3 lessons you can learn from BBC’s The Apprentice

People criticise BBC’s The Apprentice for being more entertainment than having actually anything to do with business. Not so, says former winner Mark Wright

The Apprentice has finally returned to our screens after two years, and with it a new selection of 16 hopefuls all vying for that £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar to turn their business dreams into a reality.

From my own experience, the truly invaluable Apprentice prize beyond the cash injection was the opportunity to receive guidance and mentorship from Lord Sugar himself. The ability to tap into his tremendous wealth of business wisdom by working in the same office as him was priceless when it came to building my own business.

However, there are also some valuable lessons aspiring business owners can take away from the show when it comes to the contestants who tend to be the most successful during the process. Here are my top three lessons, and how you can apply them to your growing start-up.

#1 – Sell, sell, sell… and sell some more

Historically, it is always the contestants who are able to shine in the sales-based tasks who come out on top, and this holds true when it comes to the success of your business. We live in an experience-based economy, so regardless of the specific product or service you are selling, it is the experience the customer has with your business that will drive your brand reputation, customer retention and overall growth.

In the early stages of a start-up, the task of selling will naturally fall to you, the owner, so it is vital you have a strong sales strategy, and overcome any issues you might have with selling, otherwise your business is unlikely to even get off the ground.

The best salespeople are those that can not only cinch the sale, but also make a long-lasting impact on the customer. This requires being able to translate the passion you have for your business into that all-important sales pitch. Demonstrate your knowledge, be amicable and receptive to your customer, and always be ready to showcase why your product or service is the best.

#2 – Know your industry inside and out

It should go without saying that when launching a start-up, you should already possess extensive experience and knowledge of the market sector you plan to enter. When selecting his next business partner, Lord Sugar has typically opted for those who have this prior experience in their chosen industry, and the reason is simple: because their chances of success are so much greater.

Having the relevant knowledge of your market means you are better-positioned to kickstart your new business and will allow you to scale and grow far more rapidly, all while avoiding the common mistakes and pitfalls that might spell the end for a less seasoned business owner.

A firm grasp of your industry will also make it far easier when it comes to writing a business plan for outside investment, as you will be able to demonstrate your growth potential and how your business fits into the overall landscape of your market sector. It is crucial not only to the planning of your business, but also the long-term survival of your burgeoning start-up, so knowing your sector inside out should be a no-brainer for any aspiring business owner.

#3 – Failure is temporary, but quitting lasts forever

Launching a start-up is rarely smooth sailing, and even in an established business you will undoubtedly face numerous problems. The real measure of success and your abilities as an entrepreneur is how you handle and overcome these challenges.

The Apprentice is a gruelling process, and it’s the candidates who demonstrate the capacity to face challenges head on and overcome them that are the most likely to make it through to the Final. Mistakes and slip-ups are inevitable, but the ability to learn from these failures and take those lessons on board without caving in to negative emotions is what sets the most successful candidates apart, and this holds true when it comes to lasting in business long-term.

Having the right mindset when facing challenges in business, and being able to approach adverse situations with a level of professionalism and calm, will enable you to make intelligent decisions for your company.

As a business owner, it is easy to become overwhelmed, especially when faced with unforeseen problems, but developing a mindset where you can take a step back and put emotions on the back burner is what will allow you to keep your focus on developing constructive solutions to whatever challenges you may face.

Mark Wright is a winner of BBC’s The Apprentice and director of digital marketing agency Climb Online

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