Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party.

It’s half way in the race to be Lord Sugar’s latest Young Apprentice, and we have 8 candidates left. Nine became eight, this week as “egg farmer” Alice Smith departed. Alice was PM of Odyssey, and paid the price for some poor leadership.

This week’s task was to design a themed Afternoon Tea. Alice pushed for a 1940s theme, whereas Platinum, helmed by David, opted for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme.

In truth, both PMs were poor, and if Platinum had lost the task there is no doubt David would have been fired. He showed no leadership or organisational skills at all, and it was trainee Accountant Ashleigh who drove the team on. Once it was revealed that this task was about profit, she organised the ingredients (cheap), the menu (basic) and the pricing (under £7  per person, so cheap again). But it worked.

So, where did Odyssey go wrong? If we assess Alice’s leadership against John Adair’s “Action Centred Leadership model“, we can see where it went wrong. Adair says a good leader has to get the balance right between clarity of TASK, building a strong, interdependent TEAM and every INDIVIDUAL being clear about their role and committed. Alice managed to have failings in all 3 areas;

TASK – as stated above, the task is about maximising profit. Alice wanted to go “High End”, but was unclear about her target market. The team knew they would be selling at a well known tourist location (Blenheim Palace), so where is the guarantee that “High End” punters would be there? What they actually found was a lot of older people, who were attracted to the 1940s theme, and families. Evidence was shown of people, especially families, being put off by the high prices (£16). In the end, Alice reduced the prices, but the damage was done. Reducing prices bit into profit, but the real error was a poorly thought out Marketing Strategy, one that Alice pushed for.

TEAM – lets be honest, Alice inherited Maria, who is going to be a challenge for anyone. Yes, she modified her abrasive behaviour to people’s faces, but instead made sure to brief against them (especially Alice) behind their back. It was no surpries that Maria was brought back into the boardroom, but she survived for another week because the fault in the task was more to do with Alice. Maria can’t possibly survive another boardroom (nor can David), as even Nick Hewer admitted to her face he is not impressed!

INDIVIDUAL – to compound the errors made above, there was a general lack of role clarity, especially in the sub team doing Market Research. Alice gave the sub team a clear mandate to do research, but they seemed unable or unwilling to make decisions. Alice needed to be much clearer about who was doing what, and what the limits of their authority was. Alice seemed to believe she had given more autonomy to the sub team than they seemed comfortable with. The other aspect of this is commitment. The nature of Young Apprentice is that it is competitive, but you are guaranteed to survive if you win the task, so inter-dependence should be assured. Watching this series, our candidates don’t seem to have worked this out!

In the boardroom it was revealed that Odyssey had lost the task by a considerable margin. Alice brought Maria (expected) back and Navdeep (unexpected) back. The 2 girls in the sub-team ganged up on Alice, and the lack of a clear reason from the task (Alice aluded to Navdeep’s general unsuitablility to business) reinforced her poor judgement and she went. It was the correct decision for this task.

Of the remaining 8 candidates, Andrew looked good this week, in the losing team. Patrick was barely seen, so probably did little. Navdeep is yet to show anything (Alice may be right there). Maria is a liability, and along with David surely can’t win? Ashleigh has good business sense around numbers, but lacks creativity and is hard to warm to. Steven is another who has yet to show anything, but he does at least contribute. For me, Lucy and Andrew impress most, but both have flaws. These 2 are the best of a poor lot. This series have been grat (car crash) TV, bit the candidates are poor.

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Young Apprentice Week 3 – Stage Fright

Young Apprentice Week 3 – Stage Fright

The teams were sent on a quest to locate 10 items (including a candelabrum, pictured) needed for a stage production. The aim: get all items on time and for the best price. There would be penalites for any items not found, and for not geting back on time.

Sugar decided to mix the teams up once again, presumably in the hope of ensuring there wouldn’t be a third successive boy fired. David went to Platinum on the back of 2 previous losses. His only success so far has been getting into the final three each week. Navdeep and Alice went in the opposite direction.

Both Steven and David wanted to lead Platinum. Steven won, but appeased David by making him leader of a sub team with Amy and Lucy. For Odyssey, Andrew was PM.

Essentially, success in this task depends on 4 things;

  • have a process or system
  • be clear about your role
  • choose locations carefully
  • if you want to negotiate, you have to identify at least 2 outlets selling the item

Therefore the role of the PM is to implement these. Once again, there was a contrast in styles between the 2 PMs. Both teams divided the items between the 2 sub-teams, but Steven (Platinum) had his team phoning from cars and researching on the go; whereas Andrew had Odyssey do some research and phoning from the Coliseum. It wasn’t long before he and Ashleigh were out tracking down items. These approaches showed that neither PM was clear on their process – what is the best way to win this task? In turn, this led to a lack of role clarity because the 2 are closely linked. The key part of the process they missed, was that if you are going to negotiate you need to have leverage in the form of competition between sellers. Otherwise, why would they bother (as several retailers, not starstruck by the cameras, pointed out)? You also need to choose locations carefully. Patrick in team Odyssey was the only individual to even identify where they were starting from in Central London. At one point, Platinum PM Steven was heading off to Croydon (12 miles and several hours) to buy a car. To maximise time, you have to choose locations that can be reached, and returned from, in the available time.  Neither team demonstrated an understanding of these points.

