The Apprentice 2016 Week 6 – Discounted

business planThe Apprentice 2016 Week 6 – Discounted

Time finally ran out for one candidate this week, as the teams competed in the popular discount buying task. This task involves seeking out 9 named items and trying to get the best discounted price for each. This time, the task was to be completed over one night, whilst trying to source items from across London.

Trishna was moved into Nebula and immediately assumed the role of PM. This was a bit of a surprise, as Rebecca was on a final warning. Given that she had lost every previous task, one might have expected her to take control of her own destiny by pushing to be PM. In Titans, Courteney took on the PM role, believing that his knowledge of London would help his team.

In the boardroom, after the task was completed, Lord Sugar outlined the factors that should have be taken into account;

  • Logistics
  • Planning
  • Timelines
  • Negotiation

So, how did each team do against these criteria?

In terms of planning and logistics, Trishna put Paul in control of one sub-team and she led the other. She headed West and Paul headed East. This made sense as Paul had a lot of local knowledge. Trishna also had a sound strategy – have a clear walk away point for each negotiation, and if the customer won’t offer you a good deal, walk away. Nebula also had the loose cannon known as Sofiane, who seems unable to act as a team player. Trishna showed real frustration when he struggled to stick to her plan.

In Titans, Courteney adopted a real laid back approach. The lack of urgency was a bit surprising, considering the tight timelines for the task. If Nebula had the unpredictable Sofiane, then Titans had their own version in Karthik.

The success of the task hinged around 2 factors; the obvious one was successful negotiation, the second was time management. Both teams had examples of poor negotiation – either having only one supplier, which severely restricted negotiation power, to being up against the clock. This wasn’t helped by some poor planning in terms of where to find items. Courteney set Titans on a wild goose chase to SE2 without realising how far away it was. Rebecca sent the Eastward facing Nebula sub-team led by Paul to Streatham in south west London on a fruitless chase for Black soap and a Tagine.

Ultimately, Nebula lost the task (again) due to failing to source a few items, including the tagine and black soap, and Trishna’s sub-team failing to get back to base by the designated time. These 2 mistakes resulted in penalties and the task was lost. Trishna had a good negotiation strategy, but she failed to follow it

Trishna brought Rebecca and Sofiane back with her into the final three. It was no surprise that serial failure Rebecca was fired. She just ran out of excuses for her lack of success and was doomed once the task was lost, a task that she should have chosen to lead. Sofiane was warned that he needs to be more of a team player, but survived again.

Once again, the performances of both teams was uninspiring and still no one candidate stands out.

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The Apprentice 2016 Week 4 – Departure Store

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Liberty London courtesy of wikipedia

The Apprentice 2016 Week 4 – Departure Store

The current series of The Apprentice continues to surprise and disappoint in equal measures. This is the result of the candidates who have been selected for this year’s competition. In Week 2, we had Nathalie who was fired and confessed that not only was it the right decision, but that she had never even watched the programme before! This week, we had business consultancy owner, Aleksandra King walk out of the programme. The timing of her departure was strange as it was before the task had even got started. However, her reasons – missing her family – were very fair. She later admitted that since starting her family she no longer accepts work that takes her away from them. So why come on this programme? Along with the emotional intelligence problems we have seen from Jessica and Karthik in previous weeks, it does beg the question; are these really the best 18 candidates you could find?

This week’s task involved running a department in Liberty London. Each team could identify one item to sell, as well as the pre-existing range and also had to run a “personal shopper” service. In theory this task should bring out the best in both the more commercial and the more artistic candidates. For Nebula, make-up studio owner Grainne McCoy put herself forward as PM, with children’s clothing company owner Frances Bishop as sub-leader. For Titans, sales exec Sofiane Khelfa was assisted by the invisible man – sales manager Samuel Boating.

The success of the task hinged on a couple of things; choosing the right product to promote in the shop window, and then selling as much stock as possible. For Nebula, the team was heavily influenced by the strong opinions and experience of digital marketing manager Mukai Noiri. They chose a bag, over the safer option of printed scarves, something that is more associated with Liberty. Mukai also had a huge influence over the design of the window display. There was clear tension and a lack of trust from PM Grainne towards Mukai throughout the task. For Titans, they went with cat-themed scarf prints, took the advice to have a person (Jessica) as part of the window display.

