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

About markdecosemo
Consulting Trainer and Coach to healthcare and pharmaceutical professionals

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

  1. Tim says:

    Hey Mark. Exactly that – Bilyana talked herself out of the competition. She was so focussed on making her point that she missed out on a succession of clear signals that indicated that Sugar wasn’t keen on Katie. Instead she ploughed on making excuses for herself and repeatedly attacking the wrong person, Gabrielle. If she had stopped for a minute to listen to what Sugar was saying and think about it, she would have realised the following:

    (a) Gabrielle had made a number of mistakes on the task, but got brownie points for focussing on design, producing quality products and generally being liked by her teammates even though they lost. Therefore she had a foundation for a reasonable defence.

    (b) Katie had no such defence, having failed to make any notable contribution. Other teammates questioned what she did during the task, and from what we saw she didn’t seem to be able to justify her existence at all and was clearly heading for the exit door – something she admitted to Gabrielle afterwards.

    Putting the task failings aside – and, to be honest, both teams were much better than they normally are in week 1 – Bilyana failed big time in terms of the key communication skill of listening. If she had just listened, kept her mouth shut a bit more and not riled Sugar by constantly interrupting him, she would still be in the competition. It was lack of listening that got her fired, not lack of ability.

    My thoughts:

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