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5 lessons we’ve learned from The Apprentice

It’s that time of year when budding entrepreneurs fight it out to win a life-changing investment from Britain’s grumpiest boss. That’s right: The Apprentice is in full swing and we’re as hooked as ever.


With this year’s series at the halfway mark, let’s take a look at the lessons the candidates have learned so far and some tech solutions that can stop you making the same mistakes.


1. Manage your time and resources


Whether you’re working alone or in a team, managing time and resource is a major part of running a small business. In the opening task, the boys’ team came unstuck when they left themselves no time to sell their high-value printed T-shirts and the unfortunate Chiles was sent packing for the mistake.


Luckily, there are a number of tools out there to help you manage your resources and ensure you don’t end up like Chiles. Evernote Premium is a great solution for managing your to-do list. It also allows you to work on projects on the go by storing everything you need to plan your hectic schedule. If you keep getting distracted online, the Stay Focused Chrome Extension will help you stop procrastinating. Set yourself daily limits on time-wasting websites or block them altogether. You’ll be amazed at how much extra you can get done in a day.


2. Listen to audience research


Understanding customers is invaluable to a small business owner, but it’s something the candidates on The Apprentice never seem to grasp. In episode six Pamela was left high and dry when she ignored the audience research that told her a sexist board game based on offensive stereotypes was a bad idea.


Audience research used to be expensive and time-consuming, but not any more! The internet has made it possible for any entrepreneur to gather insights they can apply to their business almost instantly.


Using Google’s Customer Survey tool, you can create bespoke surveys and access to your target audience to answer them. Find out where your customers are shopping, what people think of your company or even get some feedback on your branding. The tool can give you hundreds of answers from the very people you’re trying to reach in just a couple of days. It isn’t free, but prices start at just 10¢ per complete survey – that’s about 6 pence – you can easily set it to fit your budget.

Also make sure you check out our article on the YouGov Profiler tool and how to use it for your small business.


3. Take the time to understand YouTube


YouTube can be a really powerful platform for small businesses to tell their story and engage with customers. In episode four, the teams were set the task of creating a YouTube channel. There was speculation about the quality of the videos but what cost Team Tenacity in the end was a very basic error: uploading their video without a title or description.


Learning how to make the most of YouTube can give your business a huge advantage, so YouTube’s own guide for business owners is a great place to start. It covers everything from the basics of uploading a video to creating an engaging video strategy that works for your company.


4. Get your pricing structure right 


Ensuring healthy margins is key for any successful business, whether you’re a jewellery designer working from home or the CEO of a multi-national conglomerate. It’s a lesson Sanjay learned the hard way in episode five when he failed to strategically price his coach tours, instead plucking a price out of thin air. He was lucky not to lose his spot in the process, but if you get the pricing structure wrong in your business you run the risk of going under.


Doing your own accounts is one of the best ways to work out if you have the right pricing structure in place. There are a number of programmes on the market that make it easy to keep track of finances. Sage and Xero are two of the best examples; both are specifically designed to make life easier for small business owners.


5. Collaborating on the go  


If members of a team in your business fail to communicate and collaborate effectively, you can end up making big mistakes. Nothing illustrates this better than the high tech sweater the boys’ team designed in episode two; a product that not only looked terrible but didn’t work as a concept. The failure to communicate ideas between the sub-teams cost Robert and Scott their places on the show.


This needn’t be a problem for you, though. It’s now much easier for businesses to adopt remote working using mobile and cloud technology. A number of networking tools let you set up areas online where teams can securely share ideas and work on projects together in real time. Slack and Yammer are two of the best examples out there, and both work with mobile devices so you can share work even when you’re out of the office. You can also collaborate on large documents using the Box app from O2 Business, both internally and with clients and suppliers outside the company.


To find out how tech solutions from O2 can help your business visit the O2 Business shop.


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