A basic lesson in business from the Apprentice.

So the Apprentice is back on our TV screens and with it the usual lessons in how not do do business! The first episode saw the teams challenged to buy fish at Billingsgate market and to sell it at a profit, the group that made the biggest profit would win. This is a basic business principle that every would be entrepreneur should be able to master but one group failed miserably. I think there are three key lessons that every business owner needs to remember:

  • Buy at the right price
  • Control costs
  • Be where the customers are

Buy at the right price

We saw the losing team manager buy a significant amount of fish from the first supplier they spoke to at the price the vendor wanted to charge! We should always shop around or at least know the market rate and then haggle. If you know what others are charging for an equivalent product you have a good starting point for your negotiations.

Control costs

Having bought their fish at an inflated price our losers then went on to make the most enormous fishcakes ‘because that’s what the specification said’. This meant that they couldn’t keep their costs down to the level where they could make a profit. It’s a mistake I often see in start-up businesses. Every time you add a little extra this or that your profit margin is compromised unless there is scope to put up your prices to cover the additional costs.

Be where your customers are.

2015-07-21 21.49.11

There’s a time when people want to eat lunch and a time when it’s too late. Lunch has to be ready when your customers want to eat.

Probably the biggest mistake that our hapless losers made was taking too long to prepare their dishes so that they missed the lunchtime trade. You can’t make money when no-one wants to buy. Could you be guilty of taking too long to get to market with your idea because you want it to be perfect or because you aren’t prepared to invest in the help that will get your product or service out there? It’s an easy mistake to make but a good product delivered on time will make more money than a perfect product launched when the market has already been satisfied.

Did you spot any more lessons in this episode? Why not share them here?

I’m sure I’ll be returning to the Apprentice for more blog posts in the coming weeks that is if they don’t drive me to mad first!


Do you have a dream?

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963.

How big is your dream? Is it real enough to get you working on making it happen?

It’s 50 years ago this week since Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream speech’. It was a speech delivered with such passion and vivid imagery that it has gone down in history as one of the most memorable speeches ever made. Did you know, though, that the most famous passage was a last minute addition? Here it is:

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

What is your dream?

Do you have a dream? Can you paint a word picture of your dream? Can you communicate that vision with passion and get your loved ones to embrace it too? What is the next step that you need to take to make that dream a reality?

My friend Carole Ann’s dream was to appear on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, a few weeks ago she realised her dream. Another friend, Christine, has a dream to live and work in France, she is currently negotiating on a property there and using her contacts to develop a business when she gets there. My daughter had a dream to get a first for her undergraduate dissertation and, having achieved her goal, has been invited to speak on the topic at a university conference.

These people were specific about their dream. They shared it with others and they made it happen.

My dream is to have a B&B come training centre where people will come to recharge their batteries and learn something new. Business people will come to develop their business ideas and turn them into plans. Individuals will come to learn a new hobby or skill. I’m planning to achieve that dream within the next five years when my children will have finished their education. Now I just have to get complete buy in from my husband!

Join the challenge!

If you have a dream you may need money to make it happen. To celebrate The Training Pack’s 21st birthday I’m launching a 21 day Make Money Challenge on September 21st, why not join us? Each day you will get one challenge delivered to your inbox. It will take between 20 minutes and an hour to complete that day’s challenge and at the end of the 21 days you will have a plan to make your financial target. This is not a get rich quick scheme but a specific way to grow your business or to make money for a good cause (even if that is swelling your own bank account!). There’s no charge. It is my gift to you to celebrate our 21 years in business. Just fill in your details below and we’ll send your first challenge on September 21st.


The Power of TV.

Amazon sales record

Record sales on the back of a TV programme

This week the BBC broadcast a programme called ‘The Secret Lives of Cats’. The programme makers worked with a couple of academic teams to track the behaviour of a number of cats in one Surrey village. The cats were fitted with a purpose made tracking device which used GPS technology to report the cat’s movements. The programme went out on a national channel at 9.00p.m. on Thursday and within 24 hours the tracking device had become Amazon’s fastest selling pet product ever! This just goes to show the power of T.V. in influencing buyer behaviour.

