The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

This week saw the semi final of The BBC Apprentice, and it proved to be the most insightful programme of the series so far. Most, if not all, of our suspicions about the candidates came true and for the first time I feel we truly saw the potential (or lack of it) on show.

There were five candidates at the start of the programme, with three of them in Phoenix. Adam was appointed PM (why?) with Jade and Nick. That left Tom and Ricky in Phoenix. Both wanted to be PM, but Ricky wanted it more. The task? to design a new “affordable” range of luxury products and pitch it to a group of experts, and Lord Sugar.

Adam, with his clear dislike of Jade, and reinforcing his mysogenist outlook, consigned Jade to the subteam so that he could work with Nick. They would do the business model and branding, Jade would be on product design. Phoenix (actually Adam, who listened to nobody) decided they would focus on luxury chocolates and target a female audience. Nick did make a (half hearted) attempt to sell the idea of luxury hot chocolate (remember, he has previously had a very successful coffee business) but Adam had already made up his mind. Adam later admittted he doesn’t even like chocolates. What was Nick’s strategy?

Ricky and Tom agreed to go for the male grooming products market. Tom agreed to look at the business model, with Ricky keep to research the products. In the end they decided on a series of linked products around shaving (foam, balm and moisturiser).

Most of Day 1 invovlved product research and design. The differences in the 2 teams was immediately apparent. For Sterling, everything was planned, analysed and researched (yes, three versions of the same thing). For Phoenix, there was little coherent strategy or branding. Adam decided to add in jellies on a whim, and Nick expressed concerns about brand dilution (very quietly). However, Phoenix did have Jade and her enthusiasm & creativity at least gave the team some energy. In Sterling, Tom was repeatedly heard to complain about his own branding ideas being “boring”. If only Gabrielle had survived another week, she would have added real value to this task!

Day 2 was about designing a simulated “retail” experience. Again, there was a contrast between the 2 teams. Sterling was minimalist and in line with the “boring” feel. Described by one shopper as looking like a “closing down sale”. Phoenix on the other hand was brash, colourful, “warm” and “friendly”. Jade again shone here, with here enthusiasm. Offering cocktails to complement the chocolates was popular, and her  “Drunken Jellies” went down a storm. Jade even came up with the brand name (Sweet Thing). Wasn’t that meant to be the job of the boys?

Both teams took the feedback on board and that evening put together their brand strategies tog and prepared to pitch to the experts the following day. I say prepared; Sterling preparared thoroughly, as was their modus operandi, Phoenix muddled through. Phoenix had no clear pricing strategy. When asked, by Karen, if the prices were going to be £2.99 or £4.99, Nick answered “yes”!

Day 3 was about the pitches. Sterling were thoroughly prepared, slick and professional. Unfortunately, their range of “Modern Gentleman” was also dull and uninspiring. On the other hand, Phoenix had interesting products, with no clear strategy and appalling presentation. Witness Adam leading the pitch and reading notes written on the palm of his hand.

At the end of the day, the teams ended up in the Boardroom and it was no surprise that dull professionalism won over amateur enthusiasm. However, the process had shown up the flaws in each candidate, which will no doubt be explored in next week’s Final interviews. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Phoenix lost, and fingers started pointing. Adam (of course) focused on Jade, even though all of the good ideas came from her, and Nick sat on the fence. In fact, Nick was very quiet and disappointing this week, and this was pointed out by Sugar. Even in the boardroom he tried to hedge his bets and was indecisive about who should be fired. Looking back, this seems to be a bit of a trait in Nick. He may be too cautious for his own good. Jade is the exact opposite, all passion and enthusiasm, but sometimes too much so. Adam, of course was finally found out. No leadership, no strategy, not only out of his comfort zone, but out of his depth. He had to go and did. A nation cheered.

What about the winners? Ricky and Tom are like 2 peas in a pod. Both excellent planners and strategists, but lacking any real creativity.

