The Apprentice 2014 – Week 9 – Paper, Scissors, Bone



The Apprentice 2014 – Week 9 – Paper, Scissors, Bone

We saw the return of a favourite task in this week’s Apprentice – sourcing  9 items (one linked to each of the previous 9 series) in a mad dash across London. The team that secured the items for the least amount of money and within the time available would win.

There was a bit of a scramble to be PM in Tenacity, but Daniel Lassman eventually persuaded lawyer Felipe Alviar-Baquero and digital marketing sales manager Mark Wright to support him over fitness entrepreneur Katie Bulmer-Cooke. For Summit, banker  Sanjay Sood-Smith put himself forward, citing his organisational skills as the reason to vote for him. Roisin Hogan, Bianca Miller and Solomon Akhtar bought it, in a move that spookily presaged their judgement in the task ahead. Organisational skills? Really?

Of course, this task was about Negotiation, and one of the keys to good negotiation is leverage. The principle of bartering or haggling is well known, but to do this successfully depends on who has the power. In this way the task worked against the teams, as time was not in their favour. This meant that when they sourced an item, the teams usually had only one supplier, so the power and therefore the leverage sat with the vendor. To negotiate, they really needed to play one vendor off against another. Neither team adopted this strategy, so the “negotiations” we saw were not real life – they were a product of the programme, the cameras and the opportunity for some free promotion on TV. This was illustrated perfectly when Roisin negotiated a ludicrous discount for a diamond. Only on The Apprentice.

Back to the task.

In a real turn up for the books, Daniel made a good job of showing that apparently a leopard can change its spots, and for most of the task was the perfect PM – something that even arch rival Mark admitted by the end of the day. Daniel realised that time was a vital resource for the task, and divided the team into 2 sub-teams and they took roughly half of the list each and went off to source them. The evidence suggested that he genuinely delegated responsibility to each sub-team.

For Summit, the team might have suspected they had been sold a pup as Sanjay wasted time in discussion. Organisational skills? Really?

There was a lot of fun for the viewer as we see Tenacity acquire their items without fuss or histrionics and everything points to a knock-out win as they secured all of their items within the allotted time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Summit, where Sanjay and co failed to get all of the items and did not finish on time. Both of these failures would result in fines, and Summit should have lost the task, and even in the boardroom the figure backed this up. Organisational skills? Really? Then (Senior Judge) Lord Sugar ruled that 2 of the items sourced by Tenacity were invalid, they were fined and ended up losing the task.

Lets be honest, if Summit had lost the task, Sanjay would have been fired, something that is long overdue. However, they won on a technicality. To carry the metaphor further, their opponent was disqualified (for cheating?) as the fines imposed cost them the task.

But who was to blame? In our house there was a split decision, but the finger of doom was pointed more at Sugar for his interpretation of the list, than to the candidates. It’s a moot point, but it made for great TV. There was a point of contention around one item sourced by each sub-team; the “old rope” secured for free by Katie & Mark was not the exact length specified and the skeleton secured by Daniel and, especially lawyer Felipe, for £14, was paper rather than “true” 3D full sized anatomical model. This meant that all 4 team members were vulnerable. In the end, Daniel brought back Felipe (an obvious choice for his part in the skeleton affair) and a furious Katie, on the grounds that she was more responsible for the rope mistake because she was sub-team leader. Another surprise from Daniel, in not brining back Mark, but it was the lesser of two evils. Reformed character, or tactical thinking?

It was no surprise when Felipe as fired,  for he has been another of those lightweight candidates with little evidence of commercial acumen. A really nice guy, but he made a mistake with his (lawyer’s) interpretation that the paper skeleton was OK and he paid the ultimate price. In Sugar’s eyes, he was too clever by half and he had to go.

Felipe Alviar-Baquero was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Felipe Alviar-Baquero was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Katie was never likely to be fired, but her inclusion in the final three means that every candidate has now faced the possibility of being fired. We saw a fiery side to her character, and this has probably enhanced her credentials.



