Candidates from BBC TV's The Apprentice

JD chills while Sofiane pitches and Trishna sticks to her price

The Apprentice: Episode 4

After last week’s boring task and unfair result, this week’s The Apprentice got back on track with an episode about crowdfunding.

I really must stop taking Lord Sugar’s search so seriously. I keep thinking it’s a business programme when really it’s simply popular entertainment. Even so, there are business lessons to be learned.

Last week we were reminded that superior resources usually win in business as in war. Once Aleksandra dropped out, instead of evening up the teams, there was on team of 8 and one of 6. It was no surprise that the larger team won a sales task. If the producers had wanted to be fair, they could have judged the result by using average sales per person. Unless of course she didn’t really walk out at the beginning of the task and there was some clever editing going on.

We also learned that you have to listen to your customers to succeed in business. So, if you’re going to be a personal shopper, ask about your customer’s budget, their size, their taste and what in particular they’re shopping for.

The Apprentice: Episode 5

This week, we were introduced to the world of crowdfunding. The lesson was, they don’t need Lord Sugar’s money. If their idea is good enough, they can get backing from the public. Of course, you would be mad to offer rewards that cost more than the investment but, if you’re working on a task for The Apprentice, it doesn’t matter what you offer because you’re never going to raise the money you need in a day.

The pitches to retailers were interesting. As someone who once had a small retail business, I was sympathetic to the idea of giving the small independents the same discount as the big retailers. Karren Brady was right to say that you should give a better discount to someone buying 10 times as many units but Trishna may have unwittingly struck upon a fact of life for suppliers- if you want to deal with the big name retailers, they will screw you not only on price but on payment terms. You will probably stay in business longer if you only sell to independents.

So it’s Goodbye JD, a Project Manager so laid back he was horizontal, a leader more chilled than frappuccino, characteristics that allowed his team to run wild while he had an early night.

He could learn from Sun Tzu, author of The Art Of War: “Regard your soldiers as your children and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look upon them as your own beloved sons and they will stand by you even unto death. If, however, you are indulgent but unable to make your authority felt, kindhearted but unable to enforce your commands, and incapable of quelling disorder, then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children. They are useless for any practical purpose.”

This article is written by Paul Lewis. A version has appeared on the Hampshire Workspace website. Paul owns the Winchester-based marketing consultancy firm Seven Experience. His clients include Hampshire Workspace and Theatre Royal Winchester.