OPINION19 July 2011

The Apprentices make schoolboy errors

It was frustrating to see that The Apprentice finalists on Sunday had failed to undertake even the most basic form of market research for their dull, unoriginal business concepts.

Were you glued to the television? Were you one of the record 10.7 million people who apparently tuned in to watch Tom Pellereau win the seventh series of BBC1’s The Apprentice, thereby securing himself Lord Sugar as an investor and business partner in a new business which – as far as I could work out – was about producing orthopaedic chairs?

To be honest, by the end, it wasn’t entirely clear what any of the business plans were given that most had been systematically deconstructed and thrown on the scrapheap by Lord Sugar’s henchmen.

The Apprentice makes great television. Not so much a collection of Britain’s brightest business brains, but certainly some of Britain’s biggest egos competing for a prize which, frankly, has very little to do about business. The saddest thing of all is that for many this is their only interaction with entrepreneurial Britain and how sad it was that all of the ideas this year seemed to lack any semblance of innovation.

Part of the reason for the savage deconstruction of the business plans was that each of the finalists appeared to have done little, if any, market research. Jim’s plan for an e-learning business hadn’t involved any market testing among head teachers; Susan’s extravagant forecasts for her cosmetics business were based on what she had achieved from one market stall; Helen’s idea for a concierge business hadn’t taken into account what requirements her potential clients would have and whether she had the contacts to deliver on those requirements; and even Tom’s initial idea to go into companies to assess for back pain hadn’t been run past any real companies.

Aside from the sadness that here was a group of people, smart people, who had managed to only come up with a collection of dull, unoriginal business concepts, it was more frustrating to see that they had failed to even undertake the most basic form of market research. Yes, we need programmes like The Apprentice to promote entrepreneurialism, but we also need it to enthuse and inform current and future business people. And that requires the show to also pass on some fundamental business tenets – one of which is the absolute need to research your market thoroughly before launching a business, service or product, and that requires you to gain the insights of your potential customers as to whether there is even a desire or a need for what you are proposing to sell.

Failure to do so means you are likely to always remain little more than an apprentice.

1 Comment

9 years ago

Lisa this is a beautiful post. Things ayalws have a way of working out. It's the struggles getting there that are hard. One day you'll sit side by sie and just smile because you know you'll be there :) Where you want to be. I wish you good luck on this fabulous and crazy journey!xoxoKatie

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