Tony Goodwin, CEO of Antal International, and Phil Couchman, CEO of DHL Express, offer their views on Wednesday night’s episode of The Apprentice, in which the teams tried to sell British products to the French.
Tony Goodwin, CEO of executive recruitment organisation Antal International, and Phil Couchman, CEO of courier DHL Express, offer their views on Wednesday night’s episode of The Apprentice, in which the teams tried to sell British products to the French.
Poor old Tom, for a young man he has an even younger person’s approach to running a business: straight out of the CBeebies rule book. If you can’t decide who should do an important meeting or pitch to a major client for a crucial money spinning account, resort to that favourite game of primary schools throughout the UK and France – Rock, Paper, Scissors.
That was just one of his too crucial errors on Wednesday night’s Apprentice. The other was being too consensual and collegiate in not chasing the booster seat product that La Redoute decided to spend more that €200,000 buying from Natasha. The reasoning was that he didn’t want to railroad and bully his three colleagues into trying to sell a product they didn’t believe in.
But he learnt another lesson in business in the process: selling products that customers actually want rather than products we want to sell them. He did have a point; getting buy-in to what you are doing is important but that has to be done after, as Lord Sugar urged; ‘you follow your own gut instinct‘. One of the reasons I set up my business alone was that I didn’t want to have to waste time in meetings persuading my cofounder shareholders and directors of the veracity and effectiveness of my decision-making. 80 per cent of meetings in large companies seem to be about persuading and influencing your internal colleagues rather than selling to your customers and clients. This is the basis upon why Tom decided not to choose the clearly successful booster seat product. From this moment as his position as Project Manager he was undermined and ultimately futile.
UK entrepreneurs could learn from several of the challenges and opportunities the two teams experienced on last night’s Apprentice. International trade is full of complexities, and in the first instance thorough research of your target market is key. This was ultimately the losing team’s downfall in regards to the two products they chose – with La Redoute putting in a considerable order for the child’s carseat-rucksack, and none for the teapot light. Companies also need to form a robust import/ export plan, and consider more practical details such as route to market, start-up costs, and profit margins.
The importance of export markets for growing small businesses is not to be underestimated – especially where key growth markets are likely to be overseas – the current value of British trade is already in the hundreds of billions, and research from DHL Express shows that half of SMEs currently exporting expect demand for their products to grow in the next three months. I’m sure the designer of the winning product will certainly be pleased that they have now entered the French market!