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Media Consultant & Journalist Fiona Scott's Apprentice Review. Ep.11

This week’s episode was the interview week with the five remaining candidates. It’s always fairly brutal because it’s tv and also because we see an edited version of the forensic way in which the interviewers – Mike Soutar, Claudine Collins, Linda Plant and Claude Littner – go through their business plans.

As an avid viewer, I’ve gone on a journey and formed opinions about candidates however you don’t get the full picture of their business ideas until this week. There have been a few hints yet nothing too concrete. 

What struck me this time was the poor quality of the business plans when it came to the financials. I’m no ace when it comes to money, however even I can do an estimated budget, work out potential costs set against some predictions around income, especially if my business plan rests on a business which is already trading. If I was in that hot seat, I’d fully expect my financials to be questioned – however I would not expect to present a plan with no figures. Or in Lottie’s case, no costs listed at all. 

As these interviewers really delve into the business ideas, another thing which came across was the emotional connection us small business people have with our own companies. Clearly this is something I see and feel daily. Both Scarlett and Pamela had lots of tears – in Pamela’s case it became quite cringeworthy. However when you’ve worked really hard to create a business – large or small – and it’s dissected in this way, it hurts. It really hurts. 

This programme should show viewers a glimpse of what it takes personally to try to run your own business: the decision to do it, the time it takes and the effort and the juggling act around other responsibilities to a partner or caring commitments. It’s hard work and it’s an act of bravery to even begin, in my view. 

What did come out pretty quickly was that Lewis’s plan was the weakest – assuming his skill in digital marketing would translate to becoming a tour operator. He had no experience in the travel and tourism industry and hadn’t even visited some of the places he was offering as destinations. Does this matter? For me it does. 

You may be a whizz at digital marketing however if you have no idea of the likely experience of your customers, if you haven’t felt it yourself, you are more likely to run out of steam when the going gets tough. I know Lewis has gone on to launch his tourist company – my suspicion is that he will either succeed through trusted partnerships where the passion comes from a third party, or it won’t work or he’ll get bored. 

Lottie. What can I say about Lottie Lion. She has irritated and annoyed me throughout the process – however she has been one of the characters of this series. She has added colour alongside Thomas for opposing reasons. They are like two stereotypes – the hyper-posh woman who eats truffles for breakfast and the ‘Del Boy’ market trader who has a fry-up at the local caff. 

Lottie’s insufferable ‘know it all’ attitude to everything has alienated her on screen from many others. Across the whole process the only candidates who kept her in check were Carina and Scarlett (no surprise to me that they are two finalists). 

Her business idea of creating some kind of elite club for wealthy females who speak the Queen’s English did get some traction. It had the ring of a rural equivalent of a ‘gentleman’s club’ – something with a traditional, Victorian and outdated feel. At the end of the day though it’s still an event company running all-female networking events. With Lottie judging which females fit the bill. For me, it makes me want to vomit, however I would never be the target market. I’d be absolutely compelled to wear jeans to any event like that, just for the hell of it. 

Pamela came a little more into focus this week for her beauty brand. For the first time, I felt her passion and her pain around her business. She’s had success, bad luck and she’s got on with it. In the end though it was too small fry for Lord Sugar. 

Lewis, Lottie and Pamela all said their goodbyes – leaving Scarlett with her recruitment service for C-Suite execs and Carina with her vision of taking her existing business and creating a bakery empire. I predict Carina will take the crown – or they will be joint winners. Both have shone throughout the process, both have been passionate and both have spoken up when they needed to. 

Lessons from this week’s show: 

  • A business plan needs to include numbers – you must have some idea of costs and the income needed to cover those costs and generate profit.
  • Starting a new business in a sector you don’t know will be harder, take longer and you may run out of steam before you have any success.
  • Running your own business will affect every aspect of your life – don’t kid yourself that you can separate it from your private life.
  • Answer questions honestly, don’t try to hide or cover up when you’ve left something out or done something wrong. 
  • Just because an investor doesn’t buy into your business idea, it doesn’t mean it won’t work. It simply means it’s not for them. In the end, success depends upon the creator and their passion and commitment. 
Fiona Scott Media Consultancy Swindon

Scott Media

Scott Media is run by a UK-based journalist with more than 20 years' experience in the media - print, radio and television.

6 Gold View, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN5 8GZ

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