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Eight business lessons The Apprentice won’t teach you, according to the experts

The new series of BBC’s The Apprentice has just hit our screens, and if watching the contestants battle through challenges to be crowned this year’s winner has inspired you to launch your own business, there are a few things you should know, that you can’t learn from watching the TV.

With one of this year’s contestants having recently graduated from The University of Law, Dr Sara Fisher and Ioannis Dermitzakis from The University of Law Business School have created a list of their top tips for running a business (and common mistakes the contestants make year-on-year).

Don’t forget about teamwork

It’s safe to say The Apprentice is not known for the glowing examples of teamwork. It’s a competition after all, but as far as business is concerned, if you’re going to have any success you’ll need to prove you can work effectively with diverse groups of people.

We teach our students the importance of building high performing teams in order to achieve business goals, and that collaboration is a critical element of this, regardless of what industry you’re in.

Learn from your mistakes

Feedback is a critical part of professional development. When you’re receiving it, listen and adapt and don’t take it personally as many contestants do. If something hasn’t gone well and nobody is offering their feedback, be sure to ask for it.

Similarly, if you’re giving out feedback to a peer or employee always be constructive not destructive. A strong and honest feedback loop within an organisation is essential, but it should always remain focused around achieving business objectives - personal opinions and bully tactics should be left at the door.

Understand the impact of your ‘personal brand’

We all know that The Apprentice candidates appearing on our screens haven’t got this far without doing a pretty outstanding job at showcasing their ‘personal brand’ to the show’s producers.

From outrageous tag lines, distinctive clothing and polarising opinions, there’s plenty of bravado on show every year. But while this is effective and entertaining for the show, it’s important to represent yourself in a professional business context.

Here at The University of Law Business School, we work closely with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) who accredit our programmes. Recently, they’ve made a point of talking to our students about the importance of branding in today’s world, and how this consequently underlines the importance of creating a distinct personal brand they can be proud of.

Taking on board some of the CMI’s suggestions we’d advise aspiring entrepreneurs ensure that they share their enthusiasm and expertise with prospective investors and clients, while avoiding jargon and making sure they communicate clearly. Where The Apprentice contestants opt for a TV persona, a strong and distinctive personal brand is all about being warm, sincere and enthusiastic.

Know your market

Marketing is an essential part of any business challenge yet is so often forgotten by The Apprentice candidates. Do your research, speak to your target market and most importantly listen to them. If you’re not providing the right product, to the right market, at the right time and place, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Develop strategies to build your resilience

While The Apprentice is an intensive, competitive environment with long hours and plenty of pressure, the reality is that you need to look after your health in order to truly succeed. Whether it’s finding a quiet space to think, or engaging in exercise or meditation to relax at the end of the day, entrepreneurs shouldn’t compromise their health or wellbeing. The more stressed and tired you become, the more mistakes you’re likely to make.

Be organised

Being organised is important for all business ventures, but particularly so when working within a team. At The University of Law Business School, we always encourage our students to take a little time before group projects to discuss their approach together, decide a plan of action and ensure there are clear roles, responsibilities and expectations across the team – something that can get a little lost in The Apprentice, which leads to people throwing each other under the bus.

Understand the numbers

It’s not always everyone’s favourite part of the process, but you’re not going to get far in business without having a handle on your budgets. Understanding the business basics of costs, margins and profits will go a long way to improve the success of your business and should be a critical element of any business plan.

Develop your networks

The career opportunities offered to The Apprentice contestants are all very real and exciting. Even if they don’t receive the prize at the end, it’s great exposure and an effective way to broaden their network.

While most entrepreneurs don’t have this luxury, it’s still important to build a strong network within the industry. Attend events and optimise the benefits of social networks to stay in the know and build effective relationships.

For more information about how The University of Law Business School can help you get ready for the working world, visit our website.