As an entrepreneur, you must learn how to “wing it” and think on the spot

Lord Sugar’s business partner Alana Spencer, winner of The Apprentice 2016, speaks about how “winging it” can make or break a business sales pitch

As an entrepreneur

The teams performed a marketing task this week, creating a bespoke toy to pitch to John Lewis toy stores and Hamley’s. I was really surprised to see such a big task so early on. During my time at The Apprentice, we had to make gin and pitch it to Tesco’s but it didn’t come until right towards the end of the competition. So, this was a big task at week three for the contestants. It seems that Lord Sugar really wanted to test them early.

They started off with figuring out team names. Again, this is a bit change of the format and they’ve done this for a few years now. Usually they get them to pick names right at the beginning. But it’s quite a nice twist for them to have to pick them a bit further on into the process because people feel a bit more comfortable with each other and can start working together and suggesting ideas to each other. I think people are a bit shy in the first task, but I don’t know If “shy” and “The Apprentice” quite go together though. The teams picked empower and unison as team names, which I think I find very standard Apprentice names.

I was quite excited to see Pamela step up and put herself forward for the task. She is quite a successful entrepreneur anyway and already has quite a nicely established business, it was exciting to see her lead. We haven’t seen too much of her so it was good to see a bit more of her right from the get go. Although this had to be Louis’ task. It did not make sense that he wasn’t picked, maybe not as project manager but at least sub-team leader. He should have been a lot more involved. I was happy to see what Pamela had to show but disappointed Lewis wasn’t able to have more of a fundamental role in the task.

On the other team, we had Ryan as project manager and it completely made sense that he would take the lead on this task. He worked with a card business, which I believe he wants investment for, so it totally made sense for him to be the project manager. And to be honest, I think he was quite a good leader overall. He didn’t push anyone to the side. And I think Pamela did that a little bit on her end, so in contrast, he was a good leader and he knew what he wanted from his team. I think he did an okay job.

The two products created were the My Little Pony slime toy and Tommy the Talking Turtle. I think Tommy the Talking Turtle should have actually won but I think the reason was because they didn’t hit the brief. In a real-life scenario, you would realise you created a great product and then pitch it for a different age range.

I appreciate that wasn’t the brief given by Lord Sugar. But I think if they had accepted their failure to hit the brief and told the retailer ‘Look, we think we’ve created a really great product for a four-year-old’ then potentially they could have brought in sales. I think it was the fact that they were pushing the toy for an eight-year-old customer when it blatantly wasn’t. I don’t think any eight-year-old would walk around with that on their hand but a four-year-old would. And actually, it was quite a nice toy for a young child that lacked confidence. Overall, it was a great product they created – but not for the brief unfortunately.

The other team hit the brief in terms of the age but in my opinion, they made a very average toy. It kind of reminded me a little bit of a hybrid of a Poly Pocket and a My Little Pony and I wasn’t very blown away by it in all honesty. However, it was colourful, it was eye-catching and it had not only sort of vibrant colours to it. There was an element of being interactive with the slime so they did tick a few boxes. I was also really so impressed with Iasha’s “blagging” or “winging it”, as she calls it, in the pitch. I think as an entrepreneur, one of the skills you really do have to have is the ability to wing it. And it was good to see her showing off that skill in the pitch. And ultimately, that is pretty much one them this task. She got them to buy into the idea and the concept to tie it all together, making them sort of get behind the whole thing. So, she should be really proud for that because I think that was what carried them through. I watched one of the funniest bits of television in a long time and that was Tom’s mimicking a really thick cockney accent for the turtle’s voice. I found that very funny, that had me in stitches.

Inevitably, I was shocked when it came to the winning team. I think the other team created a much better product in terms of all of the elements to it. The team led by Pamela created a far more one- dimensional product but they didn’t hit the brief. So, they ultimately lost.

Lord Sugar brought back Souleyman and Lottie. From what I’ve seen with Lottie so far is that she is quite a challenging character. He said the reason he brought her back in is because she began with the negatives of the feedback before touching on the positives, which I get. But I think there were other small things like that from her that led to the failure of the task. I think Lottie is potentially not getting on with people and so is an easy target when it comes to being picked for the board room. That being said, it isn’t a good thing to say the negatives of a product with a pitch. You have to be honest in a pitch, that is true. But if you bring up negatives, you have to back it up with either what you’re going to do to rectify that or why that is turned around into a positive and she didn’t do that.

As with Souleyman, he did seem like quite a negative character in this task. I don’t think we’ve necessarily seen him be negative during the whole process but mainly when they were filming the viral video advert and I could kind of understand that – you’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re dressed as a turtle and told to repeat a dance over and over again. So, I can see why he would look slightly frustrated. But you need to be able to switch it on when the camera is rolling and the task is going. It’s only the ones that are able to kind of get through such a gruelling task that get to the end. And I think potentially he was getting a bit frustrated because he was not getting listened to and that made him a bit grumpy. I think maybe he just had a bad day and it sort of reflected badly on him.

I think if I was Lord Sugar and I had to choose between the three of them, in all honesty, I don’t think we’ve seen enough of them to know just yet. But I think anyone of those three could have gone – and it wouldn’t have been a huge loss. I think the one out of those three that is probably going to do the best in the competition Lottie just because she is such a force. However, she could trip herself up with rubbing too many people the wrong way. If anyone of those three could have gone, it was probably Souleyman’s time. But I think the other team should have lost and someone else from that team should have gone.

Alana Spencer
Alana Spencer

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