I should explain, for the benefit of readers outside the UK, that the BBC is a state funded broadcaster which does not carry product advertising. This programme traced the development of the tracking device and demonstrated how it worked but it gave no sales or marketing information. Clearly buyers were sufficiently intrigued by seeing the way the product worked to track down the purchase information for themselves. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all get our products and services featured on prime time TV?

Make the most of an opportunity

This afternoon Sir Richard Branson appeared on the BBC in a charity tennis match. This being England the match was delayed by rain and the programme was left with time to fill which it did with a series of interviews with the celebrities taking part. Sir Richard, never one to miss an opportunity, used his interview to get in a plug for a service that his Virgin Active Health Clubs are running. Would you be quite so bold if you had a similar opportunity?

No I know that you and I are not Sir Richard and opportunities to appear on TV are rare but they are not impossible. I’ve been featured on BBC London. Last week one of my clients was featured on ITV’s This Morning programme. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get your chance in the future.

So how can you harness the power of TV?

  1. Look for opportunities to be featured. Follow broadcast journalists on Twitter, they often put out requests for interviewees. Respond quickly making it clear how you can help.
  2. Be more pro-active and actively approach programme makers whose output is relevant to your business. Follow production companies who will sometimes talk about programmes they have in the pipeline. Get in quick with an offer of help. Position yourself as an expert.
  3. Create a newsworthy story by doing something extraordinary. This might be an innovative product launch, an unusual charity event or going the extra mile to solve a problem. Consider hiring a PR company to help you get the story out but if you can’t do that send out a press release to named journalists across all relevant media. Target your journalists for maximum effect.
  4. When you are featured do what you can to get your business name across. Wear a shirt embroidered with your logo, have your name on a screen in the background, make sure the journalist has the correct spelling of your name and that of your business. (Watch how Charlie Mullins got Pimlico Plumbers’ name across on Peter Jones Meets… last week.)
  5. Being featured on TV is a newsworthy story, make sure that you tell the world. Send a news release to the local media,  post the information on social media and your website, put it in a customer and prospect newsletter.
  6. Being featured on TV or radio helps to position you as a leading authority in your line of business so make the most of the opportunity.

Have you been featured on TV or radio or in the national press? We’d love to hear your story. Why not share it here using the comment button,.

The Apprentice and the 7Ps of the Marketing Mix

So the Apprentice is back on BBC TV here in the UK and amid the egos and the back stabbing there are already plenty of business lessons in evidence. There are so many fundamental mistakes that I wonder how many, if any, of the candidates have ever considered any basic business concepts.

Pale Ale

Today’s task was to design and sell a new beer. Pale Ale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s episode showed the two teams charged with developing, marketing and selling a new flavoured beer. The team which made the most money would win. This was a great task in that it required the application of all of the 7Ps of the marketing mix:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Process
  • Physical Evidence

So let’s see what we can learn about the 7Ps from today’s episode:


One idea that Team Evolve considered was a beer for the female market. Fortunately the women in the team quickly made it known that that was a bad idea. Women do not drink beer in large enough quantities to support a beer designed for that market, those who have tried have failed.

Lesson: Our products must always be something that enough customers will want to buy often enough for us to stay in business.


Team Endeavour tried to sell their beer at a premium price at a St. Alban’s beer festival when all of their competitors were undercutting them. Whilst there was some logic to their strategy given that their bottles would potentially be collectors’ items  ultimately this decision probably cost them sales. On the other hand their starting point in trade negotiations was too low in comparison to their cost price leaving them with little scope for profit when the trade buyers negotiated hard.

Lesson: Expect trade buyers to be tough negotiators and be really aware of your cost price and margins. Start high enough to give you room for negotiation. If you are going to charge a premium price for a product make sure that prospects understand and want the added value.


