Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”?

Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”?

In the inferior Star Wars prequels, a thinly disguised Emperor-in-waiting identifies a future Sith Lord (Anakin Skywalker) and manoeuvers players and situations to ensure this outcome occurs. We know this is going to be successful, because we’ve seen he original trilogy and know Anakin is destined to become Darth Vader. This series of Young Apprentice is beginning to have the same feeling. The only difference is that we don’t actually know the outcome, it just feels like we do. Iif you substitute Alan Sugar for the Emperor and Harry M for Anakin, you can see what I mean.

Harry M survived again this week, despite being the only candidate to have lost EVERY task. His situation was captured beautifully by 2 quotes;

Lizzie in the boardroom, as losing PM “Harry, you do seem to sit there quiet all day doing nothing and then spring one idea out and save yourself”

Later, back in the house after Hayley became the latest person to be fired, there was this from Harry H; “I would have brought you back, you’re probably the weakest person there”

Both of these quotes reflect a dawning realisation that Harry M is teflon-coated – nothing sticks to him. Maybe they think he is The Chosen One. Cetainly, the gloves were off this week, as candidates start to fight their corner.

So why does it appear that Harry M is special? Firstly, last week, Sugar showed clear favouratism to Harry. This week, Sugar re-organised the teams again, for no obvious reason. Atomic was led by Lizzie, with Haya and Hayley. Three strong personalities and a mouse (Hayley). Lizzie later confessed that she chose to be PM to keep Harry M in check. Kinetic were led by Haya after she and Harry H briefly slipped into the wrong programme, doing a Quickstep that would have graced Young Strictly Come Dancing. Eventually it fell to Haya to lead the th dance, sorry task. The task? oh, yes, to find 10 items for Madame Tussauds at the best price available. The team that spent the least would win, with fines imposed for failing to get any items.

Once again, we had a contrast in approach to the task; Lizzie was all delegation, phone calls to find suitable locations, and clear rsponsibility for certain items. Haya preferred no planning, get “likely” places (i.e. those she knew) in London and keep your eyes open for likely retail outlets (I kid you not). With a split like this, it immediately became obvious that Lizzie and Atomic, with great planning and structure would lose. And they did.

So, where did Lizzie’s plan start to unravel? Back in the boardroom, Sugar pointed out that Lizzie made 2 terrible mistakes – not getting all of the items, and not negotiating well enough. This neatly describes the premise of this task, so no great entreprenurial insights here. In truth the task was Atomic’s to lose, and they did, geting only 6/10 items (to Kinetic’s 7/10) despite taking a textbook approach to the task. Actually, the biggest error was probably Lizzie’s, in not knowing either where Croydon is in relation to Central London (about 2 hours by car) or that her sub-team (Hayley and Zara) were heading there. Lizzie did keep Harry close, so when Atomic lost the task, she was obliged to reprieve Harry and bring Zara and Hayley back into the boardroom.

So, would Lizzie be fired for leading the task astray, or would it be the sub-team who showed appaling understanding of the task? Zara and Hayley bought a pocket watch for £145 (9 carat gold, though!) whereas Kinetic got one for about £40. They also spent above the odds for a guitar. Lizzie pointed the finger at the subteam. Hayely-the-mouse showed (only a little) backbone against bossy Zara – “I am overly domineering” – but not enough to save herself. Zara , with refreshing honesty, pointed out that in the boardroom they are not a team, but individuals fighting for survival. Hayley was fired.

They say good guys (and gals) finish last. It’s certainly looking that way. Even in defeat, Hayley couldn’t overcome her inherent politeness. She was too nice (and ineffective) to stay, and clearly not what Sugar is looking for (ruthless, happy to murder children, oh sorry, that’s a Sith Lord) . She will need to toughen up if she want to make it as an entrepreneur in the real world. She could make it, if she develops the assertiveness of Harry H or Lizzie.

So, 6 remain and all have shown character. Noticably, Harry M (The Chosen One), Zara, Haya and James are strong personalities, with Lizzie and Harry H more like the young adult most parents would like their children to grow up to be. Except if you are the Emperor that is…

Next week looks like a real bun fight, with the 6 candidates reduced to 2. Just like Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

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Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom.

