The Apprentice Week 9 – Ready, Steady, Gone

The Apprentice Week 9, Ready, Steady, Gone

Alex, courtesy of BBC

Alex, courtesy of BBC

This week, our 7 remaining candidates had to design a ready meal and pitch it to 3 leading retailers. The results were interesting. One team got the packaging right, but the product was poor, and the other team got the opposite results.

It seemed like Karma that the big egos, and even bigger mouths, of Luisa, Neil and Francesca were working together in the Group of Death. Neil took on role of PM, and his first decision was to allow Luisa to convince him that Francesca should do the meal preparation (despite protesting that she never cooks). Luisa, who runs a cake business, claimed she doesn’t do savoury. This was later shown to be untrue. This left Lu and Neil (who don’t get on) to do the brand work.  The team decided on a fusion theme, blending Caribbean and Thai.

Alex finally got a chance to be PM, as he was appointed by Lord Sugar to lead Myles, Leah and Jordan. Myles and Alex worked on the theme and brand, with Jordan and Leah doing the preparation and testing.

Alex pushed hard for an educational geography theme, based on meals from around the world. Myles wanted a horror Theme that would appeal to children. Myles chipped away at Alex, who eventually caved in. Alex reasoned that as Myles has children, he couldn’t ignore his instinct. This proved to be a mistake, as it would cost the team the task.

Over in The Group of Death, Francesca proved she is no cook when she managed to produce the most bland meal, and got feedback in testing that it was neither Caribbean or Thai. Francesca had followed Lu’s recipe (yes, she can cook) but her lack of confidence / experience meant she was unable or unwilling to adjust the flavour. The impossible happened, and I found myself feeling sorry for Francesca! Surprisingly, peace was declared between Lu and Neil and their branding was half decent.

At least there was cohesion in their group. Marketing guru Myles, now leading the brand team, pushed for packaging that the kids loved. The kids also loved the product, so it must be a winner right? No. My sixteen year old son pointed out that it is parents, not children, who buy the food. Going for packaging that appealed to the children, including a skull more usually associated with poison, was a fatal error. So good product, but the wrong packaging.

In the pitches, Neil made the best of a bad job by telling retailers the product would be improved if they placed order! Eh? In the real world, the retailers would say come back when you have a finished product, but this is not the real world.

Jordan saved the pitching for the other team, where PM Alex took a back seat, and first Myles and then Leah were poor.

In the boardroom, Neil’s strategy won as they secured the most orders. Poor product, Good packaging, Clever Pitching. Not real world, but the Group of Death lives on. Luisa was even praised by Karen for her improved / toned down performance.

In the losing Team, Jordan comes out with most praise and is excused from the FInal Three. PM Alex sees Myles as to blame, and wants it to be a Final Two. If only he’d been that decisive in the task. Sugar’s having none of it, and Leah has to come back too.

Anyone watching the programme would agree that Myles was to blame. Alex went against his instinct based on sound logic (Myles experience in marketing and the fact he is a parent). Of course, Sugar has his own agenda and ignores the facts. Alex is fired, less for his performance this week and more because Sugar feels he is too young, and changes his mind / direction too easily. This may be a fair assessment of Alex, but based on the task, it is Myles who should have gone.

Jordan continues to shine, but Neil and Myles took backward steps this week; Neil for putting Francesca in the kitchen (surely Luisa working on her own in her area of expertise was a gift opportunity?). Luisa actually looks a better candidate, but her refusal to work in the kitchen shows that actually the leopard hasn’t changed it’s spots.

The Apprentice Week 8 – Functional or Dysfunctional?

The Apprentice Week 8 – Functional or Dysfunctional?

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

What next for The Apprentice? After last week’s double firing and the ongoing personality clashes, the candidates in this year’s programme are certainly standing out, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

This week, it was a case of functional versus dysfunctional.This was in relation not only to the contrasting team dynamics, but also to the website of winning PM Jordan. The opposite team, led by Jason was the epitome of dysfunctional, with 4 individuals all pulling in different directions. Not only did they lost the task, but along the way they lost a PM.

