The Apprentice 2012 Week 2 – Girls do a Stirling job of self-destruction

The Apprentice 2012 Week 2 – Girls do a Stirling job of self-destruction

Second task, second loss, and Maria – she of the bizarre eye-liner – pays the price. In reality (TV) we sat observing not one, but two car crashes in this week’s Appentice.

The task was to design a new gadget and pitch it. Simple you might think, but what we really learned this week was that this bunch of “Britain’s Next Great Entrepreneur wannabes” are anything but. This was an opportunity for individuals to shine by coming up with something new or better than is already out there. Remember, this is how Sugar made his name – looking at the market trends and coming up with a (cheaper) alternative and making money out of it. Instead as one of the boys said they “invented the bin” (actually a food waste ecompactor) and the girls ignored the market research and gave children the means to write on the bathroom wall with felt tip pens.

The whole thing was a shambles. For Phoenix, Azhar volunteered as PM and the atmosphere was lively, but upbeat and they quickly agreed to Duane’s food waste compactor idea. Apparently.

In Stirling, Jane and Katie (no doubt aware that she needs to be seen to contribute more) pitched for the role and immediately battle lines were drawn. Jane got it and described her style as “leading not following” and that even her son calls her “bossy”. She lived up to this description. Jane introduced lots of structure to ensure control and focus, as her Driving style tends to do. Unfortunately the girls coundn’t come up with any ideas for a long time, before Laura suggested something to stop water splashing at kiddy bath time. Surely this is what makes kids want to have a bath? The second choice was pillow/cosy/ tap cover.

Both teams set up sub teams to do market research, and promptly chose to ignore what people told them. However, they each did it in their own way. For the boys, Adam led a mutiny against the compactor, not voiced earlier, and suggested scourer-Marigolds. He then selectively ignored any negative comments from the focus group! They fed back that the focus group hated the compactor (they didn’t) and unanimously loved the gloves (they didn’t). PM Azhar ignored them anyway in such way that he reinforced the mutiny! War lines were drawn here too.

For the girls, the focus group loved the tap cosy, but were not sure about the splash screen. PM Jane did not want to hear this, especially from sub-group member Katie, and went with the splash screen.

The end result is two teams following poor process, clear on the task but not really acting as TEAMS and with individuals feeling excluded. This is a perfect example of how best to ignore the Adair “Action Centred Leadership”model that I personally favour.

At the pitches there was a lack of polish in both teams, but the girls had added lack of clarity around a pricing / profit strategy that they managed to share with the clients (Amazon and Lakeland). The boys managed to exclude the most passionate supporter of the compactor from the pitch – Duane who came up with the idea. He eventually jumped into the Amazon pitch and probably saved the day for the boys.

In the boardroom, the boys lack of unity (2 teams not 1) came to the fore, led by Aggrieved Adam, and yet they still won. Jane saw this as an opportunity to bring back outspoken Maria (who was caught taking a quick snooze in the car during one of Jane’s pep talks) and Katie (the lame duck) until Lord Sugar remiinded her to focus on the task and not personal feelings. With this in mind, Jane brought chum Jenna, who made a mess of the costings, back with her and Maria. Sugar was in a real pickle as to how many and who should go, such was the debacle on show. In the end, Jenna backed Jane and Maria was fired. Interestingly, she wasn’t bothered and stated to camera that she will get she funding elsewhere. That is a Real Entrepreneur. And in real entrepreneur style, she will do it on her own.

This week, either team could have lost as they had poor products, ignored the market research, were not united as teams and had poor leaders,. No wonder Lord Sugar was gobsmacked. He must wonder if he can work with any of these people. It is going to be a greast series as, for the first time, we are seeing individuals and agendas on show. Egos will clash.

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The Apprentice 2012 – been these, done that, got the tee shirt

The Apprentice 2012 – been these, done that, got the tee shirt.

Its back! The Apprentice returned to our screens last night, and will be with us for the next 12 weeks. Sixteen candidates, described as amongst Britain’s biggest and best would-be entrepreneurs joined battle in the House and the Boardroom.

