The Apprentice episode 10: Fishy business lessons

Dan Martin
Former editor
BusinessZone.co.uk
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Richard Kershaw and Stephen Pavlovich, co-founders of experience company Wish.co.uk, review the latest episode of The Apprentice.

Despite a double dip recession and abysmal high street sales, daily deals still sell. Pioneered by Groupon, the industry has exploded as consumers lap up the promise of unmissable offers - with a deadline.

Putting Apprentice candidates in the thick of this lucrative and controversial marketplace was a master stroke. It combined marketing and negotiation, putting the candidates in front of businesses who are skeptical of their promises and reluctant to loosen their grip on profit.
What exactly can businesses learn from the mistakes made by Stephen, Gabrielle et al last night?
Lesson one: Know your customers
 
The candidates had two customers: Keynoir and their customers. To succeed, the candidates needed to negotiate killer deals to meet their punters’ demands.
That means luxury goods discounted 30–50% that will stand out in the Keynoir newsletter.
For team Sterling, Gabrielle's insistence on agarra rufa pedicure deal clearly missed the mark. Fish pedicures are old news – not least due to saturation coverage from mass-market daily deals sites.
The spa appeared to be neither luxurious nor the kind that will stand out in a newsletter (unless, perhaps, Adam had been there to negotiate free tea and coffee).
At team Phoenix, Tom and Adam fell into the same trap. Teeth whitening has been done to death by daily deal sites - and given how many ads we see, hardly meets Keynoir’s exclusivity criteria.
Ultimately, Gabrielle's lack of focus on her customers cost her that valuable boardroom seat.
Lesson two: Never make the first offer
 
Jade held her own in her meeting with the Sanctuary spa, but her fixation on 50 per cent off might have let her down. She bagged the deal she went in for, but had she let the client suggest a starting point for negotiation, she may have been able to push for more.
Still, a 50% discount at a (reluctant!) high-end spa is a huge success.
Ricky also succeeded over the odds pitching an unenviable laundry list of high-end companies.
Some were understandably reluctant to associate with daily deals websites.
His big mistake was faltering when asked to estimate the potential audience for the restaurant deal. He suggested 100 – Keynoir would have preferred 250+.
The restaurant immediately accepted his first offer, capping his potential return and leaving him with the tantalizing possibility that they would likely have gone higher with a haggle.
Keeping the offer open-ended – or shocking with a much higher opening figure – would have been a much better tactic.
Lesson three: Keep it simple
 
The candidates have a very limited opportunity to get their message across. Daily deal offers need to be simple and compelling – something that the customer can understand in a split-second without confusion.
So while Lord Sugar was impressed with Stephen's tactic of targeting multiple offers, it also meant that they were relying on Keynoir filtering them to avoid overwhelming their customers.
In comparison, Jade's single-minded focus on branded luxury goods at big discounts won her the task. Her team clearly could have performed better – but she kept her eyes on the goal throughout.
Lesson four: Do your homework.
 
Both teams' lack of thorough preparation was evident throughout.
Ricky wasted 30 minutes on a tour of a high-end, high-altitude restaurant – before discovering that they wouldn’t discount anything.
Jade and Nick's experience at Marcus Wareing's restaurant was worse still. In Wareing's words, they lacked "a sense of intelligence". Worse - they visibly struggled to do deals that don't involve "whole numbers".
After being given four minutes to prepare (and figure out the calculator), they ended up negotiating a 30% discount at Wareing’s restaurant. This later won them the task, though had they prepared fully – and shown respect for Wareing’s time – they may have bagged a bigger discount and an even more impressive win.
Jade is a likeable figure. Her attention to the brief and focus on "quality over quantity" made her the deserving winner. It wasn't her negotiation skills or preparation that helped her: it was knowing her market and standing her ground.

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