Young Apprentice Week 5 – Something smelly in the boardroom.

So, we enter the second half of this series of Young Apprentice. This week’s episode started with 8 candidates, so with only 3 weeks left we may be due a week of double firing. Either that or the final could be a busy affair. It didn’t happen this week, but one survivor in the programme came out looking decidedly dodgy – Lord Sugar.

The task this week was a familiar one; create a brand, package it, make an advert to promote it and pitch it to an advertising agency. The product was a new anti-perspirant deodorant for the young adult market. No profits or sales to worry about, this week’s task was about creativity and leadership.

The leaders were Zara for Atomic (with resident mouse Hayley, Haya and Harry H) and Harry M for Kinetic (with Gbemi, James and Lizzie). Neither were role models for good leadership. Last week James demonstrated that you can be clear, focused, even opinionated, and yet be a democratic leader. Both Harry and Zara were very clear what they wanted, but demonstrated leadership styles slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun. Neither were popular with their teams. Of the 2, Zara was at least prepared to listen to feedback (eg from the focus group) and make adjustments, and gave some degree of structure and process. Harry M just gave orders and expected everyone to follow them, not question them. Neither PM is a good advert for a priviledged upbringomg and public school eductation.

Leadership is about getting the balance right between task, team and individual (see Adair). Zara concentrated on the first 2. Harry was only interested in the task. Not surprisingly, the result is unhappy teams, with individuals feeling frustrated and outside of the task. For Harry he did manage to create a team – one that was united against him. Never before has it been clearer watching the programme that losing the task could have dire consequences for the PM.

And so it proved to be. The programme followed the usual rollercoaster for each team, with the viewer’s expectations of who will win switching as the editing showed us potential disasters on either side. For Kinetic, Zara’s structure gave a good focus to the 3 components of the task (agree a brand and name, produce the advert and pitch it) with everyone contributing. At each stage, Zara showed she was prepared to make adjustments; the brand values were tweaked through a focus group, the advert storyboard was adjusted accordingly. In contrast, Harry kept everything in his head and was not for being deflected from his chosen path; no structure, no plan, no storyboarding. He did, however, allow the subgroup (including Gbemi who counts design as one of her specialist areas) to design the packaging.

When it came to pitching the 2 brands, both came across as resonably creative. Atomic went with Raw, offering a coherent link between advert and pitch. On completion, Zara told her team she was “dead proud” of them. There may have been some irony lost on Harry M with Kinetic’s brand. It was called Vanity, but was unclear what its brand values were. The product pitch suggested confident, the advert fun (think a poorer version of the Lynx commercials designed by two 17 year old lads for the female market). Harry never thought to thank his team after the pitch. They didn’t seem to expect him to.

After reviewing the commericals in the boardroom, Lord Sugar went with the more coherent Atomic product Raw. In the cafe it became clear that the Kinetic team laid the blame squarely at Harry as PM. He was going to have his work cut out to survive as his leadership had been a disaster. Surely he had to go?

Back in the boardroom again, the feedback for Lizzie on her pitch was good enough for even Harry M to realise that he shouldn’t bring her back. And then there were 3. Gbemi went straight for Harry M, but was vulnerable because Sugar identified the packaging as a major factor in Kinetic losing the task. James also criticised Harry’s leadership and it was here that I expected Nick Hewer to reveal just how poor a leader Harry H had been. It never really happened. Instead, our esteemed Emperor Sugar turned his attention to Gbemi. After all, she is a design specialist. James tried a half hearted rescue, suggesting (correctly) that if Harry had been a better PM the product design would have taken care of itself. This had little impact on Sugar, and despite Harry having lost all 5 tasks, Harry survived (again) and Gbemi was fired. This did not go down well back in the house.

