Business and Leadership Lessons From The Apprentice – Smell What Sells

This weeks task was simple – take a set of products, try and sell them, find out what’s selling, re-invest your money in the moving products and sell them and so on. But it seemed that both of this weeks teams didn’t quite grasp this.

For this week the teams were yet again mixed and Natasha took charge of team venture along with Jim and Susan and Melody took charge of Logic with Tom and Helen.

The teams set off with their products and started to sell them. It became quickly apparent that the products that were quickly selling to the public were a nodding dog and umbrellas.

Part of team Logic’s strategy (or lack of it) was to head of and sell to retailers. This strategy was flawed from the outset as the retailers could go directly to the wholesalers themselves where the teams were buying their stock from. Silly really, especially going into a shop that sells everything for a pound and tried to sell them watches for £25.

They did get a luck break though. They managed to get an order for 30 duvets if they came back tomorrow. It was all looking good, but was a very risky strategy as they would soon find out. When Helen eventually was allowed to go an buy the duvets for the order the supplier was closed. She found another but had to take a 4 hour round trip. By the time the stock was bought, the retailer was closed meaning the team were left with over £200 of stock that they didn’t have time to sell.

The other downside of Logic’s strategy was not replenishing stock. Tom sold out of nodding dogs within half an hour, but there was no direction to go and buy more. He questioned this but Melody wanted to continue selling what they had.

The next day, they decided to invest in a whole host of random electronic products, not a nodding dog in site. Although they did manage to move a stack of emergency mobile phone charges, they didn’t grasp the task – find out what sells and buy more.

As for Venture, they to sold out of nodding dogs and umbrellas. At the end of the day they spent money on buying more of the fast moving items. These sold out very quickly and Jim wanted to re-invest but Natasha wanted to sell what they had before they bought more. Jim couldn’t sell as the other products before buying more. Natasha eventually decided they needed to re-invest, Jim bought £20 worth of umbrellas but by the time he returned to sell them the task was over.

On the evening before the second day Susan took a punt without checking with the team and bought a stack of bracelets. These were took to the market the day after and sold extremely well.

Natasha didn’t seem to be selling much and from my opinion was totally in Susan’s face when she should have been concentrating on stock and what to buy next.

It seems both project managers were the downfall in this task as they didn’t have a grip of what the task was all about, even to the point that Lord Sugar fined team Venture for £100 for not re-investing when they clearly had the time and funds to do so.

Jim done very well at building rapport with his customers which led to lots of sales, Tom not a natural seller gave it his all and Susan done well to identify the bracelets and sell them on. Helen, although very strong in previous tasks seemed to tied up with selling to retailers, chasing the order for the duvets which eventually fell through.

We also for the first time ever saw an Apprentice Uprising. Helen, on the second day of the task put it forward to Natasha that she should assume responsibility for the task and become Team Leader. Is she becoming to big for her boots I wonder.

In the end, even with the fine Venture posted a win and Melody got fired.

So, what are the lessons from this weeks episode:

Ensure that you clearly understand the task – The task couldn’t have been simpler. It was about guts and determination, taking the risk of re-investing money to sell more. Neither team leader took this on board and were far to cautious in their approach.

Know who you are selling to – That message again. Who are you selling to? Logic went to retailers which was completely the wrong market.

Invest in the right product – If it sells, buy more and sell it. Logic didn’t do this instead opting to but a whole set of new products on the second day.

Don’t expect trust as a Leader, you have to earn it – Natasha said in the board room that it was difficult to run a task where the team didn’t believe in the leader. But, looking at the decisions she made and the way she behaved she gave the team every reason not to trust or believe in her. The team will look to the leader for direction and to take the team forward, but she didn’t do this and was far to cautious.

You have the right to challenge a leader, but isn’t it better to support them? – Business is not the military and we don’t have the right to relieve people of their duties if we don’t think that they are making the right decisions (I don’t have an understanding of how this works only that I know it can be done). If a Leader isn’t performing there are processes to follow in business to challenge this. But, isn’t it better to support the leader rather that challenge their leadership?

Leaders take risks, but admit when they get it wrong – Sometimes Leaders need to be strong enough to take risks. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. If you don’t take the risk you will never know. A great Leader will make decisions without having all of the information to hand to get a result, but they should also be strong enough to stand up and admit that they got it wrong and go back to the beginning and start again.

Next weeks task is starting up a Fast Food Restaurant.

Until next week.

David

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