The Apprentice 2014 Week 4 – Summit out of nothing

You TubeThe Apprentice 2014 Week 4 – Summit out of nothing

The artificial set up for the tenth anniversary series of The Apprentice hopefully reached it’s nadir in this week’s episode, with 3 candidates getting fired.

Once the novelty of having 20 candidates had passed, the practicalities of working with such a large number of people came to the fore. It is a well established managerial principle that leading a team of 9 people is approaching the maximum span of control for a manager. It also challenges the programme editors to find opportunities to show each of the 20 candidates doing something. Lastly, and most importantly for the producers, its a real challenge for the audience to put names and faces together. Taken together, the points raised above explain how the first 4 weeks of this series have moved the firings from the target assassination approach of, say, The Day of The Jackal, to the St Valentine’s Massacre .

The task in Week 4 required each team to launch a new You Tube Channel by designing and producing 3 introductory videos. As such, this task represented a first real foray into the world of social media and (self) promotion. In the end, the products produced at very short notice by each team were extremely poor in quality, but each team managed to get over 3000 views or hits in the time available. And they did this without much promotion, as neither concept was good enough to get a recommendation from Buzzfeed. What does this say about the target audience if crap like this gets so many views? It explains why so many organisations are keen to promote themselves through social media.

I will not spend too much time analysing the task, because I’m convinced that it had little bearing on 2 of the 3 firings, but here are a few key points:

  • Jemma Bird was transferred to Summit , to re-balance the numbers
  • Lord Sugar appointed the PMs for both teams based on their backgrounds
  • Summit, led by technology entrepreneur Solomon Akhtar, won the task with their “fun” food  channel “Dare to Dine”
  • This means that Jemma is the only candidate to have won every task so far
  • Tenacity, led by Ella Jade Bitton, who wants to set up a TV production company, focus on an exercise channel “Fat Daddy Fitness Hell”, meant to be informative, but ending up as just plain cruel

It was clear from the start that 2 members of team Tenacity were being cold shouldered by the rest of the team. Former Arctic Socal Worker Steven Ugoloah has probably annoyed most of the watching audience as much as his team mates, and since week 1 every (long winded) suggestion he has made has been ignored. Similarly, the disdain for Hypnotherapist Sarah Dales has been palpable since she tried to put women’s rights back 50 years when, as PM, in Week 1 her strategy was to get the girls’ team wear more lippy and shorter skirts! With this type of team work on display it was no real surprise that Tenacity lost the task.

Steven Ugoloah was first to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Steven Ugoloah was first to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

In the boardroom, the relative harmony of Team Summit was a stark contrast to the dysfunction of Team Tenacity. Once it was established that Summit had got its first victory, the knives were out in Tenacity. Given what we had seen, it was no surprise that PM Ella brought back Steven and Sarah, but in reality sub team leader Lauren Riley was at fault for the videos being uploaded without search engine optimisation (or even any text in one case). Nor was it a surprise that motormouth Steven was the first to be fired, as his pitch had no structure or impact and epitomised his major flaw – all talk and no trousers. This was quickly followed by the firing of Sarah, but this was clearly due their respective ongoing performances, rather than anything specific in this task. Both individuals made bad impressions and appeared out of their depth. Its hard not to conclude that they were there as cannon fodder.

Sarah Dales. Second to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Sarah Dales. Second to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

It was more of a surprise when Ella became the third person this week to be fired. This seemed to be more to do with the fact that in Sugar’s eyes she had  never had a paid job, as he portrayed her as a perpetual student. A Business Studies student at that, which is guaranteed to push all of the wrong buttons. Sugar is very prejudiced against intelligent and educated candidates who don’t have real life experience. Ella Jade can consider herself unlucky. Many worse PMs have survived in previous tasks. Lauren Riley can consider she was lucky not to be in the final three this week.

One other thing to note about this series is that Sugar is clearly aware of the business proposals for each candidate, at least in outline. This has not been so obvious before, but one can’t help but wonder if some candidates are being fired because he doesn’t rate their plan. Just saying

Ella Jade Bitton. The Tenacity PM was unlock to be fired. Courtesy of BBC

Ella Jade Bitton. The Tenacity PM was unlucky to be fired. Courtesy of BBC

The Apprentice 2014 Week 3 – Summit has a mountain to climb

images-2The Apprentice 2014 Week 3 – Summit has a mountain to climb

There were suspicions before this week that in expanding the number of candidates in the Apprentice to 20, a few extra duds had been recruited. This was confirmed this week, when swimming entrepreneur Lindsay Booth was fired seconds before she was about to resign. This would have been something of a first for the series, but not one it should be proud of. Lindsay’s body language throughout reflected something we see a lot in Industry; a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes people persuade us that they are right for a job, but both sides agree after a short time that it’s not working. This is why we have probation periods. And so it was with Lindsay.

