The Apprentice 2015, week 6: 3 things the contestants got wrong

Lord Sugar booted three aspiring entrepreneurs off the show in a handyman task which proved "a real disaster" - we look at the big business errors

Get a group of budding entrepreneurs together and task them with creating their own handyman business and what do you get? “A real disaster”, according to Lord Sugar.

In this week’s task, we saw the multi-millionaire tycoon fire three contestants from team Versatile after they failed to show the acumen and confidence needed to run a successful business.

From obvious mistakes to providing poor quality service – sub-team manager Mergin painted over a sign and broke a shelf – to pricing strategy (more accurately a lack of); Versatile’s April charged a mere £10 an hour for three people to clean windows, the episode served up an accurate lesson on how NOT to do business.

To prove that the show can be just as informative as it is entertaining, here are three things that the contestants got wrong:

1. Deadlines

A business mistake that was obvious from the get-go of the task, Versatile project manager Elle spent so long discussing wording and imagery for her team’s handyman flyer that she missed the printing deadline which left them flyer-less.

This error in managing timings and sticking to the deadline meant that it was harder for the sub-team to promote the business and drum up interest, which ultimately saw them lose out on sales.

Start-up business lesson: Timing is everything in business. Working to a deadline means that you need to manage both your own productivity and that of your team. View our guides on time management here.

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2. Pricing strategy

Lord Sugar summed up April’s poor pricing strategy when he asked the rhetorical question: “Where’s the business acumen here April?!” Setting prices between £7 to £10 an hour for window cleaning for three people meant that the team were never going to be able to make the sales needed to win. and the “dirt cheap” pricing showed little strategy or fore-thought.

Start-up business lesson: Budget and pricing planning is essential for any start-up to succeed and choosing the right pricing for your product or service is paramount to winning customers, clients and return business. For advice on pricing strategies and financial planning, download our free e-book here.

3. Management

A good manager and management team is pivotal to the success of any business, and without it cracks can easily start to appear – as evident from Elle’s approach to project management in the task. In team member Richard’s words “to sum up this task, it would be the extinction of the lesser spotted Elle”.

Despite a background in construction and building, Elle stepped back from the task and assigned team member Joseph to lead the project of re-decorating a theatre dressing room. A decision which advisor Karren Brady mocked; “Thank god Joseph is here as it’s Elle’s task and she’s not doing anything”.

Once the decoration job was done, Elle then lent on her team to advise her on what they should do next and what would be the best plan of action, demonstrating little authority or decision-making skills. Elle acknowledged her management failings on exiting the show: “Lord Sugar made the right decision [to fire me], he’d have looked like an idiot if he hadn’t”.

Start-up business lesson: Your business is only ever as good as your people and the way in which you manage those people. You need to show authority and give your staff clear objectives and targets to work to and achieve. For detailed advice on management, click here.


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