The Apprentice 2014 Week 8 – Hot Water

Home-spaThe Apprentice 2014 Week 8 – Hot Water

This week on The Apprentice may prove to be a watershed for many of the candidates, with poor leadership and fear of defeat provoking candidates to reveal more of their real selves.

The task was to sell 2 debut products at the Bath and West Country Show, along with one established product. In Summit, multiple business owner James Hill persuaded his team mates that he has the passion and drive to be PM. For Tenacity, lawyer Felipe Alviar-Baquero is preferred to fitness entrepreneur Katie Bulmer-Cooke who also put herself forward.

The contrast in Leadership styles is plain to see throughout the episode, with neither PM covering themselves in glory. Felipe has a cool, approach, using analysis to correctly identify what to sell and who should work together. Unfortunately, he struggled to manage the ongoing conflict between pub quiz company director Daniel Lassman and digital marketing sales manager Mark Wright. James, on the other hand, made decision on intuition. Both end up with unhappy teams and there is no doubt whoever lost the task would be in for a bumpy ride in the boardroom.

In the end it was two members of the Tenacity team that ensured they got a massive win; firstly Katie, who is paired with Daniel, coached him to take a softer approach in negotiations after two pushy meetings, and they secure their first choice established product, Hot Tubs. Secondly, Mark manipulated Felipe, with whom he has spend the first day identifying 2 debut products, to allow him, not Daniel, to sell the Hot Tubs. This was a high risk strategy, which completely derailed Daniel who went into full blown meltdown on Day 2 (selling). There is no way he would have survived if Tenacity had lost the task, but Mark would have been vulnerable too. However, they won with 10 Hot Tubs sold, including 7 to one customer sold by Mark. Katie was impressive throughout the task, as was Mark when selling. Felipe was too nice and spent the day arguing with Daniel to such an extend that it kept customers away and they sold little.

Over in Summit. James showed his immaturity and, possibly, his true nature. He completely ignored the recommendation of the sub-team sourcing debut items to sell, despite not seeing the items, and refused to discuss why. This left the sub-team to sell items they didn’t believe in (folding wellies and a swinging chair). Not surprisingly, they struggled. Next, he completely ignored any advice from accountant Roisin Hogan, and his wide boy approach cost them the chance to sell  the Hot Tubs he desired. They end up selling Tractors, mostly due to James’ lack of attention to detail. He even managed to call the Hot Tub customer by the wrong name! Where is Felipe when you need him?

Autocratic doesn’t quite capture James leadership style; people had more freedom in the Soviet Union than the team members in Summit! In an amazing development, James commanded Roisin not to tell the sub-team that they lost out on the Hot Tubs, but to allow him to tell the team he changed his mind. She reluctantly agreed, but said she won’t lie if asked directly. In the end, the fact doesn’t come out until the boardroom. James showed himself to be immature, self serving with no regard for the team, with dubious ethics and deluded.

In the boardroom,  it is revealed that Tenacity had won the task. Daniel is saved and Mark’s profile is strengthened, but it is Katie who made the most telling contribution overall, with her timely coaching and back seat leading of the team at key moments.

Sugar informs Roisin that he wants to hear from her, and she gives it with both barrels. Roisin delivers a passionate, well argued and evidenced dissection of James’ (lack of ) leadership. She is brought back into the final three by James for her “attitude” along with Sanjay Sood-Smith, who again failed to contribute much, barely selling anything. The only surprise is that Sanjay survives, as this is nor merited, but inevitably James is fired. Right to the end, James is trying to manipulate Sugar into

James Hill - autocratic leader, was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

James Hill – autocratic leader, was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

a stay of execution, playing the victim and sharing that he started with nothing. We’ve seen Sugar manipulated in this way before (Baggs the Brand, anyone?) but though he is fired “with regret”, he is still fired. Rightly so. He has been great TV but was found out many weeks ago.

So, 8 candidates remain. For me, Katie is the best all round candidate, with Mark and Roisin looking strong. Daniel, Felipe and Sanjay are dead men walking. Solomon, who again used his charm to sell, and Bianca are yet to convince me.