Jordan led a team with clear focus, direction and teamwork, giving a master class in project management and leading form the back through effective delegation. Or as Sugar seemed to categorise it, hiding at the back. The main criticism of their dating website was that it was too corporate and at odds with the rest of the campaign and the light hearted advertisement. This could have been an issue, but in the end Jordan came out as competent if not exciting.

Jason volunteered for the unenviable task of leading the strong personalities of Neil, Francesca and Luisa. He championed the idea of a dating site for over 50s, but wanted it to have the energy of a site for over 30s. The over 50s idea was received with lukewarm enthusiasm by the team, principally due to the fact that they had little knowledge of the market.

Mistake number one by Jason was to pair himself with Luisa. She has proved to be a real snake in the grass, with a massive ego and no scruples. While they worked on  argued over the logo, Neil and Francesca set off to do some market research.

Mistake number two was allowing the research to be done with a blank piece of paper and to a small number of people. Jason had a clear vision, and this should have been tested by offering choices, not asking for general opinions. This reflected the lack of comfort with the idea by the sub team. This led to a conflict between the vision that Jason had and what the poor research suggested the customer wanted. At this point, Jason, seemed to lose interest in the project and stopped fighting his corner.

Mistake number 3 was in Jason’s leadership at this point. He effectively wrote a suicide note when he stepped down as PM due to Luisa’s constant sniping. His time management didn’t help, and brought out the worst in Luisa’s Driving Social Style. I’m convinced this was because the project was going in a direction his heart told him was wrong. He needed to be stronger and stick to his idea. In the end he put the team first, which is praise worthy, but looks weak to Sugar who would never do this. Luisa gets her wish to lead the team, and Jason slips back into the role he is most comfortable with – team player.

The rest of the task proceeds without too much incident, though the pitch from Luisa was a mistake and Neil would have been better based on past experience.

In the boardroom, it is revealed that  the Jason / Luisa experiment  didn’t work and they lose the task.

Mistake number 4 was Jason bringing Francesca instead of Neil. Neil would probably have supported Jason to get rid of Luisa, who he may see as more of a rival in the long term. In the end, the girls gang up on Jason, and although neither comes out well, especially Luisa, who is now in the last chance saloon, it is Jason who is, with regret, fired.

The question is not so much was it right that Jason was fired, but rather whether he should ever have been in the programme. I think Jason allows corporate life to hold a mirror up to itself. The contrast between his thoroughly decent behaviour and that of the more obvious, selfish candidates allows us to decide whether we would want to work in corporate life.

For me, it reinforces my decision to go it alone and set up my own business.

Young Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

business planYoung Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

And the winner is…unexpected. Young Apprentice limped across the finish line as the third series came to a conclusion last night. I have commented several times that this bunch of would-be entrepreneurs has been disappointing and nothing that I saw last night changed my mind. In the end the result was academic (literally) with neither member of the winning team, Lucy or Ashleigh, having a clear idea of how they would invest Lord Sugar’s £25K. In their ongoing education…probably. That Sugar chose Ashleigh over Lucy, therefore, doesn’t really matter. In the end he went for Ashleigh, but I’m really not sure why.

The final task was to design a range of clothing for a defined market along with a marketing campaign incorporating a viral video and then pitch it to industry experts. Sugar wisely split up the two loudmouths (Ashleigh and Maria) and paired each with one of the timid toads (Lucy and Patrick respectively).

The majority of the programme followed how the more refelctive toads gradually got heard and the loudmouths were gagged! Although Patrick did assert himself, he did it behind Maria’s back, rather than confront her. This resulted in an ill-chosen idea of using a mixed age choir for their young urban cyclist themed brand, Cyc. This, added to Maria’s poor choice of colours (too close to the Wimbledon brand), cost their team the task. Of course, this perfectly reflects the modus operandi for these 2 candidates; Patrick apparently creative, but often with poor ideas; Maria opinionated and not listening, with a strong inner belief. Her idea of market research was to ask one middle aged cycle shop owner what he thought!

Lucy allowed Ashleigh full control in the early part of the task, then used her creativity to design a decent logo (Release) and ensure consistency in the brand. Her pitch was also excellent, and having on the team task, I expected Lucy, rather than Ashleigh to go on and win. In truth, of the final 4, only Patrick had a clear vision of how he would use the prize money (Clothes Design). But Lucy was the more rounded candidate and should have won.

