Ten business tips from the X Factor

1.) Mum's not always right

The number of completely deluded people who routinely appear on X Factor is astonishing. These contestants claim that their parents, partners, friends and colleagues have all told them they have a great voice. But it's never true. As @LifeofPip points out via Twitter: "Seek honest, objective criticism to improve on before the big day. Just 'cause your mom says you can sing doesn't mean you can."

2.) Always prepare

On Saturday's X factor, Katie Waissel told the cameras that she had prepared extensively for her audition. And yet, when Simon Cowell dismissed her original song choice, she was completely thrown. Granted, it was a tough break. She had planned to sing Etta James' At Last, and aced her rendition of that song later. But she had also claimed to be a huge Freddie Mercury fan - right before forgetting the words to We Are The Champions. The lesson: Don't just rely on Plan A, have a Plan B and even a Plan C up your sleeve. And don't just rely on your innate talent - or gift of the gab - to help you wing it. As Satish Jayakumar, co-founder and COO of online ad exchange AdJug points out:  "It's not enough to just believe. Commitment, experience and results are clearly what separate the winners from the losers."

3.) Aim big

What do all X Factor contestants have in common? Big dreams. When group Diva Features was asked where they would see themselves in six years, they responded: "Performing at the Superbowl at half time." That's thinking big. There's no point setting low targets if you want to build a growing, successful business. The trick is to challenge yourself, while being realistic. Few X factor hopefuls have mastered this knack.

4.) Choose your partners wisely

Heed the cautionary tale of double act G&S (Gay and Straight). Peter and Caroline performed Journey's Don't Stop Believing' as a duet on Saturday, but it soon became apparent that Peter was, quite franky, terrible. "Strangling cats," I believe was Louis Walsh's summation. At Cheryl Cole's insistence, Caroline had a bash at singing on her own. The difference in quality was vast. Be careful in choosing your business partners, especially when they're your friends. With the best will in the world, they could just hold you back.

5.) Personality goes a long way

Smarta does not have the words to describe Shirlena Johnson's rendition of Duffy's Mercy on Saturday's show. Let's just say, it was... different. Nevertheless, the single mum has made it to the second round simply by virtue of her personality. "You're completely crazy. I love you," said a usually stony-faced Simon Cowell. Don't be afraid to show a little character in business. Sure, you won't offend anyone by being conservative and sensible, but you won't be very memorable either.

6.) Take risks

The real star of last week's show was Zimbabwe-born Gamu Ngengu. The 18-year old wowed judges with her rendition of Katrina & The Waves' Walking on Sunshine. But she took a big risk in changing the lyrics and reinterpreting the vocals. It could have backfired horribly. Instead, she received four 'yes's from the judges and a whole raft of compliments from Cowell: "I really, really like you," he said.

7.) Never beg

Begging never works on the X Factor. If the judges don't like your performance, no amount of pleading and crying will change their minds. It's the people who thank the judges for their comments and leave the stage with heads held high that come off the best. The same is true in business. Sarah Downham had this to say in our Smarta forum: "Know when to walk away! I can't believe how many of those awful acts will continue to argue their case when they're clearly not going to get through! If someone's not interested in investing in your product, try to convince them by all means, but don't argue with them! Ultimately it's their decision, and their loss!"

8.) There's no substitute for "face to face"

Pop trio Jahm could be the worst group I have ever witnessed on the X Factor. Props to the editor for including their whole audition - Jahm absolutely murdered Lady Gaga's hit Bad Romance - although the autotune did take the edge of the caterwauling. The group formed via the internet, with rehearsals taking place over the phone and via Skype. It showed. Sometimes, to really test whether there's a good fit between a business and a supplier, or prospective employee, there really is no substitute for a bit of face to face.

9.) London isn't the be all and end all

Comparing the London and Glasgow auditions side by side threw up some interesting points. Firstly, the quality of the performances in Scottish city was markedly higher than down in the Big Smoke. There may be a higher concentration of businesses in the south east, but this in no way reflects the quality and expertise found in firms based elsewhere in the UK.

10.) Don't lie

There have been a couple of stories in the press this week about X Factor contestants who have been caught telling whoppers. Katie Waissel may yet be disqualified for failing to mention a possible record deal with a US label Chamberlain Records, while 'crazy' Shirlena Johnson has lost her place in the Miss Great Britain beauty pageant after it was revealed she was too old to take part (the competition is only open to 18-28 year-olds).  Johnson also faces the chop from X Factor after it was revealed she, well, actually suffers from severe mental illness. Entrepreneurs would do well to remember that, in this digital age, liars always get caught. Don't inflate your financials or your experience: your little white lies may well come back to haunt you.


Written by Rebecca Burn-Callander


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