So, four remain. Cautious Nick, Safe-but-dull Ricky and Tom and fiery, unpredictable Jade. It will be interesting to see who has the best business idea for Sugar. Based on her enthusiasm it could be Jade, but Nick, Tom and Ricky are likely to have well thought out, if less imaginative ideas. Which way will Lord Sugar go? We will find out next week.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 10 – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

This week was a tale of two Spa-Hotels

The Apprentice 2012 Week – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

The numbers just didn’t add up in this week’s BBC Apprentice. And I’m not just talking about Jade’s negotiation with a top restaurant at St Pancras station. No, with 3 episodes to go, seven candidates is just too many and a double firing seemed inevitable. And so it proved.

Lord Sugar described the task as replicating a start-up business. What it actually involved was identifying high quality products or services and negotiating the best possible discount (up to 50%)  for an upmarket Groupon-like daily deal. They were clearly briefed to go for “high quality” products. The team with the biggest profit would win.

We already knew that Stephen -entering the last chance saloon- was assigned as PM for Sterling. This was his escape clause in avoiding getting fired last week. Lose this one and he would be out. Stephen was leading Ricky, and Gabrielle (or Gabriella as Stephen insisted on callling her; they’ve shared a house for 10 weeks and he still can’t get her name right?).

Over in Phoenix, Adam, Tom and Nick were happy to allow Jade to be PM when she informed them that she worked “with company’s like this” in her previous role as a Business Development Manager.

There was a clear difference in approach between the teams. Jade got Phoenix involved in some detailed and time consuming planning with the strategy of identifying a few top notch targets “quality not quantity”. Stephen went for quantity, looking for 5 or 6 “premium”deals. The only problem was they were out chasing opportunities without any apparent planning. Stephen’s background is as a National Sales Manager, a role that should include more than just impementation of a tactical sales plan. The programme editing made sure that we were aware of the differences in approach.

We didn’t really get to see much of the planning ( it does not makesas good television as people runnning around ) so it was hard to judge how good the Phoenix strategy was, though they did have a precise list of targets they went for. Yet, even amongst the scatter-gun approach of Sterling, there was some evidence of planning. At one point, Ricky, working on his own, was scheduled to go to a leading Spa Hotel in Tring. Ricky was worried about the journey time to and from Tring and that this would stop him calling on more leads. After initially telling Ricky to  stick to the plan, in the end Stephen had a major wobble and agreed with Ricky. No trip to Tring, then. This was the pivotal part of the task for Sterling, and would cost them the task and Stephen his future in the programme.

Although much more focused, the 2 sub teams in Phoenix did not have everything their own way. Jade and Nick  did secure a good deal with a Spa (over 50% discount) but were woefully under prepared (despite all of that planning) for a meeting with restauranteur Marcus Wareing at St Pancras station. In real life this would have cost them the opportunity, but the power of TV cameras meant they eventually got a 30% discount. We also saw Tom and Adam (The Jeeves and Wooster of this week’s task) apparently complementing each other very well. Tom has an eye for fine things, and Adam will beat any customer into reducing their prices in a negotiation.

For Sterling, Ricky specialised in restaurants also, managing to consume scallops in 3 of them across the day! He did manage to secure a useful double deal with one quality restaurant, but made the fatal negotiation error of limiting the number of meals for lunch and dinner to 190. In negotiation, always try to get the other side to put the first offer on the table. Again, this was a crucial mistake that cost Sterling the task.

In the end, There was much running around the streets of London trying to sign up anything. For all of their different approaches, Phoenix signed 6 deals and Sterling 9. Both teams had one or two to make up the numbers (scented candles for Phoenix and fish pedicure for Sterling).

In the boardroom, it was revealed that Phoenix had 2/6 deals accepted by the daily-deal company and sold £14563. Adam and Tom had no deals accepted. Sterling had 3/9 accepted but sold only £6440, £6090 of which was down to Ricky’s restaurant double deal. Sterling lose again.

So, we know that Stephen must be fired. Ricky is praised for the double deal but criticised for limiting the number of meals available at the restaurant, though it is unlikely that it would have turned the task. No, Stephen has to take the blame for poor leadership and, along with Gabrielle(a), poor sales (£350), despite having had more deals accepted. Sugar pointed the finger at the missed opportunity at the Tring Spa as crucial to Sterling losing, hammering another nail in Stephen’s coffin. But, at this point the producers and Lord Sugar throw a curve ball. Gabrielle’s lack of contribution in the task (I have barely mentioned her this week) has highlighed what a number of us have suspected for weeks – she is very creative but has poor business acumen. Gabrielle is fired first. Ricky just survives and replaces Stephen in the last chance saloon as Stephen finally gets fired.

