The Apprentice Week 5 – Dubai These Goods

The Apprentice Week 5 – Dubai These Goods

Zee courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

Its retail therapy this week in The Apprentice, with the teams dispatched to Dubai to source  and sell items. Zee, who has lived there claims to have a lot of local knowledge. Specifically the teams have to find 8 items for a new hotel.

Leah joins Endeavour to balance the teams, and the pattern for the task is set as she and Zee compete for PM. Zee’s local knowledge gets the nod.

Miles leads the opposition Evolve team, and wants to focus on luxury items, as this is his area of expertise.

Contrasting strategies are adopted by the 2 teams. Zee uses his local knowledge to source items and will not countenance either the need for research or buying items from Malls. For him, the Sukhs are where the bargains will be found. If he has the knowledge, this is a sound strategy. However, over the programme, both the viewer, and his team come to doubt how extensive his local knowledge is. In addition, Zee’s relationship with women, and especially Leah seems strained.

Miles, without the benefit of local knowledge and working against the clock, adopts exactly the opposite strategy, and heads for the Mall. Both teams face time pressures, but where as Zee focuses on negotiation, whilst Miles is focused more on getting all of the items, with negotiation as a secondary concern. Teams will be punished for any items not sourced. Surely, Zee’s local knowledge will come out on top?

Zee and his sub team make a mess of the measurements for a flag and need to re-order, when the item they have ordered proves to be too small. Leah’s team are struggling to get any items, but Neil eventually pushes through a Khandoura at half the price paid by the other team. It proves to be the wrong type of Khandoura

In the boardroom, Zee gets poor feedback from his sub team, especially Leah. His local knowledge is challenged by Sugar, as he made mistakes with the oud and the flag. The wrong sizing of the flag is attributed to Kurt, who accepts the blame. The team’s negotiations are applauded.

Miles is accused of wasting time on research at the Mall, and waiting for the flag to be produced. Their negotiation skills are ridiculed by both Sugar and Karen Brady.

In the end Evolve beat Endeavour, mostly down to the debacle with the flag. Miles more measured approach paid dividends in comparison to Zee’s bravado. Zee looks vulnerable as the team unites against him.

Zee brings back Leah and Natalie. Surprisingly, Kurt is let off despite his mistake with the flag, as is Neil over the Khandoura. Zee justifies his decision based on lack of contribution from Natalie and lack of support from Leah. The girls unite against Zee and accuse him of being sexist. Leah is described as indecisive by Sugar, who also calls Zee arrogant. Eventually, Sugar comments on  Natalie’s lack of contribution. However, he decided to give her one last chance, and it is Zee who is fired, for basically being incompetent. It is the right decision.

Zee proved to be a very ineffective leader. It is crucial for a leader to build up a team, but Zee only succeeded in uniting the team against him. His bravado and the decision to bring Natalie, rather than Kurt or Neil back was the final nail in the coffin of his objectivity. The strong suspicion that he has a problem working with women is also hard to refute, based on the evidence of this programme.

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

The teams assemble at Surrey Docks Farm in East London, with the girls desperately in need a win having lost 3 on the bounce. However, the teams are mixed with Uzma and Natalie going one way and 3 of the lads going the other way. At least some of the girls will win.

The task is to open a Farm Shop, source stock and sell it. Biggest profit wins. Both teams seem to miss the point of a Farm Shop and instead go for the more profitable “takeaway” market.

Luisa gets the nod as PM for Evolve, and they go for meat (buffalo burgers), jackets and soup. Neil leads Endeavour, as he’s “a born leader”. As he’s been leading from the back (according to himself) this should be a breeze. Kurt has some experience of dairy and Neil goes for his idea of milkshakes. No discussion allowed.

Each task is always about leadership, and we saw an excellent example of this last week from Jordan. This week we have the autocratic style of Neil versus the democratic / laissez-faire approach of Luisa.

Research and stock purchase follow. Buffalo is different, expensive and high margin at £159. At the dairy, Alex rushes the numbers and everyone is confused. They get it for £40 for 100l of Jersey milk, if they bottle it themselves.