Once again, Sugar proved himself to be consitently inconsistent. Even in this series, individual PMs have been fired because of leadership at least (think Hannah). Crucially, this task was a subjective one; the outcome was not decided by £s. Sugar clearly likes Harry M, as he forgave his crass leadership because he sees talent as a salesman. His drive and single-mindedness, with an instinct for a profit probably mirrors what Sugar is looking for (a junior version of himself). He is not looking for a democratic team player who is well liked (again just like himself). As a commentator on leadership, sales and marketing, this left a nasty smell in the boardroom, one that no amount of deodorant can mask. It’s the smell of hypocracy. It’s hard not to conclude that there was nothing Harry M could have got wrong this week which would have got him fired, even losing all 5 tasks to date. This must be hard for the others to take. I wonder how they will learn from this. Makes great telly, though.

Atomic Bomb With Flawed Over 50’s Plan in Week 4 of Young Apprentice

Atomic Bomb With Flawed Over 50’s Plan in week 4 of Young Apprentice

It has to be said that the kids in Young Apprentice are learning. Unfortunately, just as some of the candidates learn one lesson, their character flaws became exposed in this week’s task. Week 4 of Young Apprentice gave us some clear insights into most of the candidates and, maybe, some indications as to who can win it.

The task this week was to identify 2 products (from 8 ) to sell to the over 50’s market (worth over £250 bn per year) at an exhibition at Olympia. Lord Sugar mixed up the teams again; Atomic consisted of Haya, Hayley, Lewis and (mister popular) Harry M. Just to reinforce how unpopular Harry M is no-one supported his bid for PM, and Haya got the job.

Kinetic had Gbemi, Zara, James, Lizzie and Harry H, and James was given near-unanimous support to be PM.

Lord Sugar gave his now customary hint about how to succeed – “You’ll be judged on sales volume, so you need to get your pricing and products right”. Simple as that, so get a good product at a reasonable price and you have the formula for success.

Immediately we saw the different styles of leadership on show; James adopted a more consultative approach but showed real leadership by reminding his team to get the cheapest price, but be confident and enthusiastic about each product, even if you don’t like it! Oh, how we’ve seen teams come a cropper before by not following this simple advice. James went on to demonstrate this perfectly across the task, even revealing that he blatantly lied about liking the pie maker. It proved to be a sound tactic, but I hope his future girl/boy friends and customers weren’t watching, as no-one will believe anything he says ever again!

Haya, no doubt buoyed by having trounced Harry M to become PM, was very direct in her style, making it clear who was in charge. Listening was not to be her strong point, and she partnered with Lewis, who seemed happy just to be away from Harry.

As usual, the task hinged on a couple of decisions. The first involved a colourful shopping trolley that both teams had their eye on, but James’ (now trade-marked) charm and good haggling skills secured it for Kinetic. Atomic went with Harry M’s enthusiasm for the camera-bird-box, which for most of the task was to prove to be a bit of an albatross. Haya reinforced her no nonsense style of leadership (read: not listening to Harry) by opting for the pie maker over his preferred cushion.

At the exhibition, Haya took on the role of sales leader, with Lewis happy to demonstrate “who makes all the pies”; whilst Harry and Hayley battled gamely to sell box-camera, with no success. Haya had obviously been listening to Lord Sugar last week as she attempted to sell the pie-maker ABOVE the manufacturer’s recommended price, and quickly dropped the price when she realised it wasn’t selling, eventually dropping to the reserve price of £14.99. By the end of the day, the pie maker had sold steadily and the high ticket item bird-camera-box (£125-£150) had sold preceisely NONE until Harry took the initiative and sold 5 to one of the the other exhibitors for £80 a go. Hayley finally sold one before the close of the exhibition.

For Kinetic the much desired trolly was not moving many items, but their other choice, a hand held vacuum cleaner, failed to cleanup sales as Harry H and Zara had ignored James’ advice and not haggled a discounted price to sell it. Eventually, necessity is the mother of invention and they started demonstrating the cleaner and sales started to come in. This task was proving hard to read in terms of the likely outcome, but a few things had become obvious:

For Atomic – Harry had pulled one out of the bag again at the end of the day; Haya was a single-minded leader; Lewis is a liability who prefers to follow; and Hayley did… what?

For Kinetic – James was a revelation as a leader, equally adept at playing the game to manipulate his team as he is at manipulating customers / clients; Harry H failed to negotiate prices with clients. but has the personality to sell; Zara was also at fault for the poor negotiations, but lacks any personality; we saw very little of Gbemi, Lizzie, so they’ll probably go on to win it.