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

Anyway, back to this week’s task. Lord Sugar mixed up the teams with Steven, Daniel and Felipe joining Tenacity (formerly the girls’ team) and Lindsay (the same) Roisin and Sarah joining Summit (formerly the boys’ team and still without a win).

The task involved manufacturing, branding and marketing (high end) fragrance candles and re-diffusers to (high end) businesses and the public. Both teams got confident volunteer PMs, something of a departure from last week.

For Tenacity, Katie declares she has a nose for fragrances as she buys them all the time, and for Summit, accountant Roisin says she can do the numbers to maximise profits. PROFITS, for this is what Lord Sugar reminds the teams they will be judged on.

The two PMs adopt different strategies, with Katie going for Sugar’s tried and tested “make it cheap, maximize the margins by selling high”. Rosin prefers to go for a better product, but the margins are smaller so you have to sell more.

We could focus on many aspects of this task that are worthy of discussion; from Katie ignoring the feedback from Market Research to individuals given roles they are not suited for (Lindsay & Nurun selling), but the task was lost by poor project management by Roisin. Summit had the superior product and customers wanted it, especially the high-end businesses (hotel, gentleman’s club) but problems of supply and a poorly managed discount strategy cost them the task.

  • For instance, Summit sold re-diffusers to a gift shop at a ludicrous price when they promised another customer 25 units at a higher price and then couldn’t supply them. Bad business practice on 2 counts
  • James, leading the sub team selling to the public had a “slash and burn” approach to selling, taking any price to get rid of stock.

As business guru Peter Thompson reminds us;

“Turnover is vanity, profits are sanity”

 James was living proof of this and it cost the task, but Roisin was also culpable of poor project management.

Tenacity won by £14, the cost of one of Summit’s candles. And they had stock left over, but as Lord Sugar pointed out, in the real world they would have been able to move that stock on another day. Tenacity completed the task the Amstrad way – and won – with an inferior, but cheaper product.

Summit is still without a win.

In the boardroom, Lindsay was fired before the Final Three, as discussed above, so Roisin brought back non- seller Nurun and loose cannon, motor mouth James, who cunningly positioned himself as “just like you, Lord Sugar”. Sugar railed against this, but he has been shown to have a blind spot for people like him (remember Baggs-the-Brand?). Anyway, it worked and James survived, but his card is marked. Nurun was fired and again it was hard to argue against based on the first 3 tasks. Roisin survived based on here initial project management, but will need to learn from this experience.

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

Expect more culls as we look to get rid of more deadwood (Sarah stands out here, but a few are still hiding) before we get to the serious competition.



The Apprentice 2014 – Week 2, Tenacity wins through

Your firedThe Apprentice 2014 Week 2, Tenacity  wins through

This week’s task was design based under the banner of Wearable Tech. Each team had to design and pitch an item to 3 retailers (Hight Street Retailer John Lewis, Sport Fashion chain JD Sports and novelty specialists Firebox).

The girls, newly re-branded as Tenacity after the mauling their previous monicker Decadence received from Lord Sugar, ended up being led, despite her protests, by Marketing Officer and fashion retailer Nunrun Ahmed. This was despite the fact that personal branding expert Bianca Miller who was a better fit but made excuses and declined.

Similarly in Summit, Fashion guru Robert Goodwin declined to take up Lord Sugar’s suggestion that he lead, as did technology expert Solomom Akhtar. Both claimed that their expertise lay elsewhere. Their team mates weren’t convinced, but accepted the offer to lead from Scott McCulloch, a Clinical Development Strategist, because he had ecently attended a Wearable Tech conference. Scott had been identified as hifding the previous week, so this was his chance to shine. Unfortunately, he adopted a leadership style ranging from Autocratic to Laissez-Faire, either shouting or refusing to take responsibility for any decisions. This came about because his (good) idea about a wearable health monitor was ignored.

Similarly inept as a leader, Nunrun faded into the background. She didn’t want this task, and stronger personalities came to the fore.

In brainstorming ideas, you need to think of the retailers you will be pitching to. Of the three, JD has the clearest market (sports fashion) and the biggest reach, with John Lewis representing conservative high street and Firebox novelty but with limited reach. So, go for an idea that JD Sports will order and you win. Neither team took this into consideration.

Both teams suffered from poor leadership, with the 2 PMs fading into the background and much bitching ensuing. The boys eventually settled on the Emoti-Shirt (a plain sweatshirt chosen by Robert, who was a back seat driver) with a camera in the breast region. Tacky and slightly creepy. For the girls, there as the Little Smart Jacket with gadgets (phone charger, lights) powered by solar panels in the shoulders. These had to be visible, which made the design very 1980s.