Team Evolve lost because they didn’t sell in the right places. They relied too heavily on a pub based beer festival where their just weren’t enough customers and then moved to a wine bar on the river. Really! If people wanted to drink beer they wouldn’t be sitting in a wine bar.

Lesson: The right location is vital. You have to be selling where there are enough of your target customers with money to spend. People will not go out of their way to buy from you.


Promotion wasn’t a key test in this episode and, with professional help, both teams came up with decent branding ideas for their product. However I have to wonder about the wisdom of calling a beer ‘A Bitter this’, plays on words can backfire. Team Endeavour did recognise that punters at the beer festival might be willing to pay a premium price for a bottle of beer which would be likely to become a collectors’ item.

Lesson: Get professional help with branding. Understand your target market and promote your product to meet their needs and interests.


Both teams had dissent in their ranks. I suppose that is inevitable in a competition where there can only be one winner but internal arguments gave potential buyers a very bad impression of each team and in some cases allowed buyers to negotiate even harder.

Lesson: People buy people. Everyone in a customer facing role has to be professional and a team player. Ground rules and operating procedures must be agreed and adhered to by all team members and debates and arguments kept away from customers and prospects.


In fairness, when teams are developing product for a one off sale there really isn’t a lot of process involved. However one team did recognise that their trade customers would want pump clips to advertise the beer and provided them.

Lesson: Process is about setting up our businesses to serve our customers easily and without delay. It’s about recognising their needs and meeting them.

Physical Evidence

How can you expect to sell barrels of an unknown beer to the trade without offering the buyer the chance to taste the product? Yet this is what team Endeavour tried to do. They went on a selling mission without samples and unsurprisingly were treated with disdain.

Lesson: Buyers want proof. They buy with their senses, sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. Samples are vital. Where people can’t sample the product, for instance when buying on the Internet, then testimonials and guarantees are essential.

So there we have it, a complete lesson in the marketing mix from one episode of the Apprentice. It will be interesting to see whether the candidates will have learned these lessons as the series develops. Time will tell.

Perfect presentations take preparation and practice

Did you see the Apprentice on the BBC this week? If you did you’ll have seen Leon whinging that his team had been given several hours just to prepare the team’s presentation. He made it clear that he wasn’t going to spend hours preparing and then went on to deliver a dreadful pitch and wondered why none of his team congratulated him for a pitch well done.

I see poor pitches being made all the time. I’m certainly guilty of having delivered a few less than perfect presentations. The problem is usually down to inadequate preparation and lack of practice. So here is a mini checklist if you ever have to make a business presentation or one minute pitch.

  1. What message do you want to convey? If you only have one minute then keep to one message.
  2. What does your audience already know? What language do they understand? You can only get away with jargon if you are 100% sure that all your audience will understand it.
  3. What action do you want your audience to take at the end of your presentation? Signpost this in your introduction.
  4. Give your audience a reason to listen to you. Answer their question, ‘What have I got to gain from listening to this?’ Opening with a question to qualify your audience can be a good start.
  5. If your audience has mixed experience it is a good idea to share information which acknowledges some people may know already but others may not. See the opening paragraph to this article for an example. I haven’t insulted people who saw the programme (I hope) but I have told those who didn’t what they missed. My readers should therefore all understand my starting point.
  6. Check you are using verbal rather than written language. If in doubt read it aloud. Written language is usually more stilted than the spoken word. Try recording what you want to say and then transcribing it.
  7. Make sure that your presentation has a structure, usually a beginning, middle and end.
  8. If you are using visual aids keep them simple, an image or one word rather than a screen full of text. Speak to the audience not the visual aid.
  9. Be very specific about the action you want your audience to take next and make it easy for them.
  10. Finally, I like a mnemonic I read this week. STAR. Give them Something They Always Remember.

Once you’ve got your content organised you just have to practice, practice, practice until you  can deliver an engaging, memorable presentation with confidence.