The Evolve sub team is given £40 to buy veg for “window dressing”. They end up spending £146! Miles railroads Luisa, who caves in. Then they go for Apple Juice, and despite Miles wanting to spend more money, Luisa finally says no. There is no clear strategy or communication between the sub teams in Evolve, and Luisa comes across as indecisive.

The Endeavour sub team buys fruit, with a budget of £100. Kurt disagrees but Neil isn’t listening. Kurt is reluctant to spend and only buys a small amount of stock, using only £33! He is banking on the shake being profitable and promises to sell 200 units.

There is no clear strategy or communication in Endeavour, either.

Next day it is all about the selling. The shops are located at Broadway Market. Luisa gives a pep talk at Buffalocal, but Neil is frustrated that the sub team bought so little fruit and veg. The shop (Fruity Cow) is still not ready 45 minutes after opening time. Neil’s leadership style has shifted from dictator to more dictated to.

Early feedback on the Buffalo is that it is expensive and there are no early takers for lunch of soup and jacket potatoes. They have nearly 350 servings to move, in addition to the buffalo, which eventually starts to shift. Miles (of course) suggests the soup etc. is put on display outside of the shop. Eventually they start to move, but Miles is unhappy with the aesthetic of the jacket spuds, and blames Jason. Increasingly, it is Miles, not Luisa who is seen to be leading the team. Luisa recedes further into the background

The milkshakes start to come in thick and fast.  As stock moves, Kurt suggests buying cheap apple juice as a new line. By mid afternoon, Neil is looking to get rid of stock, but is unhappy with Uzma’s contribution (what contribution? I hear you ask). Both teams are left with unsold stock, but Neil is (of course) confident.

In the Boardroom, strategies and tactics are scrutinized, especially the takeaway angle from both teams. Miles sticks the knife into Luisa, and the support from the rest of the team is muted to say the least. Neil’s leadership style is also examined and Kurt is especially lukewarm about it.

The numbers for both teams come in and Endeavour have a profit of £539 to Evolve’s  £630. Neil loses by £91. They didn’t sell enough milkshakes (113 v a target of 200). For Evolve, Luisa was a poor, indecisive PM, and Miles is happy to take the credit for rescuing the team. From the edit, he may be right.

In the autopsy that follows, Sugar questions Neil’s inability to change direction when things started to unravel, but Kurt is given credit for the fruit juice initiative. Eventually Uzma comes under the spotlight as well, and her contribution is deemed to be lacking. Neil principally blames Kurt, but brings Uzma as well as she was the weakest person in the team.

Uzma puts up a spirited defence to Neil, who is accused of being “cocky” by Sugar. Kurt is criticized for offering to sell 200 milkshakes, but he did contribute a lot of the profit. Uzma says Neil should go, and Neil says it should be Kurt. Sugar inevitably fires Uzma, but not before scaring both Neil and Kurt. It is the right decision based on the first 4 tasks, but Neil could have gone for his poor leadership.

This week both PMs were poor leaders, but for different reasons. Luisa listened too much and eventually, Miles took over, possibly rescuing the team. Neil was autocratic, especially over the strategy, but then was weak and indecisive when things started going astray. It was Kurt who adapted the strategy, but he was over confident to get stuck with a large sales target.

Good leadership requires clarity over the task (better in Evolve) with the team pulling in the same direction to deliver the task (both teams failed here) and with every individual contributing. Uzma failed in this respect, but Jason is another yet to show any real talent. Jordan remains the most impressive of the boys, with Leah (quieter this week) the best of the girls. Miles may be annoying and vain, but he did make a solid contribution this week.










The Apprentice Week 3 – Design Flaws

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

The Apprentice Week 3 – Design flaws

This week the teams are tasked with designing a new flat-packed piece of furniture. It’s a research, design and pitch task.

