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.

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3 Responses to Young Apprentice Week 2 – Pitched into a Sea of Troubles

  1. Tim says:

    Hey Mark. Historically, Sugar has always favoured the loud-mouthed over the quiet doers in the early stages of the competition, so it was no great surprise – but a bit of a shame – that Ben was fired. Where he commented on Harry being persistent, I had a whole range of less complimentary adjectives ready which I thought were more suitable – rude, overbearing, bullying, smug, arrogant, take your pick. Having the courage of your convictions is one thing, and business is full of bullying autocrats (Jobs, Branson, Sugar himself), but is this really the kind of behaviour we want to encourage in our young entrepreneurs?

    Lewis was hopeless, although I don’t think he lost the task because he did the first two pitches. In reality it was always all about Mothercare, which has 4 times as many stores as John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bebe combined. They lost because their product wasn’t as good as the girls’. Not that I would have bought the sling either, mind you. (But then we don’t expect the teams to come with workable products, do we? This task always shows how hard it is to have a good idea.)

    I thought Gbemi was a good organiser in many respects. However, she is also a borderline bully with an ego the size of a planet, and her team was already fracturing along sub-team lines. Like so many PMs before her (and Lewis), she should never have led the pitch when both Haya and Zara clearly have better presenting skills. In fact, I wonder why PMs ever lead the pitch – Karren nailed it spot on in the boardroom when she said it was all about glory-hunting. The PM is rarely the best presenter, and preparing the pitch is quite an intensive task anyway. Surely the PM – who has to manage the wider task – cannot give the pitch the full attention it requires on top of everything else? It smacks of selfishness and an inability to delegate.

    My usual thoughts:
    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/11/01/young-apprentice-no-go-as-jojo-says-no-no-to-hippo/

  2. Kenelm says:

    That’s a creative answer to a diiffuclt question

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