In the boardroom it became apparent that even Harry M’s last minute sale of the camera-box-bird thing couldn’t save Atomic as they were trounced by Kinetic. With only 4 in the team, it was more a case of who wouldn’t come back with Haya, and, once again, she demonstrated that she had been listening last week. Wisely, Haya chose not to bring Harry M back and instead brought in the weaker performers of Hayley and perennial side-kick Lewis. The only question was whether Haya’s poor leadership outweighed the lack of contribution from Lewis and Hayley. In the end, Lewis was fired, probably for being the regular fall guy and always owning up to his mistakes (bless). Hayley knows that she has to be more assertive to survive beyond next week.

So this week the unpopular boys James and Harry M looked good. They are single minded, ruthless, but able to adapt to different situations. Hayley, Zara and Haya look weaker and Gbemi & Lizzie could be the stalking horses.

Flower Power – poor decisions and poorer tactics in Young Apprentice

Flower Power – poor decisions and poorer tactics in Young Apprentice.

Week 3, and for the first time the teams were mixed up;

Kinetic – Lizzie PM with James, Harry H, Haya and Hayley.

Atomic – Hannah PM with Harry M, Gbemi,  Lewis  and Zara, a team of strong personalities.

The task this week was to arrange and sell flowers to both corporate clients and the general public. Both PMs were from the previously unbeaten girls team, and there was a clear contrast in styles. Lizzie’s more direct, no nonsense style with the quieter team Kinetic, and Hannah’s more democratic listening style for the egos of team Atomic.

Lord Sugar once again reiterated the key point “The team with the biggest profit will win”

For Atomic, Zara and Lewis did the Corporate pitches. Zara interpreted Hannah’s instructions on pricing as a minimum and put the prices up. They still won 2/3 pitches, but did lose out on the Hotel because of this tactic. The Kinetic sub team of Harry H and James lost out because of poor pitching (Harry talking and not listening, James and his “Rainforest Chic” pitch to the Salon). Not having a girl in the sub team probably cost them the Salon pitch. Although they did win the Hotel pitch, they ended up having to reduce their profit because the product was so poor.

In selling to the public the advice both teams had been given was to double or triple their costs when setting prices. Hannah adopted a strategy of doubling their prices to general agreement, with the vocal exception of Harry M who declared to camera “we only doubled prices, could have tripled them. We’ll see in the boardroom.” Lizzie and Kinetic went for the tripling of costs at Hayley’s suggestion.

Out on the street it was the usual dynamic action with both teams selling frantically. Gbemi and Harry M of Atomic went door-to-door in Spitalfields, with Harry desperate to sell the trifid-like (but high profit) Heliconia. He succeeeded at the last minute by bullying a bar owner into taking the monstrosity, and immediately made sure the team knew it was his success.

In the boardroom, amazingly (only if you’ve never watched the programme) Kinetic came from behind (with the corporate pitches) to win by £12. The failure of Atomic seemed to rest on Hannah’s choice to double not triple costs and on Zara’s Rouge Trader costing the team the hotel. Seizing on Harry’s claiming the Heliconia for himself, Hannah decided to bring back the 2 strongest performers; Zara and Harry M; Zara for ignoring her instructions and losing the Hotel pitch; Harry for being himself. This proved to be a crucial, and another poor, decison. Tactically it was also risky, as she targeted Harry and his selfish approach to teamwork. This tactic backfired spectacularly as Sugar listened with a bemused expression to Hannah’s reasoning.  Not surprisingly, she was fired.

The lesson here is that this is not a Team prgoramme. Perhaps Harry M has it right, being open and honest about his ambition. Nice guys (and gals) finish last, they say. This was true for Hannah who was a decent PM , but put team loyalty (and friendship?) over a desire to win. Hannah could have brought Lewis in with her; he admitted that he made mistakes, but she got her tactics completely wrong. This is reflective of many corporate environments, especially  sales, where people play at being a team to further their own ambition. Given an opportuinty to take the credit, these individuals will take it. It may  not seem fair to good team players, but it is this drive that often makes entrepreneurs successful. Good team players can always work for a charity.