The teams assemble along gender lines once again, at the home of the Design Council. Sugar warns the girls as to their behaviour, but for the first time allows both teams to choose their own PM. Business Analyst Jordan leads the boys, whilst Natalie heads up the girls.

The girls go for a multi-functional cube shaped table. Everyone is on broadcast and no one is on receive. The boys go for a folding chair, championed by Alex.

The next day, Rebecca reveals on that she is not in favour of the cube, but finds herself as part of the Market Research (MR) team, along with Sophie who claims to have expertise in this area. Not surprisingly, they hear mixed feedback, but is this due to a poor product, or poorly conducted feedback? The first rule of MR is to be open minded and neutral, which is why we generally use external agencies. Rebecca seems quick to jump on any opportunity to re-design the cube, but Sophie is just too unassertive. Similarly, the boys MR includes doubters, so conflict results in both teams (so we are back to Storming behaviour again (see last week). Divisions become apparent within the sub teams of both the girls and the boys. It is how the 2 PMs handle this situation that proves telling. There is broad consensus in the boys’ team, led by Jordan, and argument amongst the girls’. Natalie ignores the feedback and pushes on with the product.

In terms of design, the girls look for ease of assembly, but struggle to identify an inspirational design they can agree on. Alex pushes the boys with an easy to assemble folding chair, but as time is running out, mistakes are made in both teams.  Nick reminds us that it a camel “a horse designed by committee”, something that could apply to both products.

Once again, there is no agreed process on how the item will be designed and produced. This is the key to success here; role clarity and trust. If you set up a MR team, you need to listen to them. In the end there is a lack of buy in, especially within the girl’s team, because their input has been ignored.

Prototypes are produced overnight. The girls’ “Tidy-Sidy”, but the cushion is the wrong size.  The boys are happy with their product.

At the pitches there is mixed feedback to both products, but the girls get more consistent negative feedback. For the boys, it is the length of the legs that splits opinions, depending on who they are pitching to. Zee in particular fares badly in the pitches for the boys and is removed from further pitches by PM Jordan, but the girls get slicker as the pitches progress, despite having a poor product design (a box on wheels).

Next day, it’s into the boardroom and both PMs are given support from their teams. The orders are counted and it the boys run away with it, thanks to an order of 2,500 units ordered from the catalogue company. The girls lose again.

Sugar tells the boys that Alex’ product is the best he has seen in the boardroom.

Interrogation in the boardroom allows Sugar to be wise after the fact and rubbish the product. The girls look to see who is to blame and the bitchiness returns. Rebecca is quizzed about her dislike of the product. Observer Karen blames the team for trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas. This has to be the responsibility of PM Natalie. The MR is also challenged and rubbished by Sugar.

Natalie brings back Uzma and Sophie. Natalie blames both for hiding. Uzma is blamed for the design and Sophie for the MR. Shouting ensues. Sophie says it’s all unfair, but eventually Sugar makes his decision and it is the PM Natalie who must take the overall blame, but thanks to “gut feel” it is Sophie who is fired, for hiding. Sophie keeps her dignity, but not her job.

In the end, Sophie was fired for “hiding” something that Sugar hates. Her real crime was to be too quiet in a loud team. She had some good contribution, but she was just too nice and too quiet. Natalie probably should have been fired, but she put up a robust defense and survived.  In contrast, Jordan was an effective PM , and led the team well. He looks like one to watch. Zee, on the other hand seems to have lost the fait of the rest of the boys, and is unlikely to last long on this performance.

The Apprentice 2013 Week 2 – Flat Beer

The Apprentice 2013 Week 2 – Flat Beer

MC900441795-1After yesterday’s firing of Jaz before the candidates had even moved into the house, tonight the programme settled into its more regular routine.

Today’s task involved selling Beer. Each team has to come up with a new flavoured beer.

For this task, the girls of Evolve are given Tim as PM possibly as a reward for his speech in the boardroom last week, whilst the Endeavour boys are given scouser Kurt. This is a new twist, with Sugar choosing the PMs for both of the first 2 tasks.

