APPRENTICE 2011: Entrepreneur Simon Duffy reviews episode nine

It's hard to imagine a more straightforward task than last night's challenge, and any Apprentice-wannabe worth her hobnobs should have been able to ace this one.

Last night I was hoping to see candidates learn from the mistakes made during the similar pet food task in week five. Surely, one of the teams would follow some sort of sensible process, but no the usual chaos prevailed. It must be tempting to rush headlong into this and that, but ultimately, having a clear goal would have helped everyone to be more efficient in delivering on their individual roles.

Both groups identified an eating time, which is not a bad place to begin, and either 'after-school treats' or 'premium shared snacking' should have provided a sufficient platform to generate great brand ideas and product ideas from.

Concepts aside, it was Jim's winning pitch to ASDA that proved decisive. I can't help but think that Lord Sugar should have been much clearer in defining the parameters for this task, as perhaps it was Jim's gung-ho promise of a heavyweight Harry Potter inspired marketing campaign that proved the decisive swing factor. We'll never know.

Lord Sugar valued Jim's campaign at £20-£30m pounds worth of activity in the boardroom. In this context, an opening order of 800,000 units in a low margin category like biscuits would deliver only a very small fraction of the costs of Jim's proposed marketing investment. Either he has deep pockets, or he would have been picking over the crumbs of his bankrupt biscuit business within a few weeks.

Back on Planet Earth, pitching to major retailers is a much more daunting and demanding activity. I can clearly remember our first Bulldog pitch to Sainsbury's. My stomach was churning and both Rhodri and I were feeling the pressure of having quit our jobs more than a year previously and pouring all our savings into a yet unproven idea. Luckily for us, Sainsbury's shared our vision for natural skincare for men. Following several further meetings, in-depth due-diligence on our supply chain and formulations, and a detailed range review process, we were thrilled when we learned that Bulldog would be launching nationwide in July 2007.

Upon reflection on my own experience, I guess I can see the temptation of Jim's bravado. He would have said anything in order to get the deal. In reality, however, this is a very short-sighted policy and he would have been found out very quickly.

Aspiring entrepreneurs probably ask me more about our experiences pitching Bulldog than anything else. My advice is always consistent and is the opposite of Jim's approach. It's much better to focus on what makes your product unique and great, and to respect and value your audience by telling the truth. Be open about the opportunities and challenges you face.

As a small supplier hoping to take on some of the biggest product companies in the world, it's crucial to build a collaborative working relationship with your buyer founded on trust and a shared goal for your brand. Retailers such as Sainsbury's, Waitrose and ASDA are brilliant at what they do, so don't think for a second that you can get away with failing to follow through on what you promise. And as for role-play as a good idea to begin a first meeting, don't even get me started.

So while Thomas' soggy biscuit ruined Zoe's day, yet again the golden kit-kat ends up with the irrepressible Helen. She's been absolutely dominant so far this series and I now have little doubt that she will come out on top in a few weeks time.

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