So, its all change this week. One of the earlier favourites has gone. Of those left, Jade showed promise this week, but Tom’s star is falling. Adam continues to hang on in there, but surely would have gone if Phoenix had lost the task. Nick is probably the most rounded candidate of those left, but I’m left with the image of ice-cold Ricky slowly stabbing Stephen in the back in the boardroom. Et tu, Ricky?

The Apprentice 2012 – Sterling lose again as wine video fails to sparkle

The Apprentice 2012 – Sterling lose again as wine video fails to sparkle

This week’s task on the Apprentice involved marketing English Sparkling wine through a website. But first, Lord Sugar took the opportunity to balance the teams (at least numerically) and allowed Phoenix to choose someone from Sterling. Unanimously, Tom, Jade and Adam poached Nick into their ranks. This left Ricky, Stephen, Gabrielle and Jenna in Sterling. Both teams had 2 “rising stars” and 2 “also rans” (see my mid-series review).

This task seemed perfect for Tom (fine wine buyer), Nick (website expertise) and Jade (advertising expertise). Certainly, that’s what Sterling PM Ricky thought as he somewhat pessimistically briefed his team. For Phoenix, Tom took on the role of PM for the second week running. Gabrielle had wanted to do the same for Sterling.

With only 4 members per team, or 2 per sub-team, this is where everyone has to contribute. There is no hiding place, and choosing which personnel do which task is one of the most crucial decisions that the PM makes.

With this in mind, Tom and Adam set off to do “research” ( or wine tasting to you and me) and left Nick and Jade to work on the branding and website. I know that Tom is an expert in wines, but this task is about selling a concept rather than a specific product, and Jade rightly asks if Tom shouldn’t have been more involved with the branding.

Over in Sterling, Gabrielle and Stephen do their research in Tesco, and yet again we get our weekly Stephen “comic” moment as he goes looking for a wine expert, much to Gabrielle’s dismay.

Both PMs identify their brand values; heritage and quality for Tom and Phoenix; quality, quality, quality for Ricky and Sterling. The rest of the programme follows how the teams try to reflect this in their websites (including promotional video) and pitches to an expert panel.

Remember the “fitness regime” task in week 5 ? You would expect that Ricky would have learned a lesson, when  the failure of a subteam to deliver the video he wanted cost him the task. Obviously he didn’t, and despite Jenna and Stephen being clearly told that the video must not be cheesy, that’s exactly what they produced! The video was clearly not what Ricky requested, and it undermined the excellent work done by both Ricky and, especially Gabrielle, on the website, and logo, both of which said “quality”. The video said “crass”. It cost Sterling the task.

Not that Phoenix were perfect. Their video was “boring” to quote both PM Tom and Lord Sugar. Directed by Jade with the help of self procaimed “choreographer” Adam, it was poor. Tom and Nick spent a long time designing the perfect website, but for the wrong concept. They seemed to think they were there to sell brands of English SW (sparkling wine), rather than the concept of English SW. This was a fundamental error, and could (should?) have cost Phoenix the task. If it wasn’t for the cheesy Sterling video, it would have.

So, Tom et al survive. Having seen the praise heaped on Gabrielle’s clever logo combining a rose and a champagne flute, Ricky wisely brought back the video makers; Stephen and Jenna. Track record actually favoured Stephen (won 6/8 previous tasks, first time in the bottom 3, so maybe not on Sugar’s radar) over Jenna (lost 5, in the bottom 3 for the third time) but it looked bad for him when Ricky suggested he should be fired.  However, it was Jenna’s suicide speech as she tried to defend the video she principally created as “quality” (it wasn’t) that did for her. Stehen added a desperate plea for another chance and a promise that he will win the next rask as PM. Sugar accepted this, and said he will hold him to it, and Jenna was fired.