The teams start brainstorming ideas for flavoured beer. and straightaway Tim gets resistance from the girls, who possibly resent him being foisted on them, especially after his speech at the end of the last boardroom session. He responds by agreeing with whoever spoke last!

Kurt appoints Jordan as sub team leader. Zee resents his role in manufacture, due to his religious beliefs.

Both teams are still displaying “Storming” behaviour.

Evolve set off with no clear strategy and an indecisive Tim under pressure from the stronger female egos. The taste boys of Endeavour go for a chocolate orange flavour in amber bitter. Kurt ignores feedback from the manufacturing team who prefer stout to amber.

Evolve go for rhubarb and caramel. Luisa and Uzma clash over the label, in front of the professional. Luisa sulks. This sub team is in full Storming mode, and Tim seems unable to control the egos on display.

The maths of scaling up the recipes proves to be a challenge for both teams, but especially Evolve. In the end they just “go for it”. and get it wrong. Thirty litres wasted. Then another. This will prove to be costly later on.

So, Evolve has no direction, no product and no leadership. “I know it sounds terrible” says Tim, with complete under statement of reality.

Meanwhile, Endeavour are ahead of schedule.

Products finally finished, tomorrow they sell. Endeavour like what they have, Evolve love the packaging, but there is chaos in who is going where and Tim forgets to appoint a sub-team leader. Rebecca is eventually appointed by phone.

Jason is given logistics responsibility and makes a point of confirming this.

Endeavour go for a premium price of £4 per pint at their busy beer festival. Meanwhile at the Kent Beer Festival (actually a pub), evolve find it to be very quiet. By 2pm the festival is in full swing. Sales start to pick up and the product is liked.

Rebecca’s sub-team also has some early success selling to the Trade, getting £300. The Endeavour trade sub-team go to the same pub WITHOUT SAMPLES. Amazing that no one thought of this earlier. Finally armed with samples, the boys pitch high to sell barrels. Jason cannot resist jumping in and undercuts his own team. Then they discover that they have no pump clips with them. Again, the price was dropped to get a sale, reducing profit margin to a minimum.

Rather than drop the price, with no-one wanting to pay £4, the main Endeavour team give it more time. Eventually they decide to change location, but have they left it too late?

When sales dry up at the festival, Tim is persuaded to look elsewhere. Luisa can’t resist having a dig at Tim for not knowing it was a pub. They end up trying to sell in a wine bar.

Frantic activity from both teams. Endeavour turn up late at a food festival and sell it for more than £1.50 less than earlier in the day.

As the clock runs down, prices are dropped to get rid of stock.

Both products have been enjoyed, and there has been some sales success. But Leah saves the best till last, selling 2 casks for £90 each, the best price of the day.

In the boardroom, Kurt is taken to task by Sugar for the debacle over Zee and the lack of samples, as well as the decision to drop prices. Jason is criticised for interrupting negotiations and complains about being sworn at and the use of unfair sales techniques.

For Evolve, Tim, who wants to build a drinks business, is taken to task on the maths problems in the manufacture. He is challenged over the choice of locations to sell, but is generally praised by the team for his job as PM. The task is won by Endeavour by over £400, despite the ego problems and Kurt’d leadership.

Sugar focuses on the maths problems and the wasted ingredients. Arguments ensue  about who was responsible for the Kent Beer Festival and it descends into a bitching match between Rebecca and Luisa. “I’ve never seen such a bloody mess in the first 2 weeks of the contest”.

Tim brings back Francesca and Rebecca. Francesca for her poor maths and Rebecca for choosing the Beer Festival.

Rebecca defends her argument with Luisa and Tim is challenged over his lack of strength with the girls. Tim blames Rebecca for the failure of the task, but Sugar points out that she sold more than anyone in either team. Rebecca and Francesca both point the finger at Tim. In a possibly veiled reference to Stella English, Sugar says he is concerned about Rebecca’s sensitivity but ultimately it is Tim who is fired. He wants to start a drinks business, but has shown very little aptitude for this task.