The Apprentice 2014 Week 7 – Bitter Sweet Drinks

empire-state-building-19109_640The Apprentice 2014 Week 7 – Bitter Sweet Drinks

This year’s foreign trip sees half of each team going to New York to try and “launch” a new soft drink into the US Market. However, although this task bears similarities to last week’s Board Games task, the crucial difference was the possible effect the time difference would have on communication between sub-teams.

In Tenacity, there’s an immediate battle between board room survivors from last week; Mark Wright and Lauren Riley both want need to be PM as both were accused of ducking the task by Lord Sugar. Both use what turns out to be “exaggeration” to try and secure the role, but whereas Lauren’s extensive knowledge of New York is based on only 4 visits, Mark does NOT have a background in advertising. Mark gets the vote and again he has managed to manipulate things to his advantage. Now we will see what he is made of.

Over in Summit,personal branding expert Bianca Miller gets the role of PM for the first time.

The first task of each PM is to decide who stays and who goes…to New York. The UK sub-teams will design a drink based on the brief agreed and the US sub-team will road test the product, shoot an advert and pitch to an advertising agency.

For Tenacity, it is no surprise that Mark puts himself in a different sub-team to Daniel Lassman, given their strained relationship. However, he does offer them “100% support” for any decisions they make. Katie Bulmer-Cooke stays with Daniel. Mark takes lawyers Felipe Aviar-Baquero and Lauren with him to NY.

Summit PM Bianca leaves Sanjay Sood-Smith with the creative Roisin Hogan and takes James Hill and Solomon Akhtar to the Big Apple.

Ultimately, the task will be decided less on the recipe of the drink, and more on its branding and advertising. Tenacity go for a healthy drink and Summit for an energy drink. Both products are British versions of what the teams think Americans will buy. This is followed up by excruciating adverts which are at best stereotypical but border on insulting. Surely, the teams would have been better drawing on their UK heritage and pitching a UK product?

Both PMs are disappointed by the products produced and shipped to New York ,and the brief market testing does not give either any confidence. What is interesting, though, is the  different approach that the 2 PMs take; Mark maintains his “Laissez-Faire” leadership style (more abdicate than delegate) whereas Bianca becomes much more Autocratic and directive.

The time difference always meant that immediate feedback and course correction to the product recipe had to be taken on trust, but this would be true if both teams were based in the UK. What needs to be clear in any situation is that the brief the recipe sub-team is working to is clear and as unambiguous as possible. As the PM can’t be in 2 places at once, the recipe has to be less of an issue in this task. The PM can be more hands on with the UK sub-team around the branding (log, packaging, digital advert etc.) and part of the pitching process. This is the right way to proceed.

At the pitches, Mark’s decision to be accompanied by 2 lawyers is interpreted by the Madison Avenue audience as safe and cautious. Lauren fluffs her lines, just about  the only thing Mark has allowed her to do. Given that she wanted to be PM, perhaps she should have pushed to be sub-team leader in the UK? Their advert, directed by Felipe at least has some energy to it.

The Summit pitch is better, but the advert is boring and does not convey enough energy, given the type of drink and market they are aiming at. The decision not to include music is misplaced.

Both teams design Digital adverts for Times Square. Again, the Big Dawg energy drink of Summit looks better than the insipid yellows of Tenacity’s Aqua Fusion.

Back in the boardroom, Sugar uses all of the available feedback from the Advertising agency and his aides to decide that Summit win the task. Mark has no problem in choosing Lauren to come back. However, how does he choose between Katie and Daniel? Was it ever in doubt that he would choose Daniel?

Mark comes under pressure for the poor product and the decision to take 2 lawyers for the pitch in New York. He gets support from Nick Hewer for his project management, but his “100% support” for Daniel lasts about 1 minute as he blames him for the poor product. This doesn’t hold water (sorry) as his choice of Daniel over Katie is based on personal feelings and no evidence. In a surprise tactic, Daniel points the finger of blame at Lauren. Mark agrees that she did little, and made a mistake in the pitch. Both men survive and Lauren ends up fired.