So, this week we have learned that good as Tom and Nick are, they are capable of getting things wrong by not paying attention. This week it was following the wrong brief. Tom, like Ricky, should have overseen the video. Ricky came out of this quite well, despite him not learning form his previous (video production) mistake. He has to be up there with the favourites. However, it was Gabrielle who came out best this week, and I now see her a clear favourite. Adam, Jade and, especially Stephen, are on borrowed time unless they reveal previously (well) hidden talents.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to teat a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln #quote

The Apprentice 2012 – Mid Series Review of Candidates

0The Apprentice 2012 – Mid Series Review of Candidates

  As we enter Week 9 of this year’s BBC Aprentice, half of the candidates have already been fired, so now is a good time to review those who are left.

General Review

So far we have had 8 tasks, with each team (Phoenix and Sterling) winning 4. However, originally, Phoenix was the boys team and Sterling the girls. Phoenix won the first 2 tasks, but from Week 3, Lord Sugar has been mixing up the teams. Of the sixteen opportunities to be PM, there have been 9 males and 7 female. The boys have won 6/8 and the girls 2/8. Three candidates havebeen PM twice (Nick, Tom and Gabrielle). All three are still in the competition,  but only Nick won 2/2.

The Candidates

The remaining candidates consist of 5 boys (Nick, Stephen, Ricky, Adam and Tom) and 3 girls (Gabrielle, Jade and Jenna). Each has had a go at being PM, but Jade, Adam, and  Ricky failed to lead tasks to success.

Nick Holzherr

25 years old. Technology Entrepreneur.

Quote “I’ve got lots of ideas, I know how to whittle them down into ideas that will work and I’ve got what it takes to make them actually happen”.

On performance as PM, Nick is the most successful candidate so far, having won 2/2 tasks  (Week 1 “souveniers” and Week 7 “market trading”). He is one of the quieter candidates, comes across as a bit posh, which is always a danger because Sugar seems to have an issue with posh or corporate types.Nick’s style could be described subtle. He never quite disappears, but he manages to avoid standing out for the wrong reasons. He has shown good leadership in his tasks and is popular with the other candidates.

Verdict – One of the favourites

Adam Corbally

32 year old Market Trader.

Quote “ I get too excited, but that shows my passion, it shows my drive and it shows my ability.”

I have to confess to being surprised that Adam is still here. Through a combination of luck and occasional brilliance in the right environment, he has had few boardroom visits. Adam is great in any selling environment incolving commodities – he deals on price. He has looked less sure when selling complex ideas (Week 8 “urban art” for instance). He is driven, sexist and stuck in a time warp (1950s) in terms of his attitudes. His stint as PM (Week 6 “gourmet food”) was poor as he followed his instinct and went cheap and cheerful. His one saving grace is that Sugar sees something of himself in Adam, but I can’t see him lasting.

Verdict – Will be lucky to survive past this week

Jade Nash

She of the annoying Southern accent

29 year old Business Development Manager

Quote ““ What I want is to be able to retire when I’m 45, but I’m such a workaholic that I’ll probably carry on until I’m 80”

Not in this show. Apart form the fact that she has the (al)most grating voice, Jade has failed to make much of an impression. She lost her task as PM (Week 7 “market trading”) through indecision and poor judgement in choice of products. Jade is one of those candidates who seems to disappear for whole episodes. Jade has been in the fianl three boardroom a couple of times, and is on a “final” warning. Sugar does not seem convinced and neither am I.

Verdict – won’t get into the final 4

Gabrielle Omar

29 year old Architect

Quote “ When it comes to business I can be like an animal and I will roar my way to the top”.

That must be a misquote! Gabrielle is a strong contender, having won 1/2 tasks as PM (Week 8 “urban art”), but her strength lies in her creativity, not her business skills. Gabrielle has shown a good, relaxed leadership style. Her business sense has been called into question, especially when she lost in week 1 (“souveniers”) due to poor organisation.

Verdict – should stay the course, but will not win.

Ricky Martin

26 year old Recruitment Team Leader

Quote “ I truly am the reflection of perfection”

Not that one

Ricky is a candidate who could be a surprise winner. On the surface he is brash, self assured bordering on arrogant and his judgement is questionable. He failed in a task that he should have won because of poor leadership, direction and delegation. He had a vision but failed to communicate it . He is also prone to getting frustrated. But for all of that he appears to have avoided Sugar’s radar, so may stay longerthan many predict.

Verdict – will get found out eventually.

