How To Win: 4 Business Lessons From ‘The Apprentice’

As fans out TV’s The Apprentice will know, it’s difficult to stand out. Every year, the same characters crop up. They complete the same tasks as the previous series. And at the end, the winner’s ‘unique’ business plan already exists.

It proves it’s hard to have a unique selling point. But the consistently high ratings of The Apprentice reveal that tried-and-tested business models work. It’s why there will always be rival hairdressers on the same street. You have a handful of takeaway delivery apps to choose from. And window cleaner leaflets drop through your letterbox every weekend.

Like an Apprentice winner rising from a sea of other suits, here’s how to get ahead of brands with the same product or service as you.  

  1. Get more followers than the other guys

Ever notice that The Apprentice winner always starts as the quiet girl/guy? Over the course of 10 weeks they speak up and become popular with TV audiences.

The same goes for real-life business success. And today, the place to get noticed is social media. First, discover where your potential leads hang out online. Is it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? You can research buyer personas, run a customer survey, or look where your competitors’ customers go.

Once you know which network(s) they use, post content there. It could be meme on Instagram, a Facebook post that links to a blog on your website, or an eBook on LinkedIn. Just make sure your post is relevant to your audience’s likes and needs. And like The Apprentice winner who gets stronger week-to-week, keep on optimizing your social media profiles.

  1. Spy on the competition

Ever notice the shouty Apprentice candidates, who don’t listen to anyone else, are shown the door early on? The ones who progress suss out the competition, mimic their strengths and adapt.

You can do the same. If you’re a new business going up against an established brand, you can be sure they’ve optimized their website. So go with a similar design and layout. Do they have a blog on their site you could put a spin on – by writing it in your company’s tone of voice – or turn into an infographic?

If you’re a bricks and mortar business, look how the best dress their window displays. If you’re about to run an ad campaign, snoop which publications your competitors advertise.

Just remember, other companies will be spying on you, too, like contestants eyeballing each other in a taxi.

  1. Have a boardroom plan

When it gets to the business end of The Apprentice, and candidates are equally matched, they get asked why they should go through to the final. That’s when contestants bring out the backstory. ‘I came from nothing and now run my own business.’ ‘I taught myself English at 20.’ ‘I raised a brand and three children.’

It’s the business equivalent of working capital – the money to make on-the-fly decisions. It could be a last minute press ad to catch Christmas trade, replacing broken equipment, or launching a new product range. If you don’t have enough cash to hand, a small business loan lets you shortcut a bank’s red-tape to get the money you need.

  1. Look in the mirror

When Alan Sugar picks his winner, it’s not because of an outstanding business plan, or the number of tasks they’ve won. It’s their character he invests in.

Even if your product or service looks just like the competition, there’s one thing they don’t have. You. So, whether you answer calls from customers, use your creativity to come up with offers, or train staff to share your enthusiasm; make sure your character come across in your business.

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Ive been blogging now for 5 years on various sites for the love of knowledge share. I decided to start my own blog a few years back to share everything from tech to business news. Follow me on twitter for more.