Life as a contestant on the Apprentice isn’t an easy ride. They’re given tasks that will push them to their limits and Lord Sugar sticks firmly to his no nonsense attitude, meaning individuals have to step up their game and avoid slipping up at all costs to impress him.

Though a lot of the scenarios that the contestants find themselves in on the show are a far fetch from real life, a lot of the skills and business knowledge they have to demonstrate are highly transferrable to real life.

Unfortunately, not everyone can land the job as Alan Sugar’s business partner, so each week we wave goodbye to one of the contestants as Lord Sugar tells them “You”re fired!”

So where did these contestants go wrong and what can we learn from their mistakes?


1) Don’t underestimate your customer’s intelligence

Your customers aren’t stupid, so it is unlikely that they are going to fork out 10 times the value of your product on sale. Sarah in season 10 learnt this the hard way, when she tried to flog a bucket of sponges for a whopping £250…The only way she was going to get anywhere near the asking price is if she managed to convince the customers the sponges grow legs and do your cleaning for you, and even then I think she may have been pushing her luck!

2) Don’t waste people’s time

Having since made a career for herself for making obscene comments and becoming Britain’s most hated woman, it had probably skipped a lot of our minds that Katie Hopkins first entered the lime light in Series 3 of the Apprentice. She even managed to hold her position in the competition right up until the Final of the show, just to quit at the last minute. Alan Sugar is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief about it today, however at the time her departure was perceived as a huge waste of his time and she came across as highly ungrateful about the opportunity being offered.

3) Don’t come on too strong

You’re not going to sell your product by scaring your customers or forcing your sales pitch down their throat! Take note Jason from season 9, pouncing on unsuspecting passers by is not the most effective sales technique.

4) Don’t be offensive

Though political correctness may be taken overboard at time, you’re not going to sell any products by offending your customers! On more than one occasion, teams have demonstrated pretty poor judgement when faced with the task of creating a TV ad. I’m sure that “Fat Daddy’s Fitness Hell” from season 10 will really be a best seller! And don’t even get me started on the sexist Octi-Clean ad in series 6!


5) Don’t let your ego take over

Over the years there have been some huge personalities on the show with even bigger egos. Remember Steven from season 10?

Sure, a level of confidence can be advantageous in business, as assertion and self-assurance is sometimes required to win customers over; however there is a fine line between confident and arrogant and arrogance can be incredibly off-putting. People are more likely to buy from individuals who are likeable and humble, than someone who rates themselves a bit too highly.

6) Know your market

Trying to sell fish-fingers to a vegan cafe owner was never going to work out for Mergim in Series 11! Do your research and identify who your target market are before making your approach. In fact, it’s probably best for you to determine whether your target market actually exists before proceeding with your business venture in the first place, but hey the contestants had the shift these fish fingers quick!

7) Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Be realistic about what you can offer customers, as to make a promise that you cannot fulfill will reflect badly on you if you fail to meet their expectations. If something is beyond your capabilities, be honest and try to come to another arrangement. Unfortunately Shibby from Series 6 didn’t think it through when he took an order for 1,900 bread rolls, only to produce 16 on the day. His answer: “Tell your guests to go on the Atkins diet.”

About Sophie Deering

You can follow Sophie at @SophieDeering.

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