I'm not a fan of reality TV so until this current series, I'd never watched an episode of The Apprentice. But Paul Sullivan, who's on my client list, decided to put himself forward as a contestant. And after a rigorous selection process, made it through to the live show. Paul is such a great guy and has worked so hard to get his business to where it is now that I want to support him as best I can. If that means watching The Apprentice, then so be it! Business Lessons From The Apprentice Live

Now that I've watched four episodes, I can see how the tests the candidates undergo have been designed to assess the candidate's fundamental business skills. Each episode is a treasure trove of business lessons. So I've decided to discuss this live on Facebook every Friday evening around 6pm GMT. Starting from today.

This week's task was to take over a department at luxury London department store, Liberty. The candidates were asked to introduce a new product line to promote and sell in the store, as well as run a personal shopping service for some of the capital's most discerning shoppers. What could possibly go wrong?!

1. Business Isn't Always Fair

Grainne McCoy was thrown a curve ball just as it was decided she'd be Project Manager for Team Nebula. Business consultant, Aleksandra King, decided that the process was too stressful and wanted to go home to her family. So she upped and left, leaving Team Nebula one man down, and a sales person short. (Not that she'd actually sold much in the first three episodes). I don't think Grainne got nearly enough credit for how she handled this unprecedented situation. She remained calm and focused, whilst motivating her team. Grainne is definitely a candidate to watch.

[callout]To find out more about the different ways of working with me, click HERE. If you’re familiar with my work and would like to discuss how I can help you grow your business, book a Skype coffee chat using this link. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching or business consultancy would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.[/callout]

2. Product Selection Is Key

A business is built on offering the customer what they want. Period. It doesn't matter what cool or quirky marketing strategies you deploy, if your product isn't what your customers want to buy.

Liberty is renowned world wide for its' beautiful prints and innovative, eclectic design. Whilst far less organised than Team Nebula, Titans won primarily because they chose to sell the right product - scarves - a staple of Liberty sales. Brownie points to Paul Sullivan for recommending that his team sell scarves. I'd liked to have seen him stand up to Mukai with a robust argument in favour of his product choice.

[callout]CLICK HERE to start planning your 2017 budget and map out your financial plan for the year ahead.[/callout]

3. Know Your Customer

The main reason the teams were asked to run a personal shopping service was to test their understanding of the customer. Knowing your customer inside out means that you can anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations. Here Frances Bishop impressed. She contacted clients in advance of meeting them to extract all the key information she would need to help her to select items they might like. This meant Frances had an understanding of what influenced her clients so that she could tailor her responses accordingly.

4. Hone Your Sales Skills

It should go without saying that it doesn't matter how brilliant your product is or how smart your marketing strategy, if you can't sell, you're not going to hit your financial targets. And if you don't hit your financial targets, your business is likely to experience cash flow problems. I was particularly struck when Rebecca Jeffrey commented that she didn't want to be too pushy when it came to selling. Rebecca was absolutely right that you can put potential customers off with an overbearing approach. But there are ways to sell elegantly and authentically AND get great results if you learn the key skills and techniques necessary for having an effective sales conversation. If you run a service based business, check out my friend Catherine Watkin for help and advice.

[callout]CLICK HERE to start planning your 2017 budget and map out your financial plan for the year ahead.[/callout]

I'd love for you to join me Live on Facebook for a discussion about my key business lessons from The Apprentice, either today or another Friday. If you can't make it live, you'll find the recording in the video section of my Facebook page, along with a number of other Facebook Live recordings. Here's the Facebook Live I made to accompany this post:

And if you've a minute, go say 'hello' to Paul Sullivan over on Twitter. Go #TeamSully!

Join The Conversation

Question: Have you been watching The Apprentice? If so, what have been your key business takeaways? I love reading your views so please do leave me your feedback in the comments box below.

Explore These Additional Resources

Did you miss?

Work With Me

I’m Denyse Whillier, a London based business coach and consultant. I guide entrepreneurs from across the globe to achieve profitable, scaleable growth and create businesses that are Built To Succeed™. Built To Succeed™ is my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, 25 years’ experience at senior leadership and managerial level and training at Cranfield School of Management, the UK's leading business school. It's this background that sets me apart and helps my clients to get BIG results.

I’d love to start a conversation. Simply use this link to arrange an informal Skype coffee chat. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching (or business consultancy) would be a good fit for your business, the results you can expect and how to get started.

To get a copy of my e-book, 'How To Take Control Of Your Business ... And Get Off The Financial Roller Coaster,' click HERE