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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 show.

By Elena Carruthers. Published 25 January 2023.

With The Apprentice returning to our screens, it raises the question of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Pro Vice Chancellor, Marco Mongiello, and Director of The University of Law Business School, Andres Perez, have created a list of top tips for running a business (and common mistakes the contestants make year-on-year).

Collaboration is key

It’s safe to say that 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.

Embrace constructive criticism

Feedback is a critical part of professional development. When you’re receiving it, listen, adapt, and don’t take it personally as many contestants do. If the outcome of a situation is unclear and feedback isn’t provided, make sure to be proactive and ask so that you can use it as a learning experience.

Similarly, if you’re giving out feedback to a peer or employee, always be constructive and 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 must be qualified and bully tactics must never be adopted.

Understand the impact of your personal brand

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

From outrageous tag lines to distinctive clothing and polarising opinions, there’s plenty of bravado on show every year. 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 a selection of our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The CMI has 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 advise aspiring entrepreneurs to 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 compelling and distinctive personal brand is all about being warm, sincere, and enthusiastic.

Be comfortable with digital technologies

In today’s digital world, it has never been more important to be proficient in the art of digital technology. This is essential to running efficient business operations across the board, as well as driving innovation. Get familiar with the basic tools and systems you’ll be using regularly, and also take time to research new forms of digital technology which will complement your business objectives and drive growth.

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, engage with 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.

Remember to prioritise self-care

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, engaging in exercise, or meditation to relax at the end of the day, entrepreneurs shouldn’t compromise their health, their relations or wellbeing. The more stressed and tired you become, the more mistakes you’re likely to make.

Suss out the stats

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.

Network, network, network

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 the luxury of being on television, it’s still important to build a robust network within the industry. Attend events in person where possible and optimise the benefits of social networking sites such as LinkedIn to stay in the know and build effective relationships.


For more information about how The University of Law Business School can help you get work-ready, visit our website.