Lauren Riley was fired this week. No commercial acumen. Courtesy of BBC

Lauren Riley was fired this week. No commercial acumen. Courtesy of BBC

Once again, the firing is based more on Sugar’s instinct that he can’t see Lauren as a viable business partner than on this task in particular. It’s hard to disagree with this. A good tour guide, but no commercial acumen. If the decision was based on this week, then Mark should probably have been fired. He said as much during the programme.

The star of this week’s programme was probably Roisin for her creativity and calmness when Bianca got autocratic . The contrast with the emotional Sanjay was clear to see, but does she have what it takes to win? Remember, in Week 3 (Fragrances) Roisin lost as PM and demonstrated some poor commercial skills. She looks the best of the bunch so far, but has she learned from her past mistakes? Katie is another good, quiet candidate, but it’s hard to see a winner from the boys.

The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

board-48117_640The Apprentice 2014 Week 6 – Relationship Woes

At the end of last week’s exciting episode of Soap Reality TV show The Apprentice, the hostility between team “mates” Mark Wright and Daniel Lassman was out in the open. It was always going to be interesting to see how it would impact on this week’s task. We weren’t disappointed. Instead we were treated to a clash of 2 different strategies, played out in almost Shakespearean tones. Or Cane and Abel if you prefer a biblical reference. Mark is not alone in team Tenacity in not trusting Daniel, but he is the one stoking the fire. For his part, Daniel is so blunt and direct, it is easy to see how he unites his team against him.

The task this week is to design a board game, and Mark manages to manipulate branding assistant Pamela Uddin to lead a task nobody wants to. Tenacity have their PM. After last week’s narrow escape, multiple business owner James Hill chooses to become PM for Summit and immediately demonstrates his style – decisive and paternalistic – by choosing the type of game – fun and educational for the family.

Meanwhile, back in Tenacity, Mark suggests a game based on relationships. Sub teams are set, with James again showing his decisive, direct style. Half of each team  go off to do at some market research, half start to design the game.

The challenge in marketing here is that if you take one idea – like both teams did –  and it isn’t liked, then you have nowhere else to go and you’ve lost a lot of time – so either go out with an open mind and no fixed idea, or give the focus group some choice and measure preference. Both teams opt to take out a single offering. Summit’s idea about a geography based family game is well received, Tenacity’s idea of a dating game is not. Tenacity PM Pamela, in a fatal error that will ensure no brand assistant manager loses the word “assistant” in their job title, decides to ignore the market research and go with their idea “The Relationship Guru”. This is her first mistake. Her second is to allocate Daniel to write the questions (which are based on subjective, not objective data, so are guaranteed to annoy and cause argument) without checking every single one. In these two decisions, Pamela has almost guaranteed that she will be fired if Tenacity lose the task.

And so it proves to be. In a rare case of everything turning out just as it appears to be unfolding, Summit win the task by almost double the sales to shops and big chains compared to Tenacity. James led the task well, but it helped to have a good idea, well thought out and in line with what the target audience – both retail and public -would buy. In this respect, accountant Roisin Hogan came across well and deserves a lot of credit.

In the boardroom, Pamela chooses to bring Daniel (no surprise) and “glamorous solicitor” (sounds illegal) Lauren Riley back. Despite Pamela trying to push the blame on Daniel, the combination of his direct-in-your-face street fighting defence, and Lauren’s steely cross examination, as well as a poor performance as PM, it is the end for Pamela and she is rightly fired. Both Daniel and Lauren receive warnings about future conduct from the judge Lord Sugar, but they survive. After a poor week as PM last week, and with Sugar’s warnings about his need to take feedback ringing in his ears, Daniel lives to fight another week.

