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Men at Work | Lessons learned from episode one of ‘The Apprentice’

By Will Stroude

*contains spoilers*

The wait is over, The Apprentice returned to our screens last night after a year away, and it was back with a bang. Serving up the same epic recipe of “I could do it much better than them” tasks, deluded candidates *ahem* and Lord Sugar’s famous put downs.

It was first class entertainment watching this year’s crop of poor unfortunate souls (cheeky The Little Mermaid reference there) running around trying to flog antiques in London.
Lord Sugar started his briefing to the candidates telling them about the antiques saying “There are diamonds in the middle of it, great stuff in there. And there’s stuff that could be a load of tut.” Those lines did leave you questioning early on whether he was talking about the task or about the candidates.

I won’t bore you with a recap of what happened because if you’re reading this you probably watched it and know what happened. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and many of the mistakes they made I’ve made myself so I’ve picked out the Top 4 lessons in business from last night’s episode:

Time Management


When the girls were valuing the antiques with the expert they spent an awfully long time doing it, so much so that they left them very little time to actually go and sell. I fell into this exact same trap in the discount buying task in my season. It’s a fine balance because time spent planning can save you a great deal of time later on if it helps give a good idea of what you are actually going to go and do.

The important thing is to make any time spent planning focused and with a clear aim in mind. Set aside a specific amount of time to do your planning in with clear targets and aims for the session. Stick to these and evaluate how you are doing against your goals over the time period to make sure you stay on track. Sometimes a planning session could take as little as 2 minutes for a simple task or whole days for one that is going to take months.



It was clear from the start that they girls team didn’t have a clear pricing strategy – knowing what they wanted to sell, for how much and why. This was their undoing later on when they ended up selling some of the items for much less than their true value.

When you set about doing any task it is always important to have a clear strategy in mind. Think about what the overall goal and then break that down into smaller parts. So in the case of this the goal was to sell the items for the best price and the smaller parts were work out how much each thing is worth and price it effectively for sale. The boys did this effectively, the girls not so much.

Ignore expert advice at your peril


Nobody is an expert in everything and so sometimes in areas you don’t know much about it’s helpful to get the advice of somebody who knows a lot about that area. In the task the girls were told to go to Portobello Road to sell their antiques, and they promptly ignored this and went off to Camden instead which didn’t work out too well for them.

There’s no point in asking an expert for help just to go and ignore what they say. Either ask and listen to what they say, or save time and money and just go with your gut. Going with your gut is often the right thing to do in many situations, but on information that is relevant and based in fact (such as where antique dealers are based) listening to someone who knows what they are talking about is probably the best route to go down.

Talk to the decision maker


This is a classic The Apprentice mistake which rears its ugly head every year. The boys spent a load of time trying to sell to someone only to find out they were not talking to the decision maker with the authority to buy.

If you are trying to sell something to someone, make sure that you are talking to the right person before wasting your time! It’s a classic case of Business 101.

Sanjay Sood-Smith is a food entrepreneur and former candidate on The Apprentice. You can find out more about his business Tuk In, which makes curry-in-a-naan, at

Follow him on Twitter at @sanjaysoodsmith

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