The Apprentice, Week 11: The best business quotes, gaffes and advice

It was the dreaded interview stage this week – but had the candidates bulletproofed their business plans?

Week 11 of The Apprentice and it was time for the stage that the candidates dread and the audience loves: the business plan interviews.

Nebula and Titan were no more as the five remaining candidates; Alana, Courtney, Grainne, Frances and Jessica were given one last chance to go over their business plans before they were whisked off to the Leadenhall Building to face Lord Sugar’s advisers.

This series’ formidable interviewers were: Claude Littner; who’s been following the candidates for the last 10 weeks, managing director of MediaCom UK; Claudine Collins, publishing magnate Mike Soutar, and Homerun Services founder; Linda Plant.

These experienced business leaders didn’t miss any discrepancy as they tore the candidates business plans to pieces.

You may also like: Download your free business plan template

In the end it was Grainne; who’s business plan lacked focus, Jessica; who’s idea didn’t show promising profitability, and Frances; who’s business plan simply wasn’t scalable, that got the chop – leaving Courtney and Alana to face each other in the final.

But what business lessons can you take away from this weeks dramatic episode? Read on for tips on how to make sure your business plan is bulletproof…

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Business plan tip #1 – Know your figures!

Linda Plant


Numbers are at the core of any business plan, be it revenue targets, overheads or number of units, it all matters – so it’s amazing how often the candidates provide incorrect figures.

In her business plan, Alana said her cake business was turning over £75,000 yet was projecting £475,000 for her new business. “Can you tell me any of your competitors that are making anything like this kind of profit?”, asked Linda, which she wasn’t able to do.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s sketchy plans for the manufacturing side of her business – reproducing clothes worn by television stars, didn’t fare well under Linda’s scrutiny and Claude discovered that Frances had “unfortunately left off” her milestones and sales forecast pages  altogether.

Business tip: Inaccurate financials – especially overvaluations – in your business plan give the impression that you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re not good with numbers, hire somebody who is. Read our guides on financial planning to get your figures in order. 

Business plan tip #2 – Don’t make false claims


If any of the candidates have seen The Apprentice before, you’d assume that they’d know that even the littlest white lie will get found out.

Frances – whose business plan was for a company selling discounted out-of-season children’s clothes – claimed that she owned two shops yet Sugar’s advisor Soutar had discovered a further two. Frances explained that these additional shops weren’t important; with one being “experimental” and one that “wasn’t profitable and cancelled itself out”.

To which Soutar responded: “This business plan is trying to pretend that the mistakes that you’ve made, they don’t matter, well they do matter. It just undermines trust”.

Business tip: If someone’s going to invest in your business, they’ll want to know you’re a credible and reliable entrepreneur. Instead of trying to hide your mistakes – which are likely to discredit your business idea – be honest and explain how you plan learn from your mistakes. Failure doesn’t have to be a negative, as this article demonstrates.

Business plan tip #3 – Ensure your market research comes from valid sources


A number of the candidates had based their business plans around some fairly questionable market research, which was instantly picked apart. Alana noted in her business plan that there were 7,000 independent delicatessens in the UK by extrapolating from the number in her own town. “Do you think that’s a robust and scientific way to do it?”, Soutar asked.

Meanwhile, Grainne – with a business idea of setting up a make-up training and recruitment agency in Northern Ireland – quoted that 90% of beauty hall managers were unhappy with their temporary staff but this percentage figure was incorrect. Her survey sample involved six beauty hall managers, where five noted being unhappy with staff, so 83.3%.

Business tip: Robust market research is essential if you want to prove to prospective partners or investors that there is an opportunity for your business. Find out how to conduct market research effectively here.

Business plan tip #4 – Have a clear, defined strategy of where you want your business to be


“My really big concern is your business plan lacks focus” Soutar told Grainne after she had described her company as an agency for beauty counter staff, an agency for make up counter artists, and a physical and online store.

He went on to list the various roles the entrepreneur had bestowed upon herself as managing director including liaising with clients, training, managing staff and doing make up – “The managing director can’t be doing makeovers”, he told her.

Business tip: Your business plan should give a comprehensive overview of your business propsotion, USP and your revenue model i.e. how your business going to make money. You should also include where you see your business over a specific timeline; say one, three and five years. Grainne certainly could have benefited from downloading our free business plan template

Missed last week’s episode? Catch up on week 10.

Catch up on our review of The Apprentice week 9 here.
Catch up on our review of The Apprentice week 8 here.
Catch up on our review of The Apprentice week 7 here.
Catch up on our review of The Apprentice week 6 here.


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