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Pamela Uddin, Inept Branding Assistant and PM was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Back in the house, Mark is telling everyone why it is unlikely that Daniel will survive, as the failure of the task and the woes of the world in general are down to last week’s PM. The look on his face is priceless when a humbled Daniel walks into the room. I have been a fan of Mark in this series, and once again this week his salesmanship is outstanding. However, the way he tried to manipulate things this week and his modus operandi in general are now out in the open for all to see. He is as scheming and determined as Daniel, but is pretending to be a team player – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or should that be a dingo? It will be interesting to see what happens when he is PM. And this must be soon, as Sugar has cottoned on to his tactics. Maybe a change in strategy? Cane and Abel Part 3 is next week…



The Apprentice 2014 Week 5 – Coach Trip

Coach - Bus The Apprentice 2014 Week 5 – Coach Trip

After the shock of last week’s triple firing, The Apprentice now feels like the programme we are used to. Yes, the tasks in Weeks 1-4 have been familiar, but the after contrivance of an unwieldy 20 candidates, pre-chosen PMs and a culling of 8 candidates in the first 4 tasks, this week felt more familiar. For instance, with 2 teams of 6, there are fewer places for people to hide.

This week, the teams had to organise competing coach tours aimed at the burgeoning tourist market, and try to sell as many of the 25 places on each coach. The team with the biggest profit would win the task. I say teams, but this week would stretch the concept to the limit, especially in Tenacity.

Sugar moved Mark Wright into Tenacity to balance the teams. He was keen to be PM, but lost out to Daniel Lassman, who persuaded the team that his experience in organising events would guarantee success. For Summit, Sanjay Sood-Smith got the job as PM. Both teams decided to tap into England’s rich heritage and go for history-themed tours.

The success of this task would ultimately be down to clarity of strategy, especially around pricing and the ability to sell the tour as good value for money. In short, maximise profits by selling a quality product for as much as possible, and minimise costs. The real surprise this week was that the winning team (Tenacity) always looked like winning. So often in The Apprentice we are used to the editing suggesting one winner, but the results showing the opposite.

Tenacity had clear WIN positions for their negotiations on ticket price. WIN stands for;

  • What do I WANT or what would be a good result (£80+)
  • What would be an IDEAL result (£99.50)
  • What do I NEED (later in the day they went as low as £65 to try to fill the bus)

Tenacity also used this price guide to inform their negotiations with the venues around Oxford that they wanted to partner with. It all seemed thought out, but was driven more by Mark than Daniel.

Over in Summit, Sanjay plucked the target price of £60 out of the air, and despite his banking background, the rest of the strategy as outlined above, was not obvious. This lower ticket price was to prove fatal for Summit, as they desperately tried to maximise profits by an aggressive negotiation with the venues, this time in Kent. Bianca Miller committed the cardinal sin of informing one group that they were the last chance for a sale, and their price was pushed down to £40 per person. The Summit starting price was lower than the minimum achieved by Tenacity. However, they did sell all of their 25 seats. Tenacity only sold 20 of 25 seats.

The second key factor was being able to negotiate discounts from the venues. In tenacity, Mark again showed his commercial acumen getting a discount of 60% at Blenheim Castle. He did this with a Collaborative Win / Win approach, by linking it to volume. By way of contrast, wide boy James Hill adopted a more aggressive I Win / You Lose Competitive negotiation style, starting off by asking for a ludicrous 80% discount with one venue. This approach might work for a one off like this, but it is not something that is likely to build an ongoing partnership. In the end, he failed to get any reduction above the regular group discount.This is the problem with playing your cards too early and negotiation on a position rather than on both party’s interests.

Tenacity delivered a quality experience but maximised profits by offering a poor quality (cheap) lunch. The highlight was the informative and note free tour of Blenheim narrated by Lauren Riley. Summit were disorganised and offered children’s songs on the bus, and Jemma Bird’s poorly prepared commentary. James again showed his lack of maturity and commercial acumen and resorted again to his “sell at any price” approach.

In the boardroom, it was revealed that though had Tenacity won, the team gave Daniel no credit. For his part, he refused to accept this, despite not selling any tour tickets. His relationship with Mark in particular is strained as the latter continues to calmly stick the knife in at any opportunity.