Stephen Brady

33 year old National Sales Manager

Quote “ Enthusiasm is a huge asset of mine and I believe it’s caught and not taught ”

Stephen is another dead man walking. I have seen nothing to suggest he can win. He is full of corporate speak (see quote above) but has shown neither style or substance. He did win his task as pm (week 5 “fitness”) but that was in his own business environement. However, he was lucky to win, due to a customer seeing something in the product that wasn’t intended (a different market) and he should have lost because of pricing and equipment storage mistakes in the product.

Verdict – Will fight with Adam to be the next fired


Jenna Whittingham

25 years old Beauty Salon Owner

Quote “ My personality and character is ‘once seen never forgotten'”

the one with the annoying Northerne accent

What an unfortunate quote! It’s true but for the wrong reasons. Jenna did win her task as PM (week 6 “gourmet food”) and was reasonably competent as a leader. However, she is another who regularly disappears from tasks and questions have been asked about her contribution. I’ve not seen anything of substance here.

Verdict – not a chance

Tom Gearing

23 years old Director of Fine Wine Investment Company

Quote “ I’m confident, charismatic and some people say I’m quite good looking, so that adds to the bill.”

Tom may be the youngest candidate, but on contribution he is probably the most competent. Much more mature and assured than his age would suggest, Tom has shown good insight on tasks that play to his strengths (even week 8 “urban art” which he lost as PM and week 4 “antiques” which he won as PM). In both of his stints as PM he was clear decisive and had a winning strategy. He even managed to convince sceptical team mates and observers (week 4 “antiques”). He lost the “urban art” task because he had no plan B, but nearly rescused it with a bold rescue plan. In this he is the one candidte to show entrepreneurial flair and for this reason, he is my favourite to win.

Verdict – Should win it

So, I see Tom as favourite, with Gabrielle and Nick not far behind. If anyone else emerges I’ll be surprised. However, don’t forget, this is also about x the unknown – their business ideas.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 8 – Hogg Roasted on Back Of Poor Sales

The Apprentice 2012 Week 8 – Hogg Roasted on Back Of Poor Sales

This week’s BBC Apprentice focused on the teams identifying urban art and selling it to the public and a corporate client.

Tom took on the role of PM for Phoenix. He got the job based on his enthusiasm for and knowledge of art. For Sterling, Gabrielle took on the task. This gave us the chance to see, in my opinion, two of the stronger performers to date.

The first part of the task involved a sub team checking out urban artists in Bristol, while the main team did the same in London and met a corporate client. For Phoenix this was Renault and for Sterling it was a brand of Gin. Suitably briefed, the teams set off on their tasks. Both PMs demnstrated good leadership skills with focus on the task, team and the individual. Truthfully, most of the candidates seemed out of their depth, but this allowed Tom to shine with his obvious knowledge of the subject. However, this was to prove both a strength and a weakness, as he got so wrapped up in his topic that he failed to impress his preferred artist (Pure Evil) and it eventually cost him the task. Tom had put all of his hopes (and plans) into securing Pure Evil that he had no plan B. In the end he “took a punt” on Jessop, whose art resembels Iron Maiden album covers form the 1980s. These pieces were high ticket items (up to £10K) but Phoenix sold none. Tom did do well with Renault, his corporate client, in understanding their needs from an artist who would represent their brand (“frenchness”) and the budget they had. He chose his other preferred artist, Copyright, to fit their needs.

For Sterling, Gabrielle correctly identified that they needed to impress each artist that they were passionate about their art. This they did  and Sterling had their choice of artists, including the much desired Pure Evil. One criticism that has been levelled at Gabrielle is that she lacks business acumen, and fuel was poured on this fire when she failed to explore what budget her corprate cleint, a Gin Distillery, had at their disposal. This error was compounded at the gallery when Gabrielle got everything wrong. She served wine, not gin and tonic, ignored her corporate client and never introduced the cleint ot the chosen artist (Nathan Bowen). However, sales for both of her artists were brisk.