I’m still not sure what criteria Sugar used to decide on Ashleigh. In truth neither Lucy or Ashleigh made a good clear case for how they would invest Sugar’s money, so perhaps Sugar sees Ashleigh’s drive  as more likely to produce a return. Who knows?

So, a generally poor series ends in a consistent but disappointing manner. If the BBC are going to commission a new series I think they need to recruit real entrepreneurs rather than “aspiring lawyers” or “future accountants”. A far more interesting series, given the BBC’s recent troubles would be a competition to see which BBC Executives should get to keep their jobs as they overcome a different corporate disaster each week.

Bye Bye, Young Apprentice – You’re Fired!

Young Apprentice Week 6 – Team fails to gel in hair product disaster

Alan SugarYoung Apprentice Week 6 – Team fails to gel in hair product disaster.

Lord Sugar yet again mixed up the teams in the week’s Young Apprentice. Like a DJ trying to find that elusive blend, or maybe it’s just a reflection of the lack of obvious talent in this year’s bunch, Maria ended up with Ashleigh and Patrick in Platinum (I think, it’s so confusing). Odyssey now had a team of 4; Andrew, Steven, Lucy and Navdeep. With only 7 candidates and 3 weeks left personality was always going to play a big part this week.

The task was to design a concept for a new hair product. Note: not the actual product. No chemicals were involved, just design and a pitch. In Odyssey, Andrew was pm and the team settled on the idea of a brand that would help men to stand out from the crowd. Their first, and critical error, was falling in love with the name Chameleon, and not realising that this means to blend in, not stand out. This was later compounded when the focus group loved the name.

Over in Platinum, the team targeted girls with the somewhat bizarrely named  “Strexy” (it’s strong and sexy see?). Their approach was to be as tacky as possible, and in this they succeeded. But whereas Odyssey had an unclear brand strategy (brand concept, name and target audience didn’t fit), Platinum had focus and direction, albeit with a pretty crap product.

The rest of the programme showed just how dysfunctional both teams were as individuals tried to shine. They still haven’t realised that working as a team and winning the task is still the only guaranteed way to avoid getting fired. Odyssey’s journey went from bad to worse as they realised at the 11th hour that Chameleon didn’t fit the brand concept. Rather than change either the name or the target market, pm Andrew carried on regardless. This was in spite of the rest of the team trying to persuade him otherwise.There was even a first (I think) when an exasperated Nick Hewer told the team they needed to get on with it. I’ve never seen one of the observer’s get involved in the task before, so things must have been bad.

This lack of belief in the product came out in the pitch, when the usually reliable Navdeep gave a poor performance. Selling an idea or a product is as much about confidence as it is about the product. If both are poor, you have no chance.

That Platinum won the task was down to the product and not the team. Maria and Ashleigh disagreed on everything, and Patrick drifted into the background, finding his niche (ironically) as a would-be macho voice-over man.

In the boardroom, it was revealed that Strexy had stood out more than Chameleon (naturally). Andrew chose to bring back Navdeep and Steven (whom he had worked with throughout the task). Lucy survives for another week. All of the team were united that Andrew was to blame for the failure of leadership, and not making critical decisions. Sugar agreed, citing the decision not to change name or concept as the critical error. Navdeep’s poor pitch was also highlighted, but all of the evidence pointed to Andrew being fired and he should have been. A tearful Andrew waited for the finder of death, but instead in a genuine surprise it was Navdeep who went. I still can’t work out how Sugar came to this conclusion. Yes, she was a one trick pony who suddenly couldn’t do the trick, but at the very least Andrew should have gone as well. Amazing and illogical.

Apparently next week there is a double firing. It should have been this week. This series has been poor and it just hit a new low. The candidates are poor, and Sugar’s decision making defies logic. Young Apprentice has always been a television programme, but this week we saw just how much the television agenda is obviously leading the purported purpose of the programme. Poor

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party

Young Apprentice Week 4 – Odyssey blitzed by Tea Party.