If you ever have to make the one minute pitches favoured by many networking organisations you might be interested in a programme Graham Le Gall of Galleou Training and I are putting together. It’s called ‘Winning It with your One Minute’. We’re starting with a pilot session on Monday 27th June from 11.00-2.00 in Ealing. Because it’s a pilot we’re charging a ridiculously low £30 for the session! Email me for details. If you can’t make the session but want to know how we can help, please email.

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The Apprentice teaches us another lesson in marketing

Week 2 of the Apprentice saw the teams challenged to design and market an app for a smart ‘phone. The winning team would be the one that got the most downloads.

To most people’s astonishment the girl’s team won. Why? Because they got the fundamental rule of marketing right, they designed a product that a big enough audience wanted.

On the face of it it was the boys who got the marketing right. Their presentation wowed the audience at a UK fair. They created a buzz and engaged with their prospects. They bribed people with doughnuts. They got two influential websites to feature their app. Their words seemed enticing.

Meanwhile the girls did a lack lustre presentation. They didn’t capture the imagination at the fair. Even they thought they’d lost. However they did get featured on the most influential ezine.

When it came to the final figures the girls’ stats blew the boys right out of the water. The girls had designed an app which had a more global appeal and their marketing copy described the benefits of the app in the first sentence. The boys on the other hand had designed an app which some saw as potentially offensive and their copy sold the name not the benefit.

So what are the lessons we can take into our own businesses?

  • Ensure a big enough market wants your product or service
  • Tell people immediately how they will benefit from that product or service. Answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?’
  • It doesn’t matter how clever your marketing is, if the product is wrong people won’t buy it
  • Look at your product or service from the customer’s point of view, what might concern them? Could it be seen as offensive, discriminatory or out of date?
  • Prospects are not interested in your name until they are interested in your product so use persuading copy to convince them first and then tell them who you are.

It will be interesting to see how this series of the Apprentice develops with its new emphasis on starting a business. I suspect there will be more lessons featured in future blog posts. If you missed this episode it is available on BBC iPlayer.

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A lesson in communication

British journalist Robert Peston, mid-intervie...

Image via Wikipedia

I was listening to the PM programme on Radio 4 on my way home the other night when there was a piece by the BBC’s Business Editor, Robert Peston, at the end of which he said to PM presenter , Eddie Mair (with whom he is currently having a feud), ‘that was alright wasn’t it?’ Well no Robert it wasn’t!

The reason that it wasn’t alright was that Peston was hardly able to utter more than three or four words without interjecting ‘you know’. I lost count of how many times I heard the phrase. However I was so busy hearing ‘you know’ that I really didn’t hear the content of the report.

I believe that Robert Peston is a skilled journalist (I know he is not universally popular) but his presentation skills leave a lot to be desired. He’s not alone. Go to any business event and ‘you know’ or other irritating habits crop up in even the shortest presentations. These bad habits are a real distraction from the message and they need to be eliminated.

My colleague, Graham Le Gall, makes a note of how many times people er and um or use irritating phrases during their presentations and most people are amazed when he shares the figures. So listen to yourself or, better still, record yourself when you next make a presentation. Do you sound hesitant or confident, intelligent or stupid? Do you distract your audience from your message? Do you make sense? You might be horrified by what you hear!

Why do phrases like ‘you know’ or ‘like’ (another of my bug bears) creep in to so many people’s verbal communication? Usually it is because the speaker hasn’t connected mouth and brain. Research suggests that we speak at around 130 words a minute but can think at up to 800 wpm so our brains run away with us if we let them. Focus. Think about what you want your audience to understand or do when you have finished speaking. Organise your thoughts in to a logical sequence. Assemble your facts. Stay focused. If you need time to think, pause momentarily but don’t fill the space with rubbish or your audience will stop listening.

Graham and I are going to be running some workshops to coach business owners to present their businesses effectively. If you would like to know more drop me an email to glenda.shawley@thetrainingpack.co.uk or call me on 020 8991 2767.

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