The Apprentice 2015 Week 5 – Read and Right

The Apprentice 2015 Week 5 – Read and Right

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Connects PM – Sam Curry courtesy of BBC

As we approach the midway point of this year’s “The Apprentice”, this week’s episode allowed us to study the art of Leadership. The task was for each team to design a children’s book and audiobook and sell it. The team with the biggest profit would win. However, the real focus was on what makes a good leader.

Personal Tutor Sam Curry was drafted into Connexus by Lord Sugar with a strong hint that he should take on the role of PM. The team got the message and accepted Sam’s offer to be PM. For Versatile, Charleine Wain (Hair & Beauty salon owner) pushed for the role of PM on the grounds that she is a parent. This resulted in two contrasting styles of leadership.

Sam’s undergraduate studies in English Literature meant that he had good subject expertise, though less so in children’s books. Charleine’s practical experience as a mum gave her a different type of expertise. But, whereas Sam’s theoretical knowledge made him indecisive (or brought out his indecision, as we would see later) Charleine’s practical approach gave her the confidence to be too decisive, to the point of being autocratic. Neither approach got it right – Connexus were stuck in “analysis to paralysis” with too much democracy, and Versatile were run like a dictatorship.

Lesson 1 – a strong leader will listen to the views of other people, but has the capacity to make a quick decision when the team is unable to reach agreement. This is an illustration of the work of Bruce Tuckman’s Team Development Model. Both teams were demonstrating “Storming” behaviour, so a “Let’s talk, I decide” approach is needed.

PM - Charlene Wain  Courtesy of BBC

PM – Charlene Wain
Courtesy of BBC

As the design task progressed and each team split into 2 sub-teams, Charleine’s autocratic style became reinforced. As it was not possible for her to control both sub-teams, she appointed Richard as a false sub-team leader. I say false, because she gave him no authority and wouldn’t allow him to communicate with her. Instead, David was the “voice” of the sub-team. Charleine demonstrated her fear of Richard, who has been very successful so far, but likes everyone to know it.

Lesson 2 – a good leader has to recognize the strengths that individuals bring to the team. Allowing personal differences to cloud judgement creates resentment and failure. Charleine demonstrated her fear and resentment of Richard by her actions and members of the team were laughing at her behind her back.

When it came to pitching to leading book retailers (Waterstones and Foyles), Charleine again decided that she needed to be in control. Her team gently tried to persuade her to allow Richard to lead the pitches, but Charleine put herself forward. It was a complete disaster. Natalie did some of  the pitching for Connexus  (along with Sam) and was also awful.

Pricing strategy was also unclear in each team. When negotiating with retailers, it is imperative that those involved in the negotiation agree their WIN positions in advance and then stick to them;

  • What do I WANT (good result)?
  • What would be IDEAL (best result)?
  • What do I NEED (minimum result)?

Both teams had muddled pricing strategies, and in the end went to get rid of stock at any price. Selina and Natalie were particularly poor in this respect. Natalie (Connexus) lost an order for her team because she did not have the discounts (as percentages) to hand. Selina (Versatile) requested an order of 150 which was refused and immediately suggested 50 instead. She should have asked the customer how many they were prepared to buy and put extra discount against higher volume.

Lesson 3 – in negotiation always know your WIN positions, and stick to them.

In the boardroom, it became apparent that a piece of individual success for Charleine got Versatile the win. She persuaded a smaller retailer to take over 100 books and this proved to be the difference between the teams. Sam, on the other hand, took his team to Charring Cross Road where there are lots of book sellers – but it was the wrong market and nobody bought.

Natalie was fired because of poor pitching and negotiation. Courtesy of BBC

Natalie was fired because of poor pitching and negotiation.
Courtesy of BBC

Having lost the task, Sam was able to give another illustration of his indecision as he struggled to decide who to bring back into the final three. In the end, he chose (reluctantly) Natalie for her poor negotiation disastrous pitch and Brett for no obvious reason. So really, it was between Sam and Natalie. Lord Sugar showed rare compassion;  he fired Natalie, but saved Sam. In truth, either could have gone. If Sam is to survive, he needs to become more decisive. He was in tears as Natalie was fired, and he seems too nice to survive. Charlene on the other hand needs to watch her back, as dictator’s rarely live out a full life.