The task itself became enjoyable enough TV, as nobody could work out what a candelabrum is, in yet another indictment of  the candidate’s knowledge / education. Do people become entrepreneurs because they find the traditional approach to success (University, Profession) beyond them? You might think so if you watch this lot. Eventually Odyssey worked it out and found one.

Based on the results this week, the more measured apporach of team Odyssey paid dividends and they won the task, despite their sub-team not leaving the Coliseum until nearly 6 hours into the task! They got 6/10 items, whereas the more “active” approach of Platinum, got 5 items. Negotiation was poor on both teams, as they generally went to the first seller they found. No competition, no negotiation. There was little evidence of the 2 PMs being effective leaders, and the fact that the sub-teams never worked together allowed for plenty of bitching, especially from the girls, though Patrick was happy to join in. Doesn’t he remember what a mess he made of being PM?

In the boardroom it became clear that penalites for being late and missed items would be crucial. Both teams spent about the same on the items they found, but Odyssey won because they had lower penalties for missed items. In truth, neither team was good; it’s just that Platinum was poorest (by about £170). So, one of last week’s final 3, Maria, who spent the whole episode bitching again, avoided the boardroom. I can’t see her lasting the course. She does not come across well.

For Platinum, Steven brought back 2 members of his sub-team. David (3 appearences in the final 3 out of 3) and steel-jawed Amy. These 2 fought the whole time and were prime candidates. The only thing likely to save David was his gender. I couldn’t see Sugar firing 3 boys in a row, and so it proved. Any of the 3 could have gone, especially Steven for his poor leadership, and at some point there will be a multiple firing. This should have been the week. In the end Amy was fired, but David surely can’t survive another final 3. He seems to be going backwards. He still has the same 1970s attitude to women and leadership, but his spirit has been broken like a castrated bull.

Who has impressed? Not many, in truth. Andrew has confidence and fight, but was a poor leader. Lucy spent most of this episode separating David and Amy. Navdeep has been shown to contribute little, but has looked good when she has (though she got caught up in the bitching with Maria and Patrick). Ashleigh is quiet, but exudes Yorkshire common sense. Alice hasn’t shown much but a nice personality. Steven was also a poor PM.

So, all still to play for.

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

There was a theme of mixing things up in Week 2 of Young Apprentice. Firstly, Northern Irish -Firebrand Maria joined the boys, and Steven joined the girls. Then the task was revealed to be to produce a Recipe book and persuade 3 leading retailers to stock it. What became immediately apparent was that personality was going to play a big part.

For Odyssey, Maria made an immediate pitch for world domination Project Manager, but the lads rallied around the (safer?) choice of “the world’s youngest publisher” Sean. Maria wasn’t happy, but wasn’t going to allow this to stop her. She went on to use her considerable self belief and personality to ensure that Sean did (just about) everything she suggested, and the team lost the task.

Over in Platinum, “bossy” Lucy got the nod over Alice.

Both teams set about dividing up to do research and design. In Odyssey, Maria got her wish for a recipe book focused on the Professional Woman. The research suggested this was a bad idea, and Sean demonstrated poor leadership by allowing Maria to bully persuade him to stick with her idea. This not only created a split in the team, but is a repeat of a mistake made just last week.

Platinum came up with the idea of targeting students with the clever title #wheresmummy. This leads not only into possibilities of extended branding, but would give focus to potential social marketing. Despite this, the team was dysfunctional, “bossy” Lucy was a poor PM; decisive yes, but a poor listener and with a gift for pissing team mates off. The end product was shoddy to say the least. It looked good, but was full of spelling mistakes, in what was a terrible advert for the literacy of 16 & 17 year  olds. #cantbeleivetheywon.

So, battle lines were drawn. In Odyssey, Maria got most of her own way, ignoring both outside and internal counsel, but the product looked good. For Platinum, there was disharmony, but a good idea poorly executed. These points came to bear in the pitches to Sainsburys, Play.com and Waterstones. Maria (of course) led the first 2 pitches for Odyssey, along with Andrew and they came across well. Unfortunately, the product didn’t. For the final pitch, Sean showed weakness again, allowing Patrick his wish to pitch. It was a disaster. Why change a winning formula? Platinum came across well in their pitches, the product was liked, the spelling errors wasn’t. #gettingawaywithit.