In the house, there was general disappopintment that Harry M had survived at the expense of Hannah. Lewis ran out of the room (guilt? anger? romance?) and everyone else looked shocked, especially the previously unassailable girls. In truth Harry M and Zara may be annoying but they are emerging as the strongest candidates so far. For me, Hayley continues to impress in a quiet way, and she may prove to be the dark (or stalking) horse.

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Pitched into a Sea of Troubles

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Pitched into a Sea of Troubles.

Having lost out last week, the boys went into week 2 no doubt hoping for more success. There are strong personalities in both camps, but the boys in particular have some egos to contend with.

This week our Dark Lord of the Sith (or Alan Sugar to you and me) continued on his quest to identify his “Young Apprentice” and get them to join him on The Dark Side (no, not banking; BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR). Remember, in the Sith there are only ever 2; Master and Apprentice. This is worth remembering when we watch this competition as the candidates (to quote voice over man) “must work as teams, but shine as individuals”. Sugar tells us that this is “not a talent show” and this week, the majority of the candidates went some way to proving him right. There was very little talent on show.

So, to this week’s task. The teams remained the same as last week, split along gender lines. The task? To design a new product for the lucrative parent and baby market and pitch it to 3 large retailers. The winning team would be the one that gets the most orders. As usual, the task is a Macguffin (to quote Hitchcock) and almost incidental to what really matters – entertaining TV.

From an influential communication perspective there was a lot to learn here. If we focus on the task as a whole we saw two poor PMs; Gbemi (“I’m quite in your face”) Okunlola for the girls and Lewis “Cocktail of Success” Roman for the boys.

Roman was completely out of his comfort zone and was unable to control the bigger egos in the boys team (Harry M and James). He was also a poor delegator and effectively cost the boys the task by his decision to pitch to the first 2 customers (told you the task isn’t what really matters).

Gbemi (a younger version of Edna from last season’s Approentice, sort of Anakin Skywalker on the road to becoming Darth Vader) was a poor listener and control freak who also made the erroneous decision to pitch. The girls would have lost if a coup d’etat hadn’t resulted in Gbemi being replaced for the final crucial pitch by Haya. This resulted in a large order which rescued the girls and won them the challenge, as it was to the largest retailer.

So, the boys lost, despite taking orders from two retailers to the girl’s one. Their product was a hippo cover to carry baby drinks bottles in. The girls idea of a sleeve with a cushion to help support a baby’s head comfortably won the day, but only in the final pitch.

For some top tips on how to pitch, check out my previous post from Dragon’s Den. The tips about creating the right impression a practice makes perfect seem most apt here. What you don’t want to do is read it out (Lewis) or be unclear about what your product does (Gbemi).

In the boardroom both PMs got muted support, but once it was clear the boys had lost, Lewis had to decide who to bring in with him. He played a political game, bringing back opinionated Harry M and the anonymous Ben, both of whom had been singled out in the boardroom by Lord Sith, I mean Sugar.

Any one of the three could have gone;

  • Lewis for being generally useless as PM and putting himself forward to do the pitching. I mean, they have a whole evening to decide and prepare for this and decide the best person (probably Harry H on the basis of his rescue pitch).
  •  Harry M could have gone for his appalling attitude. He does have good things to say, but no idea how to go about doing it.
  • And what about Ben? Well, what about Ben.?We have seen nothing of him, and he was there because he made so little a contribution. Was this real or editing? Everyone agreed that it was real, and he was fired.

The take home message this week? In Young Apprentice it is better to be obnoxious and disliked but occasionally correct (Harry M) than to be the strong silent type. Ben was fired because he did nothing. One suspects that Lord Sith sees something of himself in terms of Harry M’s attitude, and that has held sway. However, Harry was warned that he needs to change. This isn’t a team competition, but you need teamwork to survive it. Most telling was the reaction of everyone back at the house.  Lewis was greeted and hugged by everyone, except the unfortunate Lizzie. Harry M cornered Lizzie and she seemed reluctant to congratulate / hug him. The final shot was of Harry M declaring that he must change. And change he will, as he has the ruthless determination to go on and win the competition.