Tim proved to be a nice guy, but he was too weak and paid the ultimate price. I think his card was marked with his speech in the boardroom last week. He was a weak candidate and was rightly fired. According to John Adair, good leadership requires a balance between clarity of task, building a team, and getting the best out of individuals. Tim didn’t really manage to get any of these right.

The Apprentice 2013 Week 1 – Self-Contained Mess

The Apprentice 2013 Week 1 – Self-Contained Mess

Your firedThe first task facing our new candidates (you can read my pre-series review here) is to remember who is who as they meet each other for the first time. Same for us really. And what a bunch they are. A mixture of the vain, the lame and downright hopeless. Who is which remains to be seen.

Once again, the aim is to find a business partner, rather than an Apprentice. The first task sees the teams in the traditional Boys v Girls. Midnight. The Boardroom. A brief introduction to the candidates and then we’re off. The first task involves a container of imported products for each team. Aim – to sell from dawn throughout the day. The team that sells the most wins. Jaz volunteers to be the PM for the girls, with real conviction (“I’m only bossy if I’m right, which is most of the time”). Jason also volunteers, but seems to immediately regret it. He gets the job.

Potential Team names are bounced around, and the girls take Evolve and the boys go for Endeavour. Jaz reveals her teaching background and treats the team like kids. Jason struggles to control the egos on display as he is low assertive.

Locations are investigated and pitches are done, giving us a chance to see the typical team in Forming / Storming phase, which all teams go through when they first come together. As there is no formal leader, just a self appointed volunteer, this model (originated by Bruce Tuckman) suggests we can expect the team to hit “Storming” phase quite quickly. So it proves to be. Throughout the programme this is evidenced by ego clashes and arguments (think of your typical teenager and their parents). This is added to by the fact that he teams are not really teams, but individuals who are competing with each other. To support the team through this phase, the leader needs to adopt a strong guiding style. Neither Jaz or Jason, seem to have this in them. There is some politeness in front of the PM, but also occasional bursts of emotion as frustration sets in and deadlines approach. In the boys team, Neil in particular can’t resist taking over.

In the boardroom, the performances of the teams are scrutinised by Sugar, with both PMs getting criticism from their teams, as well as some praise. The winning team is revealed to be…Endeavour. By £58.

Sugar challenges Jaz on her strategy and location choices and her leadership.  After deliberation, PM Jaz decides to bring back Sophie and Uzma, neither of whom sold anything. Uzma protests that she had a “logistics” role. Jaz says she made a big mistake in not finding a buyer for the cat litter. Jaz describes Sophie as a “passenger”.

In the end Sugar decides that Uzma shouldn’t have been brought back. He turns on Sophie and Jaz, and ultimately, due to bad organisation, Jaz should be fired. This is probably the right decision as Jaz showed no commercial acumen and limited applied leadership ability. To me it is risky to take the first PM role when you don’t know the individuals. The first task is always going to be stormy.

The Apprentice Series 9 – Meet the Candidates

The Apprentice Series 9 – Meet the Candidates

Fresh from unsavoury headlines caused by the industrial tribunal of former winner Stella English  BBC’s The Apprentice returns to our screens this week. Can it really be Series 9 of The Apprentice? How time flies.

Here I give my initial thoughts on the candidates we will meet this week. Of course, being a BBC programme we have a mixture of ethnic backgrounds, with equal numbers of men & women (8 of each).

courtesy of BBC

Alex courtesy of BBC


Alex Mills, 22,  hails from South Wales and his catchphrase is “No nonsense, No nothing” which certainly sounds like some nonsense to me. He describes himself as a Company Director, but it remains to be seen what line of business he is in.


courtesy of BBC

Natalie courtesy of BBC

Natalie Panayi tells us she is “All about the money” in what sounds like a mis-quote from Jerry Maguire. She is proud that she is half Greek, but it is unclear what this and her catchphrase mean when taken together. It becomes a bit worrying when Natalie, 30,  tells us that she will give “500%”. So, poor with figures, all about the money and half Greek, so expect some interesting negotiation tactics in the tasks ahead.