Lets face it, both ideas were crap, as was the leadership on display. For the boys, Mark Wright again impressed for his calm but assertive interventions, but Daniel Lassman was a disaster at pitching, even agreeing with the clients criticisms at one point. James Hill made a lot of good points, but they were mostly about how useless Daniel was.

Similarly in the girls, Nunrun was poor, so fitness entrepreneur Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Pamela Uddin dominated, but did not impress.

Neither team did well with the pitches; poor products, not taking into account the audience and useless leadership which led to personality clashes on a big scale.

Winning is easier if you have a united team pulling in the same direction, and no-one has ever been sacked from the winning team, so this has to be the main focus.

The boys lost again, failing to get a single order. The girls secured one small order from Firebox. Lord Sugar was not impressed with with either team. To be fair, the unwieldy size of the teams didn’t help.

Robert Goodwin - the first candidate to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Robert Goodwin – the first candidate to be fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

In a surprise move, only in its timing, Robert Goodwin became the first candidate ever to be fired before being brought back in the final three! He was rightly punished for ignoring Sugar’s (big) hint to act as PM.

PM Scott brought back Daniel for his poor pitching and Solomon because Sugar had suggested he could have stepped in as PM. It made no difference, Scott McCulloch became the third person to be fired and the second this week. It was the right decision.

Quickly followed by inept Scott McCulloch. Courtesy of BBC

Quickly followed by inept Scott McCulloch. Courtesy of BBC

Once again, the girls didn’t win so much as the boys lost. Summit has got to change (geddit?). So far, so unimpressive. Undun was poor also and won’t last long.

Star Performer – Mark Wright once again

The Apprentice 2014 – Week 1- Poisoned Chalice

lord-sugar4The Apprentice 2014 Week 1 Poisoned Chalice.

The Apprentice returned this week, slightly later in the year than usual, but with a bumper cast for its 10th Anniversary. Yes, we have 20 Candidates at the start of the series, but with only 12 weeks of competition, expect a regular occurrence of multiple firings.

The Candidates consist of the usual motley crue from assorted backgrounds, both commercial (several business owners) and non commercial (social workers, lawyer). I won’t go into detail, as it would just take too long, but you can check them out here. What did strike me from Episode 1, in which the teams (boys v girls) had to maximise the profits by selling a variety of items, was just how weird the bunch are. Let’s be honest, this is TV, and Reality TV at that, so they have been recruited for their personality as much as for their business idea, possibly more so. But the first task was like watching a car crash in slow motion!

Task 1 is usually a poisoned chalice. Here are a few tips for surviving Task 1;

  • Never volunteer to be project manager, as you don’t know the team yet
  • If you do end up being PM, do a quick audit of strengths in relation to the task and try to allocate people to their strengths. This was a challenge in this task with 9 team mates you’ve just met
  • Get everyone to understand that if you cooperate and win the task, no-one in the team will get fired.

In Task 1 the boys’ (now called Summit) PM was Columbian lawyer Felipe Alviar-Baquero and he demonstrated excellent organisation and management skills, but too much trust in his appointment as sub-team leader  Chiles Cartwright. Chiles had a different approach (more autocratic) and despite already running several successful businesses, some pretty poor business decisions. In the end, in fighting with former social worker  Steven Ugoalah and a cock-up with selling tee shirts cost the boys the task. Steven is very annoying, but he did have some valid points to make about the tee shirts. Unfortunately, no one was prepared to listen to him. He will need to adapt or die.

The girls (running with team name Decadent) were led by ex-PA Sarah Dales whose idea of strategy was to get the girls to glam up (yes really) and wear short skirts. See what I mean about the candidates? The girls didn’t really win the task, so much as benefit from the incompetence and in-fighting amongst the boys. On this performance, Sarah is unlikely to last long.

Once it was revealed that the boys had lost the task, Sugar rumbled that there was a plan to point the finger at Steven and more or less told them not to bring him back. Given the debacle with the tee shirts (poor planning, none sold) Felipe brought back Chiles. He also brought back Robert Goodwin, who has ambitions in high fashion and dresses accordingly. His mistake was to try to glam up the hot dog sausages, which was ridiculed by Sugar. His card was marked by Sugar, but he survived as did Felipe for being generally ok. In the end Chiles was fired. Based on what we saw it was the right decision. The girls got off relatively lightly, though they were instructed to change the team name.

Courtesy of BBC

Chiles Cartwright. Fired in Week 1. Courtesy of BBC

Early Star I was impressed with Aussie Digital Sales manager Mark Wright