Maybe I’ve watched ‘The Apprentice’ too much but I can’t help but be inspired by the way that everyone learns from the experience of going out and designing a product or making a sale with little experience of the market and under the pressure of a tight deadline. I’m sure there is some pretty clever editing involved in the programme but the fact remains that the guys who are set the challenge always learn something from it about business, and learn something about themselves in the process too.
Some things just have to be experienced to be understood properly. You can test this assumption yourself by conducting a mini survey about cycling.
I’d estimate that around 100% of the people you ask – who can ride a bicycle- will have learned how to do so by practicing on one. I predict you won’t find a single person who has learned to ride by hearing a lecture, reading a book or getting advice from a friend about how to ride, then got on a bike and successfully at their first attempt. Knowledge of theory is helpful but it needs to be teamed with experience.
Now, allow me to introduce our very own ‘Apprentices’ Frank & Felix.
They’re coming towards the end of their vocational training in carpentry and both are expected to do really well. They have become accomplished at constructing all manner of things from wood: from coffee tables to window frames; from cupboards to bunk beds – these guys have all the practical skills and the technical know how. What they have had less opportunity to experience is pricing, selling and customer service. So – borrowing an idea from the TV show – we sent them into town with a load of peanuts to see whether they could rise to the challenge and turn the nuts into cash.
The task required that they make a number of decisions, such as – choosing location, deciding whether to work together or split up to cover more ground, setting a price – should they try and undercut competition for quick sales? – or should try and maximise their profit and earn more from their stock? How they interacted with customers, and what they learned about who and where they might find potential customers provided them with really valuable experiences. As Frank and Felix enter the final weeks of their apprenticeship we are convinced that this nutty experience will have given them valuable insights and self-confidence to help them decide whether they are ready to take the plunge and set up their very own business.