Jemma was fired for lack of contribution. She didn't seem surprised. Courtesy of BBC

Jemma was fired for lack of contribution. She didn’t seem surprised. Courtesy of BBC

For losing team Summit, Sanjay chose to ignore James’ poor performance, much to Sugar’s surprise. Sugar warned James that he must improve. Sanjay brought back Bianca for her mistake with the group ticket sell, and Jemma for a lack of contribution. Jemma was fired, and it was hard to argue with, as she was anonymous over the first 4 weeks and incompetent this week. However, a case could be made for sacking all 3.

So, Mark continues to shine, Lauren strengthened her position but James and Sanjay look out of their depths.

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 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


The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

The Apprentice 2013 – The Result

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

Apprentice winner, Leah Totton. Courtesy of BBC

In the end, Lord Sugar surprised us with the brave choice of Leah Totton as his business partner. Brave, not because of Leah herself, but because her idea of aesthetic clinics takes Lord Sugar into unknown territory. The safer option would have been Luisa’s baking wholesale brand. This decision will be seen as just  reward for Luisa who was, frankly, awful for long stretches of this season. Yes, she did improve as the series went on, but when she was bad she was rotten. This possibly accounted for why Luisa only got Neil as her first choice team member ,where as Leah got all of her first choices. I for one am pleased that she lost.

Having said that, we saw a different side to Leah, who so determined and set on getting her way, that she almost ignored good advice from her team around her brand name.

Leah was very clear in her business proposal, and had researched the market thoroughly. She may be new to business, but she has the clinical credibility to see it through. Don’t be surprised to see Lord Sugar get his wish and Leah become not only the face, but the name of her business. “NIKS” could easily become “Dr Leah”. Not only does she have professional credibility, but she is photogenic.

It is probably Leah’s passion and conviction, backed up with solid numbers (something that Luisa was a little vague on) that helped to convince Sugar to go with the aesthetics business. One other factor was Luisa’s vagueness about what would happen to her 3 other businesses. Sugar may be recruiting a business partner, rather than a member of staff, but he expects 100% of their attention in return for his £250K.

It will be interesting to see how this business idea progresses, but don’t be surprised to see The Baker’s Toolkit also become successful, with alternative investors.

The Apprentice Week 11 – Final Interview

lord-sugar4The Apprentice Week 11 – Final Interview

So we now know that the winner of this year’s Apprentice will be female. Luisa and Leah will contest next week’s final to become Lord Sugar’s Business Partner.

This week the candidates were interviewed by 4 of Lord Sugars’s most trusted advisers; Margaret Mountford, Claude Littner, Claudine Collings, Mike Suter. It is their job to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

The process is great to watch, but must have been tough to go through, and in the end it comes down to how strong the business idea is.

In the Boardroom, Jordan is quickly dispensed with because he does not own his business idea (in keeping with his experience as a Business Analyst). Next to be fired is Neil, the most consistent performer in the series. His plan involves an online Estate Agency, but when it is pointed out that his plan has a fatal flaw in it and he refuses to see it, he is fired. It is with genuine regret that Sugar lets hime go.

Francesca fails because of the (lack of) numbers in her business plan. She has run 3 successful businesses, but couldn’t give Claude the turnover. Nor could she justify her business projections for the proposed new business. So she was fired.

That leaves the final to be contested by Luisa, who has a new baking brand business idea and Leah who has a well researched idea for affordable cosmetic surgery. It is no surprise that Luisa is in the final, as she has the drive and has smoothed off her rough edges in recent weeks. In the clips we saw she came across as confident and assertive, and kept her frustration in check. Leah has little experience, but a well thought out idea. Both produced poor plans, but came across well face to face.

In the end it was the correct decision. Both are strong candidates, and it will be a great final. The only disappointment for Lord Sugar is Neil not being there. In the earlier series of tHe apprentice, Neil would have won and made a good employee. Without a solid business plan he had to go.

May the best woman win.