It’s half way in the race to be Lord Sugar’s latest Young Apprentice, and we have 8 candidates left. Nine became eight, this week as “egg farmer” Alice Smith departed. Alice was PM of Odyssey, and paid the price for some poor leadership.

This week’s task was to design a themed Afternoon Tea. Alice pushed for a 1940s theme, whereas Platinum, helmed by David, opted for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme.

In truth, both PMs were poor, and if Platinum had lost the task there is no doubt David would have been fired. He showed no leadership or organisational skills at all, and it was trainee Accountant Ashleigh who drove the team on. Once it was revealed that this task was about profit, she organised the ingredients (cheap), the menu (basic) and the pricing (under £7  per person, so cheap again). But it worked.

So, where did Odyssey go wrong? If we assess Alice’s leadership against John Adair’s “Action Centred Leadership model“, we can see where it went wrong. Adair says a good leader has to get the balance right between clarity of TASK, building a strong, interdependent TEAM and every INDIVIDUAL being clear about their role and committed. Alice managed to have failings in all 3 areas;

TASK – as stated above, the task is about maximising profit. Alice wanted to go “High End”, but was unclear about her target market. The team knew they would be selling at a well known tourist location (Blenheim Palace), so where is the guarantee that “High End” punters would be there? What they actually found was a lot of older people, who were attracted to the 1940s theme, and families. Evidence was shown of people, especially families, being put off by the high prices (£16). In the end, Alice reduced the prices, but the damage was done. Reducing prices bit into profit, but the real error was a poorly thought out Marketing Strategy, one that Alice pushed for.

TEAM – lets be honest, Alice inherited Maria, who is going to be a challenge for anyone. Yes, she modified her abrasive behaviour to people’s faces, but instead made sure to brief against them (especially Alice) behind their back. It was no surpries that Maria was brought back into the boardroom, but she survived for another week because the fault in the task was more to do with Alice. Maria can’t possibly survive another boardroom (nor can David), as even Nick Hewer admitted to her face he is not impressed!

INDIVIDUAL – to compound the errors made above, there was a general lack of role clarity, especially in the sub team doing Market Research. Alice gave the sub team a clear mandate to do research, but they seemed unable or unwilling to make decisions. Alice needed to be much clearer about who was doing what, and what the limits of their authority was. Alice seemed to believe she had given more autonomy to the sub team than they seemed comfortable with. The other aspect of this is commitment. The nature of Young Apprentice is that it is competitive, but you are guaranteed to survive if you win the task, so inter-dependence should be assured. Watching this series, our candidates don’t seem to have worked this out!

In the boardroom it was revealed that Odyssey had lost the task by a considerable margin. Alice brought Maria (expected) back and Navdeep (unexpected) back. The 2 girls in the sub-team ganged up on Alice, and the lack of a clear reason from the task (Alice aluded to Navdeep’s general unsuitablility to business) reinforced her poor judgement and she went. It was the correct decision for this task.

Of the remaining 8 candidates, Andrew looked good this week, in the losing team. Patrick was barely seen, so probably did little. Navdeep is yet to show anything (Alice may be right there). Maria is a liability, and along with David surely can’t win? Ashleigh has good business sense around numbers, but lacks creativity and is hard to warm to. Steven is another who has yet to show anything, but he does at least contribute. For me, Lucy and Andrew impress most, but both have flaws. These 2 are the best of a poor lot. This series have been grat (car crash) TV, bit the candidates are poor.

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

Young Apprentice Week 2 – Poor Leadership Proves to be a #recipefordisaster

There was a theme of mixing things up in Week 2 of Young Apprentice. Firstly, Northern Irish -Firebrand Maria joined the boys, and Steven joined the girls. Then the task was revealed to be to produce a Recipe book and persuade 3 leading retailers to stock it. What became immediately apparent was that personality was going to play a big part.

For Odyssey, Maria made an immediate pitch for world domination Project Manager, but the lads rallied around the (safer?) choice of “the world’s youngest publisher” Sean. Maria wasn’t happy, but wasn’t going to allow this to stop her. She went on to use her considerable self belief and personality to ensure that Sean did (just about) everything she suggested, and the team lost the task.

