FIVE LESSONS FROM THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF
This week a 20 year old accountancy student became the youngest ever winner of the Great British Bake Off.* During the first episode, I thought that this young man, Peter, was a gifted baker but unlikely to win. It takes an experienced baker, I thought, to get through the rigours of this show. The young seem to wilt in the heat of the Bake Off tent.
I should have known better. I know from entrepreneurial life that it isn’t just age and experience that counts. And it got me thinking, what else might we learn from Bake Off about winning in business?
YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO BE VISIBLE
At one point during the final episode, one of the show’s hosts followed Peter around the kitchen pretending to film him on his phone and asking how he was going to cope with being famous when the show ended.
It was a light-hearted moment in the midst of a tense finale but it was a valid question. Bake Off is watched by between 7 and 10 million people in the UK each week. That’s a great deal of visibility and it can come at a cost but if you want to compete and you want to win, then you have to be prepared to pay that price.
Similarly, if you want to grow your business you are going to need to get visible. You don’t need to attain Bake Off levels of fame, but you will need to remove your apron, step out of your kitchen and show your face. From doing Facebook Lives or stepping up to do PR: visibility is central to building your brand and your client base.
YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was as measured in their feedback as Prue Leith? ‘Perhaps a touch too much cinnamon but that’s a wonderful pastry.’ Sadly, most of our critics are a little more like Paul Hollywood… ‘That’s bordering on inedible.’
When faced with the equivalent of Mr Hollywood’s piercing gaze, you have three options: ignore, defend or learn. In the Bake Off tent, winning contestants choose option 3: to learn.
In business I may ignore (block and delete) the unwanted opinions of a troll on Twitter; and I might take the opinions of well-meaning friends with a pinch of salt (or vanilla infused sugar). But if the person offering me feedback has expertise, experience and knowledge of my field; if they have walked the path that I am on and achieved success on it then I get out my notebook and pen!
YOU NEED DISCIPLINE AND FOCUS
To be a master baker at the age of 20 you have got to be determined, passionate and focused. According to reports from the Bake Off tent, Peter practiced his bakes day and night – perfecting his crème pat and his rough puff pastry long after the other contestants had given up and gone to bed.
Now, I am not advocating that you forgo sleep! I am a great advocate of taking care of your needs BUT you do need determination and focus if you’re going to grow a successful business.
I was recently speaking to a client I’ve been working with on and off for a year – during which time her business has grown by nearly 400%. When I asked her what had made the biggest difference, she said ‘discipline and focus’.
YOU NEED A PLAN
For several weeks during Bake Off this year, patisserie specialist Ermine was the firm favourite to win. So much so that there were wails of outrage and screams of ‘She was robbed’ across the country when she crashed out of the competition.
I agree. It was a harsh call. BUT Ermine made a fundamental mistake in the semi-final – she didn’t have a plan. In fact, she had had a plan but the night before the competition she abandoned it and went on the show and attempted to create her showstopper with no plan and having never actually practiced her bake. IN THE SEMI-FINAL.
Now I am a fan of planning. And I recognise the need to sometimes deviate from or event re-write a plan entirely when events overtake us. But this was a self-inflicted wound – Ermine simply decided that her original plan wasn’t good enough and so changed her mind at the last minute. And without a plan, without step by step timed instructions, she was lost. She ran out of time, didn’t complete her bake and made basic errors under the pressure.
It’s the same in your business. You need a plan. You may need to detour and deviate from the route you’ve planned out for yourself but please – unless you have no choice – don’t attempt anything new or truly important (like a Bake Off semi-final or a new programme you’re delivering) without a plan and time to rehearse.
WE ALL NEED A SIGNATURE DISH
Each week on Bake Off the first challenge of the day is the Signature Challenge. Each baker is asked to create their signature variation on a standard bake eg: twelve mini quiches. The idea is that they each bring their own individual style and approach, informed by their personal history, their culture and their experience – creating something that is truly unique to them.
Your ‘signature bake’ in business is your unique proposition, your offer, your promise to the world and to your clients. It must be a true reflection of who you are, what you believe and what you stand for. It must be informed by your values and guided by your passions. And the more unmistakably, authentically YOU that this proposition is, the more likely you are to attract exactly the right clients towards you.
By the way, my signature dish is gluten free peanut butter and chocolate brownies 😊
Get visible. Learn from experts. Apply discipline and focus. Have a plan and be sure of your signature dish. Five lessons from Bake Off to apply to your business!
*If you’ve never watched the Great British Bake Off…well I don’t know what to say really. It’s a reality show with a tent, Smeg appliances, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and exceedingly good cakes. What more could you possibly ask for?
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