The Apprentice Week 10 – Sorting out the wheat from the chaff

The Apprentice Week 10 – Sorting out the wheat from the chaff

This week we were down to the last 6 candidates. By the end of this episode, only 3 candidates are still in with a realistic chance of winning.

Tom, Helen and Melody made up team Logic, with Natasha, Jim and Susan in Venture. For Logic, Melody insisted on being PM, something she hadn’t done since week 1, and no one seemed prepared to argue. In Venture, Susan and Natasha vied to be team leader, with Jim eventually siding with Natasha as she had more passion. Yet again, Susan appeared to be dismissed. For many people it is amazing that Susan is still in the programme, and yet many “stronger” candidates have gone by the way.

The task was interesting, as it duplicated how Lord Sugar got started – buying items and selling them. The aim is to see what sells and keep replenishing stocks to keep the product moving. Neither team seemed to grasp this, despite being told.

“Strategy” such as it was involved deciding where to find suitable punters to sell to. Natasha packed Susan off to sell door to door in Knightsbridge, whilst she and Jim worked a market. Not surprisingly they had the greater success, but were they just trying to get Susan out of the way?

In Logic, Melody & Helen targeted retailers, surely a flawed plan, as they will want to make a margin of their own? Tom (also sidelined?) was sent off to the South Bank, selling “nodding dogs”, with good results.

So here is where the teams lost track of the tasks, with both Jim and Tom telling their PMs they needed to replenish the fast moving items and being rebuffed by their conservative PMs. Chaos ensued.

By the end of Day 1, Susan was off doing her own thing, buying jewellery she knew would sell, but without permission. Over in Logic, things were even worse, with Helen attempting a coup early on Day 2 suggesting that Melody step aside as she had no “strategy”. Helen’s alternative was to target retailers and to try and sell larger volumes. This completely missed the point and the brief that Lord Sugar had given the teams! True to her character Melody refused to step aside. The lady is not for turning.

It was noticeable that both teams were fractured, with people looking out for themselves. Remember my favoured leadership model (Adair – Action Centred Leadership) is about getting the balance ringht between the Task, the Team and the Individual. Both Natasha and Melody were found wanting. It seemed this week’s challenge would be decided by which team lost least.

In terms of individuals, Jim came back in to contention. The man is a natural salesman, and performed best on this task. Helen, who had previously not lost a task, looked out of her depth. Susan and Tom performed well on Day 2. Susan’s jewellery sold well. Natasha appeared to do very little, and Melody too much, as is her style. Neither PM were good at listening, and in terms of “influential communication” scored zero.

So, to the Borardroom.

Neither team endorsed their PMs, with Helen in particualr laying in to Melody and Tom finally fighting his corner and laying the blame on both of his colleagues for not listening to him.

For Venture, Jim blamed Natasha for not reinvesting in stock. Lord Sugar agreed and promptly fined the team £100. The thing to remember here is that Sugar is looking for an entrepreneur. He has this belief, clearly stated in his autobiography “What you see is what you get” that entrepreneurs are born, not made. This task is one that allows Sugar to find someone who has the same instincts as himself; able to “smell the sell”.

In many ways, this task has helped sort out the wheat from the chaff. The result was almost immaterial, it was how individuals rose to the challenge. In this respect, only Jim, Susan and Tom, came out well. Helen was shown to be lacking the instinct for the role, and almost being too “corporate”, something Sugar detests. So far, she has done well on tasks that required good planning, coordination and leadership. I thought at one point Sugar was going to describe her as a secretary, but he stuck with “executive assistant”. Helen has been found out and won’t win. Similarly Natasha. She was completely clueless.

In the end, despite the fine, Venture still won, so Natasha was saved. She surely would have gone otherwise. However, her card is marked, and the team were denied a reward because of Natasha’s decision not to replenish items. Back in the house, Susan bared her teeth and rounded on Natasha. The girl finally became the woman, or maybe a man she certainly showed that she has balls! Susan is one to watch.

Meanwhile back in the boardroom, Sugar focused on the losing team. Once again he reminded Tom that he had been told to be more assertive in backing his ideas. Yet Tom survived. Tom is slowly getting stronger in this process. Sugar sees something in him that he likes, but seems to fear that as a business partner he would be hard work.

It was Melody who eventually went, mostly because no one has any idea what she does. As a consultant myself, I know that you have to be able to reduce what you do to “tangibles”. Clients might like the idea of a “bespoke” solution to their problems, but they like to see evidence of how you operate. Melody couldn’t do this and coupled to her appalling interpersonal skills (she works in communication?) she was fired “with regret”. I’m sure Sugar likes her drive, and if it could be bottled in, say, Tom we’d have the perfect Apprentice. The rest of the nation let out a collective cheer to see Melody go.

So, the winner will likely come from Jim, Tom or Susan. In my opinion, Natasha and Helen are out of it. My money is on Tom or Susan now, as they already have businesses and in the end this may be the deciding factor.

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2 Responses to The Apprentice Week 10 – Sorting out the wheat from the chaff

  1. Tim says:

    There was certainly a lot of chaff this week, with Natasha an even worse project manager than Melody – although the latter clearly performed extremely poorly and deserved to be fired.

    All the remaining candidates have clear weaknesses, but I am still backing Tom, who has background as a product-based entrepreneur, with his lack of assertion something that can be easily addressed by getting the right people to work with him.

    Jim can talk for Ireland, but still strikes me as a one-trick pony. There’s a big difference between talking your way out of a tricky situation and actually being an entrepreneur. I have yet to see anything visionary from him.

    Susan excelled on this task, but then as someone who I believe has a background in market trading and buying/selling she really ought to have done. In every other respect she is extremely naive about the world.

    Helen is a good organiser/project manager – as an executive PA, it is her core competence – and would have made a great Apprentice in previous years. But an entrepreneur? Totally unproven based on what we have seen.

    As for Natasha, Jim’s description of her was spot on: “She’s all guns and bluster but no direction, no conviction, no clue. There’s nothing there.” She uses all the buzzwords, but doesn’t seem to have the first clue about how to actually put them into practice.

    Just watch – she’ll go and win now …

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/07/07/the-apprentice-a-tale-of-sound-and-fury-is-finally-exposed-as-bluff-and-bluster/

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