courtesy of BBC

Neil courtesy of BBC

Neil Clough is a Regional Manager (Soccer Centres) and is 32 years old. “Cheating, lying, I don’t care” Neil tells us, but he doesn’t restrict himself to sharing his tactical approach. No, Neil has a sound game plan – “not to get fired”. Sounds like he can’t lose


courtesy of BBC

Rebecca courtesy of BBC

Rebecca Slater, 35, is a Medical Representative and describes herself as “difficult to sum up”. In her audition tape, Rebecca uses a whole lexicon of business buzzwords to describe herself, such as energetic, dynamic and focused, but delivers it in a way that suggests the opposite. Is this a clever tactic or is Rebecca out of her depth? Time will tell.


Courtesy of BBC

Sophie courtesy of BBC

“Go big, or Go home. And back yourself”. So says 22 year old Malaysian born Restauranteur Sophie Lau. Sophie also tells us that she is prone “to get annoyed”, so expect fireworks and an early departure.

courtesy of BBC

Tim courtesy of BBC

“I’m definitely a team player, I’m not a Lone Ranger in any sense of the word” says Tim Stillwell, 23, a “Mexican” food entrepreneur. This is either a lie or Tim will find he is on the wrong programme. Tim’s video clip suggests it is a lie.


courtesy of BBC

Uzma courtesy of BBC

Uzma Yacoob, 32 own her own make-up brand. She says she has no plan and no tactics, but admits she can come across as too confident. “You guys wont be disappointed”. I will if she lasts more than the first 2 weeks.


courtesy of BBC

Zee courtesy of BBC

Twenty seven year old Zee Shah describes himself as “an over achiever” (sic) and takes inspiration from Napoleon; “I am here to conquer” and no doubt eventually meet his Waterloo (is that the location for a task in Week 3


courtesy of BBC

Francesca courtesy of BBC

Francesca MacDuff-Varley (32) is  Dance and Entertainment entrepreneur. She tells us she is “prepared to fight to the death to become Lord Sugar’s business partner”. As Francesca has more than a passing resemblance to Stella English, Sugar may well take her up on the offer


courtesy of BBC

Jason courtesy of BBC

Jason Leech(29) is a “jack of all trades, master of no career”. He compares himself to Machiavelli, but he’d better have a cunning plan if he is to overcome Sugar’s mistrust of posh-boys

courtesy of BBC

Jaz courtesy of BBC

“Superwoman” Jaz Ampaw-Farr (she’s combined raising 3 kids with a career, you know) considers herself  “the Brad Pitt of the Teacher Training Industry”. Its not clear if this performance will be closer to World War Z or Sezen


courtesy of BBC

Jordan courtesy of BBC

Jordan Poulton is a 26 year old Business Analyst from “humble beginnings”. Hard to know if he is genuine, if you still refer to the developing world as the 3rd world. Jordan could be a genuine game player, who will tell people what he thinks they want to hear .


courtesy of BBC

Kurt courtesy of BBC

Liverpool lad Kurt Wilson likens himself to Steven Gerrard “not the best technically, but he works hard and gets the best out of it”. This is not a good reflection on Kurt, as he is wrong about SG’s technical ability and therefore his judgement is not to be trusted


courtesy of BBC

Leah courtesy of BBC

The one question everyone will ask about 24 year old Doctor, Leah Totton is “Why are you on the programme”? There is nothing in her application to explain what she wants to achieve here. Expect Leah to sink or swim in the first few weeks.


courtesy of BBC

Luisa courtesy of BBC

Luisa has a thing about pets; ” I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit “. She also claims to have a brain like Einstein. Presumably she means the dog in Back to the Future.


courtesy of BBC

Myles courtesy of BBC

Myles is highly experienced and is co-founder of a marketing company. His experience is evident from his audition tape where he managed to roll out just about every business speak cliche ever heard. It will be interesting to see how he is received by younger candidates and how much of a “bottom line sales guy – the numbers never lie” guy he really is.