The Apprentice 2014 Week 10 – The Business of Failure

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

The Apprentice 2014 Week 10 – The Business of Failure

We reached the quarter final stage of the Apprentice this week, with seven candidates remaining. Next week there are the much anticipated, or dreaded, interviews, but to get there the candidates had to survive one final traditional task.

The task this week was to produce a new premium / luxury dessert and sell it to three supermarkets (Asda, Waitrose and Tesco). Lord Sugar mixed things up by moving Daniel Lassman to Summit with Sanjay Sood-Smith moving in the opposite direction. He then appointed Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Roisin Hogan as PM of, respectively, Tenacity & Summit.

The task served to identify a losing team (Tenacity) but played only a small part in deciding who got fired. It was an interesting task, and the two PMs were chosen because food is central to their business plans. Here are some of the highlights from the task;

  • Katie experimenting with weird and wonderful ingredients, such as saffron, without a clue as to what they bring to the finished item (trifle). And this was despite a leading chef telling them that the public will only buy what it recognises
  • Mark and Katie in one car, with Sanjay in a separate car (why?) allowed Mark to manipulate Katie into allowing him to do the key pitch (by potential orders) at Tesco. Mark then failed massively in the task
  • Daniel receiving clear, unambiguous instructions from Roisin not to interrupt in a pitch, and completely ignoring her
  • Classy branding for their tea-cheesecake product from Summit (Roisin and Solomon) helped win the day over the insipid branding (Mark & Sanjay) of Tenacity’s trifle

Once in the boardroom, Summit won the task by securing more orders, principally a large order from Tesco. Tenacity only secured a good order from Asda, but nothing from the other two. Summit secured orders from both Tesco and Waitrose.

All three members of Tenacity are called back, and Katie is praised for her organisation, but her lack of expertise in the kitchen/lab severely undermined her credibility and she is fired. In reality, she was fired

Katie Bulmer-Cooke was fired. Courtesy of BBC

Katie Bulmer-Cooke was fired. Courtesy of BBC

because her business plan (a chain of healthy restaurants, starting in Sunderland) is not likely to be something Sugar would take a risk on, and Katie demonstrated no expertise in the area. Katie’s firing is deserved but is still a real shock as she has been a consistent performer, and it is right that she goes “with regret”. Under the old format she would have made an excellent “Apprentice”, but this business idea and her lack of experience were never going to appeal to Sugar.

That left Mark, who was very poor on the day but who has been good throughout, and Sanjay. It is no surprise that Sanjay is fired, but it is interesting that it is Mark, who has success in digital marketing, who is able to plant the seed of doubt into Sugar’s mind by his strong assertion that the numbers don’t add up. Again, a website / social media for fitness freaks doesn’t sound like a winner, and is not in an area Sugar is likely to

Sanjay Sood-Smith was also fired. Courtesy of BBC

Sanjay Sood-Smith was also fired. Courtesy of BBC

go for. Sanjay is fired, and Mark enters the last chance saloon. It will be interesting to see what the interview panel and Sugar make of Mark’s as yet unseen internet marketing plan.

So we are down to 5 candidates, and it is an open field. The rest has been preamble. Next week we get to see what business plans the candidates bring in everyone’s favourite episode.

I would just like to make a comment that I’m not a fan of the greater contributions from Nick and Karen. This has ranged from disclosing private conversations in the boardroom (Sanjay’s comment about Bianca) to twisting or misrepresenting facts. They may have always done this, but I preferred it when I didn’t see it.

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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.