The Apprentice 2011

What are the tasks in The Apprentice all about?

It isn’t a daft question, because the answer is complex and, whilst I don’t pretend to have an answer that is better than anyone else’s, I am sure that it must combine a lot of elements:

  • Creating good TV
  • Allowing candidates to show their talents
  • Exposing candidates’ weaknesses
  • Applying elements of business knowledge
  • Teamwork and leadership

But if these are the substance of the task, the form is simple: at the surface level, the tasks (except the last one) are about making money. �Bigger profit (or smaller deficit)�wins. �If the candidates haven’t got that, then regardless of their other merits they need to go.

So analysing the lesson from last night’s The Apprentice is simple…

Spoiler alert

The teams had to select one beauty product and one treatment (service), understand them sufficiently to sell them and give the beauty treatment (which includes “turn the machine on” – and that took me back 25 years*).

The economics of the beauty industry, Lord Sugar told us and the candidates, are simple and lucrative – margins are high. But our team had one secret advantage: zero labour costs.

This should make it obvious to even a half trained chimp that services, with low consumables and zero premises costs are almost entirely profit. �And if you have the chance to deliver three treatments in parallel, your sales potential is triple that of a team with one treatment room.

So, they had two things to sell: a product and a treatment. �One with high cost risks of stock-holding and low returns on capital invested, and one with minimal cash outlay and massive profit margins.

Apprentice Lesson 4

Focus relentlessly on that which is most important.

A good product might help make the sale of a treatment – and it may be something they could have sold to someone not wanting the treatment, but it should not have taken over. �But let’s face it – maybe Britain is still a nation of shop-keepers. Maybe their instincts were to sell goods because it is in our national psyche.

So goodbye to Felicity. �I was rooting for you just because of your name. �For a Felicity with real passion for her work, great management skills and an excellent facilitator and trainer working with volunteer managers, check out Felicity Dwyer.
(Declaration of interest – she’s my wife)

* An Aside

25 years ago, as a physics PhD student, I earned a crust supervising undergraduates in the lab. �Commonest problem with complex bits of kit like signal generators and oscilloscopes: switching it on at the socket.

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