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The Apprentice: Brett Butler-Smythe learns that nice guys finish last

Written by Alastair Campbell on Thursday, 10 December 2015. Posted in Blog

Brett was unlucky to be fired in the last episode before the interviews, as the candidates made a hash of healthy snacks

The Apprentice: Brett Butler-Smythe learns that nice guys finish last

Photo credit: Boundless

Healthy alternatives are taking a big bite out the UK's £90m snack market and The Apprentice candidates had to tap into this trend in this week's episode. They were given the unenviable task of producing their own range of healthy snacks before pitching it to three major retailers. 

Any claims that the teams made about their products had to be tested and verified, which meant this task was not just about branding but about the science of food too. And, with this being the last week before the interviews, the pressure was on for the candidates prove themselves. As always, the episode threw up a number of key business lessons.

Be transparent, expect transparency

This first lesson echoes one which Lord Sugar himself shared on the Company Check website just a few weeks ago. Honesty is an important trait in business as it is in life and, while I’m sure very few of us could say we’ve never made exaggerated claims, trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes is always a bad idea.

In this task, the candidates needed to be honest on a number of levels. Firstly, they needed to be honest about their products. Their exaggerated claims about the nutritional benefits of their products were shot down immediately by the experts, with Charlene’s team having to black out claims on their packaging that were proven to be false. Secondly, they needed to be honest with themselves and the clients they pitched to. Joseph seemed unsure about telling the client that the market research feedback was positive – which was not 100% true – but in the pitch seemed comfortable enough doing so. 

Lord Sugar expects honesty, so we’ll see whether the candidates can tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the interviews next week.

Focus on the USP

The products were supposed to be health focused. When producing a product with such a specific purpose, it’s important to ensure that purpose is communicated clearly in the way the product is executed, as well as in the packaging.

Richard missed the point on the vegetable crisps by removing the word ‘raw’ from the brand, despite Vana pointing out and the nutritionist agreeing that this is a USP of the brand. Meanwhile, on Charlene’s team, the packet showed a woman who appeared to be enjoying some time outdoors, supposedly to evoke a feeling of freshness. But the gender of the model and the styling of the brand was quite feminine when the product was supposed to be targeted at both men and women. 

This demonstrated an important element of branding and product development: you need to have a clear specification and ensure that it’s communicated and documented across the whole team.

Prioritise your team

It was interesting to see how the teams split their groups of three. In Charlene’s team, one person worked on product and two on branding. In Brett’s team, two people worked on product and one on branding. This suggested to me that each team had a different opinion on which element of the task was most important.

Neither team managed to prove one approach better than the other but it does raise a key lesson about prioritisation. It’s crucial to identify which elements of the task are most important to the success of the task overall. The same applies to our day-to-day tasks as it does to a project like this and ensures everything we do helps the boat go faster.

In the end, Brett was fired and his integrity was commended by Lord Sugar. However, it was the wrong decision for me. Gary lacks entrepreneurial nous and Richard seems happy to dodge the bullet wherever possible. Also, Lord Sugar already has a digital marketing partner in Mark Wright. Next, the interviews... 

About the Author

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell

There can't be many people better positioned than Campbell to do some due diligence on this year's Apprentice candidates. Company Check, which he founded in 2011, is the UK's most-used online business data provider, enabling businesses to quickly and easily understand the companies with whom they work. So make sure you check out his entrepreneurial insights on every episode of this year's series.  

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