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What ‘The Apprentice’ Tells Us About Business Plans

So Sunday will mark the final of the 12th series of The Apprentice (UK). The show is a reality format based on Donald Trump’s show where candidates face off for the chance to get a job with, or investment from, a successful entrepreneur. In this case, it’s Lord Alan Sugar. The program is one that can teach us a lot about business, and the fundamental mistakes many aspiring entrepreneurs make.




When it comes to the semi-final stage, the candidates have to submit their business plans that they’ve had since the first day. And these are scrutinized by a team of experts for flaws and issues. We can learn a lot about what makes a great business plan by looking at where people on this show go wrong. There are so many basic mistakes that people make every single year. So, let’s look at some of the most important things we can learn about business plans from The Apprentice.


Background to the Company


Okay, the first thing you need to do in your business plan is to make sure you give a bit of background. It’s important for the person or persons reading the plan to understand who you are and what you’re about. And the best way of doing this is to give some background and context to the company. This is something you have to make sure you do early on, probably close to the start. It should be informative and yet concise. That’s why you need to make sure you give pertinent information about when the company was formed, and what you’ve accomplished so far. But you also need to make sure it’s not pages and pages that are going to bore or annoy readers.


Know Your Brand


You also have to make sure you know your brand inside out. This means knowing everything about your company, and being able to answer any question about your brand. This is something we see a lot of the candidates in The Apprentice struggling with on a regular basis. They can’t seem to answer questions about their business, and this makes them come across as unprofessional. Be sure you know and understand your brand. The business plan should be written in such a way that illustrates you know your brand like the back of your hand. If you can get this right, you will present a much better and more organized business plan.




Understand the Market


The most important thing any budding entrepreneur can do is understand the market they are targeting. If you don’t have at least a basic grasp of the market how can you expect to be successful? You need to know how it fluctuates, what the buying patterns are, and who your target audience is. This is one of the things you need to make sure you focus on the most when you craft your business plan. It’s really important that you illustrate you understand and “get” the market you are trying to target. Again, many of the people on The Apprentice seem to show little to no understanding of what the process entails.


What Makes Your Product Worth Investment?


Consider as well what it is that makes your products so investable. What makes you different to all the other businesses out there? What can you do to stand out from the crowd and present the most attractive business possible? First of all, think about how you present and package your products. This means looking at packaging items for wholesale and considering their branding you use. You have to present and provide attractive looking, high-quality products that people will want to buy. Try to give yourself an edge over the competition by developing the best products you possibly can for the company. And you need to understand what it is that makes them different and unique if you’re going to drum up interest.


Growth is Key


The winner of The Apprentice is almost always the person who understands businesses the best. And they understand their own business plan absolutely. Many of the candidates who come into the process do so owning companies already. And the winner will usually have given a lot of thought to business growth. Think about it, if someone is going to invest in your company, they are going to want to know that the business has scope for growth. Small businesses with little to no ambition are not attractive to investors. Stop, you need to understand that growth is key, and you have to figure out how you are going to facilitate this growth in your business. Make sure your business plan details precisely how you are going to grow as a business in the future.




Figures, Figures, Figures


Where everyone always seems to slip up on The Apprentice is when it comes to their figures. Now, you would think, as a business owner, knowing figures would be pretty important. And yet so many people don’t actually bother to get a good handle on their finances. The main focus of your business plan needs to be figures, figures, figures! It can’t be stressed enough just how important this actually is. You have to make sure you get your figures right and that you understand how finances work in business. Showing you know what you’re talking about here is the best way of instilling confidence and making people more inclined to invest in the business. You need to know what your turnover is, what your projected profit margins are, and the expenses you need to deal with.


What’s Your Turnover?

Talking of figures, it’s really important that you know and understand the turnover your company has made, and what they are projected to make. This is one of the key things that investors are going to want to see from you. As a small business owner, you have to be able to illustrate that your company is a viable proposition. Make sure you keep your company an attractive and promising option for the money men. This is something you have to make sure you work out and present in detail in your business plan. People need to know what they are getting themselves into and how your business is likely to affect them. And make sure you are honest and upfront about this as much as possible.

How Much Investment is Needed?

It’s also really crucial that you understand how much investment you need. In The Apprentice there is one amount, but it’s important to ensure you know where this money will go. And, if you are approaching other investors you’re going to have to have a figure in mind. This means working out how much money you’re going to need, and what you want to do with it. Investors don’t want to feel like their cash is going to be wasted. They need clear and concise information about what to expect from your company, and what you’re going to be using their money for. Figure this out in great depth before you actually go ahead with writing the business plan and applying for any substantial investment.

Don’t be Overly Ambitious

You have to be ambitious in business; this is really important. It’s something that you have to have as a business owner. That drive and desire to accomplish big things and take your business to great places is really important. But, you also need to have realistic expectations, especially at the embryonic stage of starting a business. And that’s why you have to curb the impulse to try to do everything. You need to avoid a business plan that says ‘I want to do this! And this, and this, and this….’ The problem is that it means you don’t have a clear focus and you are evidently trying to bite off more than you can chew. Keep focused and driven toward the goal you want for your business, and make sure you are never trying to do too much.


Staff play a massive role in any business these days, and you need to make sure they are a big part of yours. At the moment you might be happy running your company on your own. And this is something a lot of people wind up doing, to begin with. But, eventually, if you want to company to grow, you’re going to need staff to help you. That’s why it is important to make sure you have enough employees to help the company run effectively. And you need to detail this in your business plan to make sure you have all the staff your company will need to grow. This is an important area because you will have to work out things like salary, training and all sorts of other things as the business owner. Make sure you have a section in your business plan that details the staff you will need.

One of the best investments you can make is setting up your own business, but you’ll need an epic business plan to do this. As you can see, there are a lot of sections of the business that need to be covered in the business plan. It’s important to be as detailed as possible because this will help you present a more organized and professional brand. Make sure you learn from the mistakes of budding entrepreneurs, like those on The Apprentice, and do as much as you can to make the best possible business plan.

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