The programme has now completed its own makeover/evolution to reflect the changed political environment. Under the previous government, individuals were given sponsored jobs to keep them off the dole. It was the same with The Apprentice. The current government prefers to partner Business and encourage a more entrepreneurial approach to growing jobs. The (New) Apprentice reflects this, with Lord Sugar trying to identify a business partner (and idea) to invest £250K into. Under the Trades Descriptions Act it probably should be renamed, and there isn’t much apprenticeship involved. Interestingly, although the programme has evolved, the format has remained more or less the same. This is to be praised, as it makes for great TV.

In this blog, I will review each episode and give my thoughts on any lessons we can take from a business process or influential communication perspective.

Last night we were introduced to the 16 individuals (8 male, 8 female). I won’t go into their bios, if you want to get to know them in more detail I recomment the BBC website .

Week 1 is all about meeting the candidates, forming first impressions and wondering how people can make some of the outrageous self declarations on show.

Lord Sugar introduced his own version of the Gremlin rules;

  1. The biggest profit (prophet?) wins
  2. Don’t hide
  3. Don’t feed after midnight (i think he said that…)

So, both we, and the candidates know what to do and what not to do. Do they listen? Of course not. Perhaps they should be called Muppet Rules.

The group was split into the now traditional boy v girl teams and given then the task to design, print and market their own range of printed goods.

But first the all important team names. For the girls we have Sterling (strong, traditional etc) andfor the boys Phoenix (are they expecting to fail and have to rise from the ashes? Given last year’s early performances by the boys team they could be right).

Next, who will be the first Project Managers (PM)? For the boys everyone took a step back and technology geek Nick Holzherr was slowest, so got the role. For the girls, architect and  print store owner Gabrielle(“I’m a bit quirky”)  Omar volunteered.

One definition of marketing is getting the right product to the right people at the right price. Immediately, the differences in style and approach between the teams that were to prove crucial became evident. Phoenix went for cheap and cheerful London souveniers (a tee shirt with a red bus and a “large” cuddly bear) and went for the tourist market down by the Thames. Sterling lived up to their name and created a quality tee shirt jigsaw and bag aimed at the parent and toddler market. These had the added option of being personalised with names printed upon request and at extra cost. The girls decided to target Greenwich Market (fixed stall) and London Zoo. Thanks to Gabrielle’s knowledge of printing the product featuring cuddly animals designed by Jade looked good and was produced without a hitch.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the boys, and they had many reject items and a good few that should have been rejected but got through the non-existent QA. What they did have, was a clear plan of action, general agreement on how to approach it (if you ignore Sales Manager Stephen Brady’s pep talk and sales training) and clear roles. Stephen correctly pointed out that the bears were over priced and got the items reduced from £15 to £10. This is still a huge mark-up on the production costs.

Sterling had a great product, but no clear strategy and no clear roles. The sub-group sent to the zoo got stuck in traffic (surely one of the most easily predicted obstacles in London) and resorted to bitching and working against, rather than with eachother. Aggressive sales techniques and poor planning once they decided to try their luck selling to retailers (they chose Primrose Hill instead of Camden) and a general lack of leadership would ultimately cost the girls the task.

And so it proved. Despite the programme editors trying their best to convince us the poor product being sold by the boys wouldn’t win, it did. The moral of the story goes back to Lord Sugar’s rules – biggest profit wins. The boys got the right product (poor quality) at the right price (massive mark-up) for the right people (tourists).

Once it was revealed that the girls had lost, we enter the Blame Game. PM Gabrielle was vulnerable due to her poor leadership. Katie Wright had been highlighed as making little or no contribution and alongside Bilyana Apostolova (of Bulgarian extraction) was part of the ill fated, and poorly performing “Zoo Team”.  These were the 3 who ended up back in fornt of Lord Sugar.

Bilyana had come across as domineering, selfish, driven and opinionated. Katie had sat quietly in the background, she contributed little other than to point out mistakes others had made. Remember Sugar’s second rule “Don’t Hide”? On that basis, Katie should have walked. But instead Bilyana talked, and talked and talked. In the end she did such a good job she talked herself out of the competition. Lord Sugar declared the he “couldn’t work with her”.

Now 16 become 15 and the first candidate leaves the programme. The girls lost because their quality  product did not make enouhg profit. Katie should have lost  as she was hidden in plain sight. The girls will have to learn.

More next week. Comment welcome