Over in Platinum, “bossy” Lucy got the nod over Alice.

Both teams set about dividing up to do research and design. In Odyssey, Maria got her wish for a recipe book focused on the Professional Woman. The research suggested this was a bad idea, and Sean demonstrated poor leadership by allowing Maria to bully persuade him to stick with her idea. This not only created a split in the team, but is a repeat of a mistake made just last week.

Platinum came up with the idea of targeting students with the clever title #wheresmummy. This leads not only into possibilities of extended branding, but would give focus to potential social marketing. Despite this, the team was dysfunctional, “bossy” Lucy was a poor PM; decisive yes, but a poor listener and with a gift for pissing team mates off. The end product was shoddy to say the least. It looked good, but was full of spelling mistakes, in what was a terrible advert for the literacy of 16 & 17 year  olds. #cantbeleivetheywon.

So, battle lines were drawn. In Odyssey, Maria got most of her own way, ignoring both outside and internal counsel, but the product looked good. For Platinum, there was disharmony, but a good idea poorly executed. These points came to bear in the pitches to Sainsburys, and Waterstones. Maria (of course) led the first 2 pitches for Odyssey, along with Andrew and they came across well. Unfortunately, the product didn’t. For the final pitch, Sean showed weakness again, allowing Patrick his wish to pitch. It was a disaster. Why change a winning formula? Platinum came across well in their pitches, the product was liked, the spelling errors wasn’t. #gettingawaywithit.

In the Boardroom, it was revealed that Platinum got over 7000 orders to Odyssey’s 800. Two retailers did not order Odyssey’s “Professional Woman” book. The feedback was that the market was too narrow. This echoed what had been found in the focus group.

So, despite being dysfunctional and at times “catty”, Platinum won again. #bloodylucky. For Odyssey, Sean accepted that he had made mistakes, but blamed Maria’s push for the niche market. He then reinforced his poor judgement by bringing David back with Maria. David hadn’t done much wrong this week. In fact he hadn’t done much and was very subdued. Sugar was amazed that David, and not Patrick who was a disaster in the third pitch, was called back. It was no great surprise that Sean was fired, despite Sugar teasing Maria to the point that she was nearly in tears. Sean displayed poor judgement and was too easily swayed by strong personalities and wanting to be fair. This led to a poor product and business failure.

Although at times this week, the candidates showed their age and lack of maturity, we have seen similar behaviour in the “adult” Apprentice. Good leadership requires a level head but an assertive personality and sound judgement. Both “bossy” Lucy and “weak” Sean were poor leaders, one too strong the otther too weak. A true leader sits somewhere in between.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

The Apprentice 2012 Week 11 – Death by Chocolate

This week saw the semi final of The BBC Apprentice, and it proved to be the most insightful programme of the series so far. Most, if not all, of our suspicions about the candidates came true and for the first time I feel we truly saw the potential (or lack of it) on show.

There were five candidates at the start of the programme, with three of them in Phoenix. Adam was appointed PM (why?) with Jade and Nick. That left Tom and Ricky in Phoenix. Both wanted to be PM, but Ricky wanted it more. The task? to design a new “affordable” range of luxury products and pitch it to a group of experts, and Lord Sugar.

Adam, with his clear dislike of Jade, and reinforcing his mysogenist outlook, consigned Jade to the subteam so that he could work with Nick. They would do the business model and branding, Jade would be on product design. Phoenix (actually Adam, who listened to nobody) decided they would focus on luxury chocolates and target a female audience. Nick did make a (half hearted) attempt to sell the idea of luxury hot chocolate (remember, he has previously had a very successful coffee business) but Adam had already made up his mind. Adam later admittted he doesn’t even like chocolates. What was Nick’s strategy?

Ricky and Tom agreed to go for the male grooming products market. Tom agreed to look at the business model, with Ricky keep to research the products. In the end they decided on a series of linked products around shaving (foam, balm and moisturiser).