The personal shopper service gave us insight into a couple of key principles in effective selling;

  1. You have to build up Trust with the customer. This requires rapport between both parties, and you are unlikely to sell anything if you do not achieve this. It helps if the customer likes you and that you can demonstrate that you have something in common (tastes, upbringing, interests etc). The principle is “If you are like me, I will like you”
  2. You need to Understand the needs of the customer. Frances illustrated how to do this by telephoning the personal shopper client the night before meeting them and ascertaining a few things (budget, preferences, past experiences etc.). Alana adopted a more hands off approach, but failed to find out the level of detailed information. The more you understand what the customer is looking for, the easier it is to satisfy those needs with your products or service.

In the end, there wasn’t much between the 2 teams (probably only one high ticket handbag), but it was Nebula who lost. With the departure of Aleksandria, the team was facing the prospect of 2 departures in the same week. In the end, it was no surprise that Mukai was brought back by Grainne, as he pushed for the handbag and was instrumental in the poor window display. However, Grainne was also at fault for not listening to the store about placing a person as part of the display. Karthik was also brought back (though Grainne changed her mind twice), but he had a quiet and effective week by his standard. Mukai, in the final three for the third successive week (and this is only Week 4) was fired and it was hard to argue against the decision. Let’s hope that the changes observed in the behaviour of Karthik and Jessica, as well as the departure of inappropriate candidates means that this competition can finally settle down and we can see some good quality tasks. I’m not hopeful, but what do you think?

The Apprentice 2015 – The Final

The Apprentice 2015 – The Final

Your firedIn the end, the Apprentice 2015 came down to a battle between the traditional and the new to acquire Lord Sugar as a business partner; either plumber Joseph Valente or dating app developer Varna Koutsomitis. To help Sugar make the decision, each finalist was asked to develop a digital billboard advert and promotional video before pitching their idea to a selected audience. They were assisted by a motley selection of 2015 ghosts of candidates past.

The two finalists seemed to adopt different strategies for selecting their teams; Varna prioritised going with individuals that she respected rather than liked (such as Richard Wood) selecting individuals with a good track record, whereas Joseph went with his mates, choosing relationships over past success. It didn’t seem to make too much of a difference, as it was obvious that neither candidate had a fully formed business strategy going into the final.

For Varna, the challenge was to persuade Lord Sugar to invest in a business that could be seen as speculative (there are apparently 15 new dating apps per week, and 15 failures) where the prize money could disappear within the first few weeks. Joseph wanted to transform his successful local business (in Peterborough) into a national brand. To do this he would need to identify a USP.

The promotional videos strayed into familiar territory. The addition of a juggling metaphor transformed what could have been a very traditional dating site advert into something resembling Cirque Du Soleil. Joseph only just avoided producing “Confessions of a Plumber’s Mate”. Neither was particularly inspiring. The issue was trying to get the essence of the brand each team was trying to sell. For Varna there was the challenge of selling the scientific profiling in the form of gaming. Joseph had based his idea on the “green” revolution, but was informed by focus group that this was not going to make money for the next 15 years (in a subtle dig at government policy). Credit to him, though, he latched onto the idea of investing in smart phone technology to control central heating and shifted his proposal accordingly. In doing so, he actually made the final a battle of the apps, at least on one level. Similarly, Varna realised from her focus group that the thorny issue of funding was not going to go away. She also repositioned her pitch to be an initial investment to prove her unique idea could win and use this to attract further venture capital.

Back in the boardroom with adverts, videos and pitches completed and past candidates dispensed with, it was decision time for Lord Sugar. It was here that Joseph played his trump card; he cited Sugar’s autobiography as a major inspiration and reminded him that he also came from humble roots. In other words, he showed Sugar how alike they are. It is true that Joseph has grown and evolved across the series, even down to his appearance. He has also shown himself as being prepared to listen and learn, two traits that Sugar values. Joseph was also able to dangle the carrot that a rival business in London had grown to a multimillion pound business.

Varna on the other hand has grown less through the process, having started from a high base. She remained focused and confident, with good knowledge of her business area. However, here business plan represented a riskier proposition.

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And the winner is…Joseph. Photo courtesy of BBC

In the end, Joseph and his plumbing business were the safer option.  To choose Varna, Sugar would have to speculate on new product that is untested and, crucially, he would not have control over unless he added significant extra funding. This fact, coupled to Joseph playing the “I’m just like you” card (Sugar’s achilles heal) secured the win. Sugar is going into the plumbing business.