The Apprentice 2015 Week 1 – Nice Guys Finish First

The Apprentice 2015 Week 1 – Nice Guys Finish First

The Apprentice returned to BBC1 screens this week with 18 scarily enthusiastic and self-believing candidates, just in time for Halloween. Not only that, but we had the even scarier prospect of the ghost of The Apprentice past (Claude Littner) replacing Nick Hewer as one set of Lord Sugar’s “eyes on the task”. I suspect that some of Claude’s frightening reputation will be diminished in his new role. Just like (Bruce) the shark in “Jaws”, the more you see of Claude in this series, the less scary he will become. This is because fear of Claude is based on the way he has cross examined candidates and destroyed their self esteem through pithy put downs. The problem here is that Claude is a silent observer. We, the audience, get the benefit of his opinions, but the teams are protected. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

Carrying on the horror movie theme, just like in a slasher movie, I am not inclined to spend too much time examining each of the 18 candidates. Some will be dispatched and fade from our memory minutes after they have been fired and appeared on “You’re Fired” (by the way, Jack Dee is an excellent choice of host to replace Dara O’Briain). The editor of Week 1 agreeed, because only about 9 of the 18 got any significant air time. Unfortunately, some of those we did see were not very impressive.

The task this week was to buy fish from Billingsgate Market and turn it into lunch time snacks to sell. The team with the biggest profit wins.

Lord Sugar made things interesting by mixing up the teams. Rather than starting with the usual gender based teams, 3 boys and 3 girls made the move to mix things up. We ended up with a blue team (they wore blue overalls for the task) called Versatile and a yellow team (you guessed it, yellow overalls) called Connexus (because if you sat it fast it, you know, “connects-us”). I’ll stick to blue and yellow.

In Blue, it was a case of everyone take a step backwards when selecting Project Manager. Selena Waterman-Smith was last to do this and, reluctantly, became PM. The scramble to avoid being PM in both teams will embarrass some candidates as they watched this episode, but over in Yellow, Driving-style April Jackson was decisive, volunteered and was swiftly accepted before she could change her mind. Actually, changing her mind was not something we saw a lot of from April in this episode. Selena on the other hand was indecisive, but even0handed with it.

April decided that fish cakes and Salad Niçoise would be the products Yellow would sell and immediately cut off any other opinions. Over in Blue, the team eventually agreed on Calamari and fish finger sandwich, without much direction from Selena. Claude observed Blue and Karen followed Yellow.

The rest of the task went more or less as expected – April making all of the key decisions for Yellow without any obvious consultation or strategy. For instance, Yellow bought the first tuna they came across; no checking of alternative options, no negotiating. Typical of the Driving-style (from Social Styles) it was all about results and keeping to time. Quick decisions, few facts. Over in Blue there was more delegation but also more indecision. Ex-Royal Navy (but now running her own hair and beauty salon) Blue team member Charleine Wain took control of some of the decisions, but the whole thing was much more democratic. The decision to buy the cheapest squid proved a poor choice, but using coley as a cheaper alternative to cod showed an eye for a profit.

So the scene was set; two different leadership styles (autocratic Yellow, democratic Blue). Which would win out? Fortunately, Blue made the better choices (location, pricing, delegation of tasks) and despite carrying a few Muppets (Mergim Butaja trying to sell fish to a vegan restaurant comes to mind) they managed to turn a profit of £200, despite, the calamari going off and having to be disposed of because it hadn’t been kept below 5 Celsius!

In Blue, the editing focused on three characters; April’s leadership style (her non-negotiable pricing strategy was laughable – £9 for a tuna salad), team leader in the kitchen Brett Butler-Smythe (also ex-navy, but obsessed with following the “specifications” [sic] of the recipe) and hapless Dan Callaghan – who owned up to not being able to sell or cook in the boardroom. It was no surprise when we discovered they made a profit of only £1.87 [sic]! Yellow missed the lunch time rush because Brett (organising and preparing fish cakes) and Dan (in charge of calculations for ingredients) took too long to prepare the fish cakes and didn’t produce enough.