In the boardroom, the errors for each team were explored in forensic detail; Sterling failed to secure the Gin Distillery, but Phoenix got Renault. However, Sterling made sales for both artists, but Phoenix failed to sell any high price Jessop’s. Tom’s high risk punt backfired and Phoenix lost the task. Tom quickly realised that Adam’s sales alone made him immune from firing and chose to bring back Jade and Laura. Jade had been warned last week that she only narrowly escaped getting fired and Laura looked vulnerable on the back of the lowest sales. In the end, the difference in sales between the teams was only £137, but Tom who was vulnerable due to his having no contingency plan. However, he used a combination of honesty, a bit of humility, and defelection to get Lord Sugar to focus on Laura. Sugar showed his favouritism by giving Tom credit for his risky strategy, and on the back of consistently good performances he survived. Laura had failed to make a similar impression and she was fired.

So Tom survived, but both he and Gabrielle have revealed weaknesses. For all of that, Tom actually looked to grow in stature based on his performance in the boardroom. Adam again showed he thrives in any sales environment, but Stephen looks more and more like a dead man walking.

In my next post I will review the remaining candidates left at the half way stage.

The Apprentice 2012 – Strategic Review Proves To Be The End For One Candidate

The Apprentice 2012 – Strategic Review Proves To Be The End For One Candidate

Week 7 of The Apprentice saw Jade become the last candidate to have a go as PM. We have now had the chance to observe all of the candidates leading a project, and the pack is slowly taking shape in terms of front runners and also-rans. That Jade survived into week 8 was due to a flawed “strategy” from one of her losing team. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lord Sugar reshuffled the teams moving Stephen to Sterling, with Laura moving in the opposite direction. Jade took the hint to be PM of Phoenix, and Nick beat Ricky hands down to lead Sterling. Each team was given £150 to purchase items from a Warehouse and sell on to the public in Essex. The winning team would be the one with the biggest turnover (including remaining stock as assets).

Immediately there was a contrast in styles and urgency. Nick and Sterling were decisive in terms of locations to use and lines to focus on (household goods for one pitch and beauty products for the other). Laura and Sterling got mired in discussion and were indecisive on both counts. Immediately, Azhar started chipping away at Jade, repeatedly asking her what her strategy was. He did offer some suggestions, but no one seemed inclined to listen.

This proved to be the theme of the task, with general harmony and focus in Sterling and generally decent leadership from Nick. He identified the fake-tanning product as a big seller (in Essex, who’d have guessed?) due to the local predominantly female demographic and put a huge mark up on the price (retailing at £10). Stephen and Ricky were having less success at Romford and once the tanning products started to sell out, they were dispatched back to the warehouse to get more stock. This was good judgement, but bad timing, as they eventually ran out of stock as the sub-team were delayed. Would this prove cruical?

Jade had to put up with constant comments from surly Azhar about a lack of strategy, and this seemed to pull the rest of the team together. Adam in particular was in his element (and natural environment), excelling as a market trader. Jade’s team were also having success with the tanning product, but were selling it at a lower price (£5-£6), but she chose to collect a variety of products for restocking, and this was a poor decision.

In the boardroom it was revealed that despite being out of stock for 2 hours, Sterling still won by £117. This loss could be accounted for by the poor mark up of the tanning product in Phoenix. The team were supportive of Jade, all except for Azhar, so he made sure he came back into the boardroom. Jade struggled to identify who else to bring in, and opted for Tom, who hadn’t done a thing wrong. Jade admitted this was a mistake, so her judgement looked suspect. It was between Jade and Azhar, and things looked bleak for Jade. Her leadership was poor (indecisive, slow to react, pricing), but Azhar had a “strategy” (get Jade) and went for broke.

On the task, Jade should have gone, but Azhar came across as what is known in business circles as a “cynic” (bad attitude, and the energy to show it). Sugar decided that he couldn’t work with Azhar following a sprited defence from Jade, who highlighed her previous success both in and out of the competition and tempted Sugar with her as yet unseen business proposal. Azhar was fired.

In the end it was the right decision to fire Azhar, in terms of being a candidate, but Jade can consider herself lucky to have escaped on the basis of this task. Gabrielle again showed her creativity and Tom was solid. Adam may be a good market trader, but can he do anymore? Ricky and Stephen are out of their depth, but Nick shows promise, but the lack of tanning stock for his team could have cost him the task.

Tom still favourite to win, with Gabrielle a close second favourite.