Five things we learned from The Apprentice

Pointing finger
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

19 December 2016

With ambitious baker Alana Spencer being crowned winner ofThe Apprentice 2016, we look back at some of the biggest business faux-pas of the past 12 weeks and determine the top five lessons we can all take away.

1. Know the value of your product

Pricing, as usual, was a key issue in any sales-based or product task posed to teams Nebula and Titans. Whether selling sweets or pitching high-end cycling gear, inconsistent mark-ups led to confused customers and annoyed experts as items were continuously under or over-sold.

The main reason these things happen, aside from in-team squabbling, is usually a lack of research or understanding of the product and its market.

Always make a point of knowing the prices of your competitors, industry standards and what your own services are worth. Don't make the same mistake as Frances Bishop, who sold an antique chair worth £300 for £17.50 in week one.

2. Make sure it all adds up

The moment that seasoned fans of The Apprentice most look forward to is generally the grueling interview stage of the semi-final. Here, advisors to Lord Sugar gleefully rip apart embellished CVs, personality flaws and, crucially, the candidates' investment-seeking business plans.

Outlandish projected profit-margins and overly-optimistic KPIs are a frequent stumbling block for those who make it to this stage of the competition. 

CAs, possessing a unique breadth of knowledge over business and finance, are unlikely to produce such spectacular discrepancies but should take these embarrassing moments as a reminder to always double and triple-check the numbers.

Declaring yourself "horrific" at figures probably isn't a good idea, either.

3. Sometimes you need to walk away

Perhaps the biggest twist in this series of the show was business consultant Aleksandra King announcing at the beginning of the week four task that she was leaving the process voluntarily.

Stating that, "I'm just not enjoying it," Aleksandra walked away from The Apprentice with her dignity intact and without the stigma of having been fired from the show.

Being in an unsatisfying and perhaps even uncomfortable work environment can have a detrimental effect on morale and productivity in both the long and short term. Problems like poor communication, a lack of respect among colleagues and workplace animosity are detrimental to the goals of an organisation and the health of its employees.

If you are unhappy in a work situation for an extended period of time and attempts to resolve the underlying issues have been unsuccessful, it may be time to get a clean break and consider a career change.

4. Take criticism under advisement

Finalist Courtney Wood was labelled as lacklustre and un-engaging early on in the process. He had problems with presentation and pitching, being called “fumbling” and “boring” as late on as week 10.

However, he still made it to the finish line and one may assume his efforts to improve his manner were a factor. Ahead of one of his interviews in week 11, the camera panned to him muttering to himself: “Show passion, Courtney, you can do this."

How successful his attempts to come across as enthusiastic actually were is open to interpretation but the important thing was that he listened, and he tried. Graciously accepting constructive criticism is a key component in personal and professional development.

Welcoming feedback will help you identify your weaknesses and improve your skills, quality of work, relationships and to better meet the expectations that others have of you.

5. Teamwork will win the day

While the aim of the game is for one person to walk away with the fateful words "You're hired!" ringing in their ears, failure to work well with their competitors has tripped up more than one candidate in the past.

Recruitment agent Trishna Thakrar, for example, reacted poorly to the declining performance of her team in week 10 and turned her fellow candidates against her. This came back to haunt her in the dreaded boardroom when lined up with perhaps more deserving potential "firees", who promptly pointed to her attitude as a key failing.

The final candidates rely on returning teammates to help them win the final task. It pays, therefore, to have built good relationships throughout the process. 

The same can be said for moving up the corporate ladder. Meeting career goals will always be that much harder without the support of the people around you.

Did you watch The Apprentice this year? Tell us what you would have done differently in the comments below.


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