Fired this week - Dan Callaghan

Fired this week – Dan Callaghan

Having lost the task, it was no surprise that April brought Dan and Brett back with her. Brett and April fought their corner, but nice guy Dan as just too honest (and naïve in admitting to his short comings), so it was natural that he was fired. However, Brett and April were both lucky. They were worse than Dan and will have to learn soon or face being fired. Dan at least was a nice guy and seemed intelligent. But, in The Apprentice, nice guy’s get to finish (the series) first.

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 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.

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 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 4 – Summit out of nothing

You TubeThe Apprentice 2014 Week 4 – Summit out of nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

As business guru Peter Thompson reminds us;

“Turnover is vanity, profits are sanity”

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

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

Summit is still without a win.

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

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

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

 

 

Alex Ferguson – Thoughts on Management & Leadership

Alex Ferguson’s – Thoughts on Management and Leadership

Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager in English league football, and one of the most successful in world football. Ferguson recently published the latest volume of his memoirs “My Autobiography”, principally covering the period from 1999 to his retirement this year.

In the book, Ferguson also shares some of his insights into being a (football) manager. Several of them can be applied to any form of management, whereas others are possibly specific to football. What can we take from these quotes and what insights do they give us into Ferguson’s values and beliefs?

Here are some of Ferguson’s quotes (italics) on Leadership & Management followed by my thoughts on what he may mean, or what we can take from them.

Sometimes defeats are the best outcomes. To react to adversity is a quality. Even in your lowest periods you are showing strength.”

It is easy to be a manager when things are going well, but every manager will have occasions when things do not go according to plan. This is when those around you will look to you to fix things. This is when your reputation will start to be written. Make sure that you stay true to your values, but be flexible in your beliefs as they may be holding you back.

 “With young people you have to impart a sense of responsibility. If they can add greater awareness to their energy and their talents they can be rewarded with careers.”

Most manager will be leading teams and within these teams will be individuals of varying experience and confidence. One of the biggest challenges with younger team members (and our children) is to get them to accept responsibility for their actions, not look to blame others or the environment.

 “But to be called a genius you also need to accept that you are probably also going to be called a fool.”

It is great to receive praise, but the best feedback is given at the behavioural level (what you did that worked and what didn’t work) rather than at the identity level (“you are a genius” feels great, but what about “you are a fool”?) Stick to feeding back behaviours.

  “People try to apply to football the usual principles of business. But it’s not a lathe, it’s not a milling machine, it’s a collection of human beings. That’s the difference.”

Actually, the art of management is the art of managing and leading people, even if they operate machines!

 “The moment the manager loses his authority, you don’t have a club. The players will be running it, and then you’re in big trouble.”

Managers have to be respected. It is a bonus if you are liked! you need to be consistent, fair and level headed to be a good manager. Remember this, and you will earn respect and maintain your authority.

 “I always felt that my best moments as a manager were when I made quick decisions based on irrefutable fact, on conviction”.

Again, stay true to your values, but make sure that the evidence supports your convictions. Is there “irrefutable” evidence that what you are doing is working or correct?

 “I would never let it out of the dressing room. I would have felt that I had betrayed the one constant principle of my time as a manager: to defend. No, not to defend, but to protect them from outside judgments.”

Or, praise in public and criticise in private.

 “The big decisions you make in those jobs are usually seen by outsiders as exercises in power, when control is really what it’s about.”

This nuggets probably says the most about Ferguson’s beliefs than any of the others. It’s important to feel like you are in control, but don’t forget the power of delegation. This is especially useful with high will / high skill individuals who are ready for more responsibility. Your ability to delegate effectively is probably the most important

I could identify with one of (Vince) Lombardi’s greatest sayings “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time” [Lombardi was a very successful coach of NFL’s Green bay Packers in the 1960s]

 A great example of a winning mentality and a never say die attitude. This probably accounts for why Man. United won so many matches with late goals.

These are just a few of Ferguson’s quotes on Leadership & Management. They give us some insight into his values and beliefs, and explain some of the behaviours we associate with him as a football manager.

Comments welcomed.