One is the birthday girl and the other one, perhaps the more important one, is the mother. She has to feel like she’s getting value for money.’’
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