It is interesting to note that Joseph represents the 5th business partner that Lord Sugar has taken on as a result of the revised format for The Apprentice. I remain unconvinced that this is the best format (see my earlier posts) and I am critical of the candidate selection this year, where good TV is more important than business credibility. I really hope that the production team give the format a real overhaul before series 12 next year. That said, good luck to Joseph Valence and his plumber’s mate, Lord Sugar.

 

The Apprentice 2015 Week 11 -Fail to plan and you plan to fail

The Apprentice 2015 Week 11 -Fail to plan and you plan to fail

The final of the Apprentice 2015 will be between social media entrepreneur Varna Koutsomitis and plumbing business owner Joseph Valente. The remaining three candidates were eliminated at the interview stage.

In the end, it comes down to the quality of the business plan; how well you sell it and how well it fits with Lord Sugar’s preferences. The truth is, however, that the semi-final makes a mockery of the previous 10 weeks.

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Varna will be in Sunday’s final. Photo courtesy of BBC

Take marketing agency director Richard Woods, for instance. He was many people’s favourite to win the series, as he had been on the winning team 8 times, twice as project manager. In the old format of the series, he would have been the perfect employee. Except he probably wouldn’t apply as he already runs his own business. Richard has played a shrewd game, keeping his cards close to his chest; just enough of a team player but always preferring his own judgement. I suspect there are as many viewers who hate him as like him, because there was something quite incongruent, bordering on manipulative, in his approach. For some, it will be fitting that it was this, and not the quality of plan, that ultimately cost him. Richard chose not to reveal that his plan for a marketing agency for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is a duplicate of his existing business. This could be seen as justice or even a vindication of the process.

Hairdresser Charleine Wain had a plan to turn her hair and beauty salon in to a franchise. Much as she impressed the panel with her work ethic (and I admit that I’ve grown to like her) it showed a naivety in business terms; you can’t  franchise until you have made a name. Sugar may be a big name, but he is not associated with hairdressing.

For Mr Corporate, Gary Poulton, his idea of a virtual meeting space for events confused Sugar and didn’t convince the panel.

Isn’t this just Skype?” asked Karren

So, Gary failed to sell his idea.

Varna is wanting to design a new dating / gaming app and though she was convincing, there is a nagging concern that she has underestimated the start-up costs.

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Varna will be in Sunday’s final. Photo courtesy of BBC

Joining Varna in the final is Joseph Valente. His plan to expand his plumbing business was realistic and, crucially, tangible. Sugar made his name in manufacturing, and he seems to err towards propositions that make things or at least involve real things. He has surprised us (Ricky Martin’s recruitment business proposal) in the past, but Joseph did a great job of selling his plan with passion and realism. Crucially, he has learned from the feedback he received on the property task, and he changed his appearance by shaving off his moustache. This visible sign said “I’ve leaned in this process” and was noted by Sugar.

So the choice this year is between a new app and a plumbing business. Who knows what better plans belonging to fired candidates may have been missed, and this is my main criticism of the series?

Who will win? Who cares! The whole thing has been rendered irrelevant and the format needs to be re-thought. There is a case for starting the series with the interview panel and identifying 12 business plans that are viable and that Sugar would invest in. Then the weekly contests have relevance, as the candidates are reduced to a single winner with a viable plan.

 

The Apprentice 2015 Week 10 – Last Orders

The Apprentice 2015 Week 10 – Last Orders

images-2In another first across 11 series of  The Apprentice, the result this week was a tie. Both teams failed to take any orders, so both teams lost.

The task was for each team to design and pitch a new healthy snack. In a battle of the ex-navy candidates, hair salon owner Charleine Wain took on the role of PM for Versatile, with Brett (the builder) Butler-Smythe assuming the role for Connexus. With only 3 people in each team, this inevitably meant that sub-teams could consist of only one person. Digital Marketer Richard Woods jumped at the chance to finally be in complete control of branding for Connexus. Charleine took sole responsibility for product design (ingredients and production). In reality, this was where the problems started for each team; the lack of a second person to counsel or challenge meant that both Richard and Charleine made mistakes that cost the their respective teams orders. For Charleine it was an anarchic approach to adding ingredients,  which meant that it was impossible to make any health claims about their health bar! For Richard, he chose to ignore the fundamental USP of their healthy alternative to crisps – they are raw and dehydrated, not cooked. It could be said that this is down to the PM, and in that situation, as PM, I would prefer to be able to move between the 2 sub teams to coordinate and implement the vision and strategy. I’m not sure if it is a practical or logistical problem, if it is not allowed in the rules, of if they never think of it, but it happens week after week.

