Lessons from trying to set up a business you’re not an expert in

Last week’s The Apprentice show saw Lord Sugar set the candidates a project of running their own handy man business for a couple of days. His reasoning was that he wants an all-rounder in a business partner. Well this task certainly sorted out the chaff from the wheat! In this article I wanted to share with you some take aways that I think are valuable business lessons for anyone who’s thinking of starting up or running a small business already.

I’m guessing that Lord Sugar thinks it must be quite easy for everyone to do DIY and odd jobs. Looking at the shock on the candidates faces, you would guess that most of them would probably be ideal customers for a handy man.

There were two candidates that shone in this task and lucky for the rest of them they were on different teams. What was special about the two shining candidates was they were already in the building business, so they knew how to estimate the costs and time and therefore quote fairly competitive prices. They were within their comfort zone.

As for the sub-teams left to the own devices with absolutely no knowledge or inkling of what might be involved in each of the jobs, never mind carry them out, I almost felt sorry for them.

You had one young chap ‘Giveitago’ – enthusiastic and willing to bluff his way through, but absolutely shouldn’t be let anywhere near a paint brush or screw driver, as he was totally inept and in normal circumstances (i.e. off camera) if a shop sign had been painted on accidentally, the shop keeper would be demanding compensation to have a professional put it right, not just deducting money from the agreed fee!

Then you had ‘Nocluegirl’ who quoted the same shop keeper £10 an hour for the services of all three of her sub team.

Doesn’t that say it all? Surely the shop keeper should have had huge warning bells ringing? What handy man works for £10 an hour, never mind three of them?

Hardly surprising that at the end of the project, Lord Sugar fired three of the candidates, when we expect just one to go.

For me it proved that not everyone is good at everything and it’s impossible to get experience of everything you might end up doing in your business.

Each candidate is vying for Lord Sugar’s investment for a 50% share of their business idea. The programme doesn’t reveal what the candidates business ideas are (until 3 or 4 candidates are left in the process), so I think some of the projects Lord Sugar sets are completely unnecessary or irrelevant. Not everyone’s business idea involves the skills he’s testing for.

What I’ve learnt through my business journey is that you don’t have to be good at everything in your business. In fact, the most successful businesses I work with aren’t and they recognise their short-comings and get someone in to do the stuff they’re not good at.

Web design, email marketing – they’re not difficult. Anyone, in theory, can do them. Just like gardening and painting. But if you want them done well so that your business looks professional and high end, and it’s not your strength, then you hire someone to do it.

And you get what you pay for – pay £10 an hour for three jokers to paint your shop front, you’ll end up with a bad looking shop front. Pay an expert their expert fee and you’ll get a professional quality result.

Anyway, here’s a funny rap about the whole episode.

handymanrap

And in case you missed it, you can watch the episode on iPlayer and here’s a condensed version with honest sub-titles (it’s hilarious).

Love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

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