In the Boardroom, it was revealed that Platinum got over 7000 orders to Odyssey’s 800. Two retailers did not order Odyssey’s “Professional Woman” book. The feedback was that the market was too narrow. This echoed what had been found in the focus group.

So, despite being dysfunctional and at times “catty”, Platinum won again. #bloodylucky. For Odyssey, Sean accepted that he had made mistakes, but blamed Maria’s push for the niche market. He then reinforced his poor judgement by bringing David back with Maria. David hadn’t done much wrong this week. In fact he hadn’t done much and was very subdued. Sugar was amazed that David, and not Patrick who was a disaster in the third pitch, was called back. It was no great surprise that Sean was fired, despite Sugar teasing Maria to the point that she was nearly in tears. Sean displayed poor judgement and was too easily swayed by strong personalities and wanting to be fair. This led to a poor product and business failure.

Although at times this week, the candidates showed their age and lack of maturity, we have seen similar behaviour in the “adult” Apprentice. Good leadership requires a level head but an assertive personality and sound judgement. Both “bossy” Lucy and “weak” Sean were poor leaders, one too strong the otther too weak. A true leader sits somewhere in between.

Young Apprentice 2012 Week 1- Would you employ any of these wannabe entrepreneurs?

Young Apprentice 2012 Week 1- Would you employ any of these wannabe entrepreneurs?

Last Thursday saw the welcome return of the younger sibling of BBC’s “The Apprentice”. A full list of the candidates can be found here, but *spoiler alert* it does reveal the identity of the person fired in Week 1 (Candidates).

What always amazes me about The  Apprentice and its Junior version is how these enthusiastic contestants never seem to learn from the past. Does anyone on the programme ever bother to watch past episodes? I can’t believe they do, or we wouldn’t see the same mistakes series after series. It’s obviously not about age and inexperience. Maybe its just nerves. I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know; just like in Gremlins, there are certain rules to follow if you want to surive. Sugar actually reminded the candidates of the first 2 at the start of the programme;

  1.  Don’t hide. Be seen to be active and to contribute. Max clearly didn’t remember this.
  2.  Don’t be a bully. If you are going to dominate, make sure you are right and your team wins. David would do well to learn from this as it nearly cost him this week. He has strong views and isn’t afraid to share them, even if some of them went out of fashion before he was born.
  3. If you are  an intellectual, you will have more to overcome if you are to succeed. This is Sugar’s Achille’s heel – he is very wary of bright people. If they are to succeed, they need to show that they have “common sense” as well as intelligence. In business circles, this equates to Goleman’s Emotional Intellingence, which was very fashionable in the 1990s. This was another problem for Max, and in combination with point 1 above resulted in hime being fired.
  4. And most obviously of all, win every week. That way you will last until at least the last few episodes.

This week, the task was to sort through a ton of used clothing to find some gems to re-sell. The team that made the most money, would win. This was (once again) clearly stated at the start of the programme. and yet one team chose to ignore it. Sugar split the group by gender, and the boys chose the name Odyssey (though David who suggested it struggled to spell it) and Fashion Designer Patrick as project manager. This girls went for Platinum and trainee accountant and part time retail worker Ashleigh as pm. Their backgrounds shaped their strategies, such as they were; Ashleigh focused on maximising profit by minimising costs. Patrick went for innovation, imagination and potentially higher ticket prices. This involved modifying clothes to make something new and desirable. It proved to be a fatal mistake, as the boy’s costs were much higher and none of the modified products sold. On the other hand, the girls made more profit by not even washing some of the used clothes they chose! Their success is something that Sugar made his money on, and Ashleigh will have impressed Sugar with her approach.

So, it was no surprise that the boys lost. It was possibly a bit of a surprise that Parick chose David to bring back into the boardroom, but perhaps Patrick recognised that David had been strongly opinionated. In the end it was the third person in the boardroom, Max, who proved to be the fally guy. In reality, based solely on this task, Patrick should have been fired, but Sugar recognised that dspite his mistakes there was courage and drive their. Something to mould. In Max, Sugar saw someone who hid from the responibility of selling (rule 1). In fact he demonstrated very poor interpersonal skills. He is also extremely bright  (rule 3). Taken together, these were a lethal combination and Max was fired more for what he didn’t do and who he is than for what he did. In brief, he was not Sugar’s cup of tea. A bit harsh? Probably, but it is his money that he will give away.

The message for wannabe entrepreneurs is to be clear about your strategy. Both strategies here were potentially valid, but only one was delivered (Platinum). An ability to relate to and influence other people, whether colleagues or customers is absolutely necessary. Patrick and David survive for another week, but their cards are marked.

Next week, the teams have to produce a cookery book.