Apprentice Week 9 – Getting in tune with Lord Sugar

Apprentice Week 9 – Getting in tune with Lord Sugar

I think I’ve been missing the point in this series of The Apprentice. Lord Sugar is not looking for someone who is a good team player, has persuasive, influential communication and is a natural leader. He’s looking to back an entrepreneur, someone who is so driven and single minded that they won’t allow anything to get in their way. Meet Melody, who seems to fit the bill. If this is what Lord Sugar is looking for, then she is tailor made. I’ve obviously been singing from the wrong hymn sheet in this blog. Time to get in tune with Lord Sugar and understand the Melody.

According to Lord Sugar’s autobiography, “What you see is what you get”, entrepreneurs are born not made. It comes from within, not from outside. Natural entrepreneurs see opportunities where others don’t, and have the drive to see it through. Lord Sugar must see something in Melody that I don’t, because she represents everything I despise in business; she’s been shown to change the facts to suit herself and she doesn’t care about anyone else. Notice how she always positions herself at the front when Lord Sugar is present. Last night, she even insisted on quickly getting dressed and looking presentable when Lord Sugar descended on the house unexpectedly. It amazes me that Lord Sugar’s lap dogs, Nick and Karen don’t seem to see what the TV audience sees. Perhaps they do ,and it’s me who’s got it wrong?

And yet, Melody does have some good business instincts. She was quite correct last night that Zoe’s team Logic biscuit “Bix-Mix” had unclear marketing – the messages were contradictory, and the target customer confused. However, Melody contributed to Logic losing the task. She and Tom were despatched to a biscuit factory to produce a recipe and try it out on a focus group. The pair could not agree on a recipe, so took several choices to a focus group. Melody’s idea of “biscuits are the new popcorn” bombed and she sulked. Tom’s second choice of a 2-in-1 biscuit prevailed. Melody declared “I don’t like that”. She was right; it was poor, but her abrassive style failed to get her point across, and Melody was this week’s most hated person for Zoe (she has a new one every week) so she was over ruled.

Zoe, as PM had wanted to go to the factory, after all this is what she has been successful with before The Apprentice (a drinks factory). Zoe allowed herself to be bullied out of this, and when team Logic lost the task, it was due to a poor product. I suspect that Zoe and Melody were happy to be as far apart as possible. The decision not to go to the factory ultimately cost her, as none of the 3 supermarkets placed any orders and Zoe was fired. The fact that Logic had used a bizarre role play to start their pitches, another of Melody’s ideas, didn’t help.

Tem Venture were led by the redoubtable Helen, now undefeated in 9 weeks and outright favourite. Helen has the drive of Melody, but has the influential communication skills to bring others with her. Helen and Jim seemed to be on the same wavelength, but Natasha seemed to be pushed to the margins. Ultimately, the task to design and sell a biscuit was won by Venture thanks to some outrageous promisess made at a pitch to Asda, who demanded exclusivity and ordered 800,000. Lord Sugar seemed unhappy with Jim’s tactics, but he couldn’t disagree with the outcome.

Was it right that Zoe was fired? Yes, because she never got to grips with Melody. She should have put personalities to one side and gone with Melody to the factory. She would have been in an environment she is familiar with, and could have kept an eye on Melody. But Zoe is very emotional, and quite prepared to challenge others. Except Melody, who she disliked but couldn’t bully.

So, the series is shaping up ino a battle of the driven ladies. The contrast in styles between Helen (influential communicator, assertive) and Melody (single minded, win at all costs) is plain to see. But which style is best suited for Lord Sugar’s business partner?

Time will tell.

 

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One Response to Apprentice Week 9 – Getting in tune with Lord Sugar

  1. Tim says:

    Good observations, Mark. I’ve been saying all along that the nature of the prize means that Sugar is looking for a slightly different sort of Apprentice this year. It’s no coincidence that three of the final six – Tom, Susan and Melody – have set up their own businesses. In previous years, each could easily have been fired by now: Tom for being unassertive, Susan for being naive and easily bullied, and Melody for being a bully who is to teamwork what I am to NASA’s space programme.

    Melody certainly has a lot of the qualities of a good entrepreneur. She has huge amounts of drive and self-belief – even in the face of evidence to the contrary – and she is utterly ruthless. In many ways, she reminds me a bit of Richard Branson, who also has a reputation for being a childish bully in his business dealings – but he gets things done.

    She certainly has some good instincts, but she makes a lot of mistakes too. She was wrong to talk Zoe out of going to the factory. She made a terrible call dissing the booster seat backpack. And she pursued unprofitable time-wasting deals in the rubbish task. I wouldn’t let her near a commercial business environment. But in terms of what she does for a living in the market space she operates in, I am sure she is very good at what she does – and it is ultimately this Sugar will invest in.

    Despite her 9-0 record and her undoubted strengths, I have my doubts whether Helen is truly an entrepreneur. Melody is. But, like you, I cannot stand her. Which is why I’m sticking with my original call of Tom.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/06/30/the-apprentice-helen-still-the-special-star-as-bix-mix-gets-nixed/

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