In the end, both products were poor and rightly got no orders. The non-crisps were too oily (thanks to Varna) and the health bar too dry. Both teams had problems with their health claims, and Joseph even resorted to lying (though I think he missed the subtlety of ex- Tesco man Gary Poulton telling him that not mentioning facts was not same as misrepresenting them) in one pitch.

There are some interesting (and possibly controversial) points to be made about education in this series. Or at least communication skills. Richard is clever and seems to intimidate some of the more poorly educated colleagues. Stand up Brett, who effectively fell on his sword rather than blame Richard for a fundamental and arrogant decision NOT to include the term “raw” on the branding. Brett sounds like a TV copper from the 1960s giving evidence in court “on the evening of the 5th I was proceeding in a northerly direction…”. He is a very poor communicator, and comes across as poorly educated. Similarly, Charleine does not always communicate well, but she does have a fighting attitude. We saw the stress getting to her this week as she thought she was getting fired. Any other week she would have been. Joseph is nice but his lack of education or even intelligence led him to lying in the pitch. It is difficult to see these three surviving the interviews next week.

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Brett preferred being fired to blaming Richard. Laudable or Naive?

One person who definitely won’t be there is Brett, who as PM took the bullet for his team’s failure. He left “with honour” but nothing else. I’m surprised he has survived this long.

My money is on Varna and Richard for the final, depending on their business plan of course, but they seem best equipped to survive cross examination. As for Gary, Lord Sugar keeps referring to him as “corporate”. I’m not sure why this is a problem for a man who runs a corporation, but it seems his card is marked.

 

The Apprentice 2014 – Business Plans

Winner Mark Wright with Lord Sugar. Courtesy of BBC News

Winner Mark Wright with Lord Sugar. Courtesy of BBC News

The Apprentice 2014 – Business Plans

The semi-final and final of this year’s BBC Apprentice was all about the business plans. Although it has made for great entertainment, I remain a critic of the revised format. The decision to change from recruiting an Apprentice, to finding a business partner, makes the series look more like Dragon’s Den, and in this respect it fails.

There were attempts in the final last night to make the process look fit for purpose. Reference was made to winner Mark Wright‘s excellent people management skills, as well as his drive and determination, and it is true that these were identified across the weekly tasks. And this did differentiate Mark from runner up Bianca Miller.

The truth is, though that in the end it all came down to the business plans, and in this respect the outcome became predictable, as Lord Sugar opted for the most coherent plan. It may appear to be a risk to go into SEO and website development, but Sugar has consistently invested in projects that are away from where he made his name. Not manufacturing products, but into the Service industry. Certainly this was true with Leah Totton (last year’s winner) and Ricky Martin from 2 years ago.

The truth is that Mark had the better thought out plan and, crucially, it was in his area of expertise. Bianca was very successful with a previous start-up (top 100) but had no track record in this field. Sugar prefers to play the odds, and in this respect, Mark was the safer bet. Of course, it is not without its risks, but is is not as risky as Bianca’s tights. Bianca was shown not to understand her market when she got the pricing strategy so wrong. It was a brave, or desperate, move to change the pricing strategy, but it maybe undermined Sugar’s confidence in the plan. In reality, she had lost the moment was clear the pricing was wrong, whatever she did.

Across the series, we have seen some excellent candidates (Mark, Katie, Roisin, Bianca), but very few (one?) decent business plan, and it is not earth shattering. Going forward, the programme needs to find candidates with better business plans because, ultimately, the best contestants had the poorest plans (Roisin?).

Finally, goodbye to Nick Hewer. He has ben an integral part of The Apprentice and he will be missed. Whoever replaces him, I hope the producers rain back on the contribution of them and Karen. This extra contribution from the eyes and ears of Lord Sugar is not welcomed by me.

 

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

Skeleton

Skeleton

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…