The wildly popular BBC show has been running for 14 years now, with a progression from the prize pot being a six-figure-salary job with Sir Alan Sugar, to a £250,000 investment from Lord Alan Sugar. Not only is the show loved for its entertainment value and its often wild characters, but it’s also appreciated for showcasing genuine business acumen. With the final to the current season approaching, we thought we’d take a look at what budding business people can learn from it.
Be a team player
You’ve heard about too many cooks spoiling the broth right? Well a successful team is not about every single person within it trying to take charge. Being successful is about taking input from others, knowing when your expertise is needed (and when it’s not) and always being willing to get stuck in and do your bit. Remember, you win as a team or lose as a team.
There have been so many episodes where the teams are destined for failure because they fail to plan. In business it’s no good to just run around with all guns blazing and the desire to win. You need a segmented plan, proper documentation and excellent time management skills. Devoting more time at the beginning to get a plan in place will save you loads of time later down the line.
Leadership is not dictatorship
How many project managers have had the my-way-or-the-high-way attitude? Being a successful leader is not about having an ego bigger than anyone else in the room, nor is it about shouting down ideas that could be great. Listen to your team, allow them to have an input and give credit where it’s due, but don’t be afraid to be stern and have the last say where necessary.
If there are people around you that you can use to advance your knowledge then do it! If you have industry experts, people who have been in business longer than you or technical specialists then accept that they know more than you and that what they tell you is valuable. And more than anything, you need to be able to listen to your customer. Not only in the targeted, knowing-what-they-want sort of way, but literally too. How many times have Apprentice candidates ignored market research? Don’t make that mistake.
Reassess at every step
When it comes to the boardroom part of the show, it can often be brutal and hilarious to watch. Many of the candidates are unable to own up to their mistakes or to realise that hindsight is a wonderful thing. Don’t get so bogged down in your own ideas that you can’t review and change as necessary. If something in your business isn’t working, be willing to try new ideas.
The scenes after each task are now iconic. One team gets treated to champagne in the Shard or a cooking lesson with a Michelin starred chef, while the others sit in the Bridge Cafe with a foam cup of tea and sombre music playing in the background. We’re not saying that you should head to a greasy spoon for a mope every time something in your business goes wrong, but there’s certainly something to be said about celebrating when things go right. Reward your staff, keep morale high and drive motivation onwards.
All images // BBC