Most of Day 1 invovlved product research and design. The differences in the 2 teams was immediately apparent. For Sterling, everything was planned, analysed and researched (yes, three versions of the same thing). For Phoenix, there was little coherent strategy or branding. Adam decided to add in jellies on a whim, and Nick expressed concerns about brand dilution (very quietly). However, Phoenix did have Jade and her enthusiasm & creativity at least gave the team some energy. In Sterling, Tom was repeatedly heard to complain about his own branding ideas being “boring”. If only Gabrielle had survived another week, she would have added real value to this task!

Day 2 was about designing a simulated “retail” experience. Again, there was a contrast between the 2 teams. Sterling was minimalist and in line with the “boring” feel. Described by one shopper as looking like a “closing down sale”. Phoenix on the other hand was brash, colourful, “warm” and “friendly”. Jade again shone here, with here enthusiasm. Offering cocktails to complement the chocolates was popular, and her  “Drunken Jellies” went down a storm. Jade even came up with the brand name (Sweet Thing). Wasn’t that meant to be the job of the boys?

Both teams took the feedback on board and that evening put together their brand strategies tog and prepared to pitch to the experts the following day. I say prepared; Sterling preparared thoroughly, as was their modus operandi, Phoenix muddled through. Phoenix had no clear pricing strategy. When asked, by Karen, if the prices were going to be £2.99 or £4.99, Nick answered “yes”!

Day 3 was about the pitches. Sterling were thoroughly prepared, slick and professional. Unfortunately, their range of “Modern Gentleman” was also dull and uninspiring. On the other hand, Phoenix had interesting products, with no clear strategy and appalling presentation. Witness Adam leading the pitch and reading notes written on the palm of his hand.

At the end of the day, the teams ended up in the Boardroom and it was no surprise that dull professionalism won over amateur enthusiasm. However, the process had shown up the flaws in each candidate, which will no doubt be explored in next week’s Final interviews. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Phoenix lost, and fingers started pointing. Adam (of course) focused on Jade, even though all of the good ideas came from her, and Nick sat on the fence. In fact, Nick was very quiet and disappointing this week, and this was pointed out by Sugar. Even in the boardroom he tried to hedge his bets and was indecisive about who should be fired. Looking back, this seems to be a bit of a trait in Nick. He may be too cautious for his own good. Jade is the exact opposite, all passion and enthusiasm, but sometimes too much so. Adam, of course was finally found out. No leadership, no strategy, not only out of his comfort zone, but out of his depth. He had to go and did. A nation cheered.

What about the winners? Ricky and Tom are like 2 peas in a pod. Both excellent planners and strategists, but lacking any real creativity.

So, four remain. Cautious Nick, Safe-but-dull Ricky and Tom and fiery, unpredictable Jade. It will be interesting to see who has the best business idea for Sugar. Based on her enthusiasm it could be Jade, but Nick, Tom and Ricky are likely to have well thought out, if less imaginative ideas. Which way will Lord Sugar go? We will find out next week.

The Apprentice 2012 – Sterling lose again as wine video fails to sparkle

The Apprentice 2012 – Sterling lose again as wine video fails to sparkle

This week’s task on the Apprentice involved marketing English Sparkling wine through a website. But first, Lord Sugar took the opportunity to balance the teams (at least numerically) and allowed Phoenix to choose someone from Sterling. Unanimously, Tom, Jade and Adam poached Nick into their ranks. This left Ricky, Stephen, Gabrielle and Jenna in Sterling. Both teams had 2 “rising stars” and 2 “also rans” (see my mid-series review).

This task seemed perfect for Tom (fine wine buyer), Nick (website expertise) and Jade (advertising expertise). Certainly, that’s what Sterling PM Ricky thought as he somewhat pessimistically briefed his team. For Phoenix, Tom took on the role of PM for the second week running. Gabrielle had wanted to do the same for Sterling.

With only 4 members per team, or 2 per sub-team, this is where everyone has to contribute. There is no hiding place, and choosing which personnel do which task is one of the most crucial decisions that the PM makes.

With this in mind, Tom and Adam set off to do “research” ( or wine tasting to you and me) and left Nick and Jade to work on the branding and website. I know that Tom is an expert in wines, but this task is about selling a concept rather than a specific product, and Jade rightly asks if Tom shouldn’t have been more involved with the branding.

Over in Sterling, Gabrielle and Stephen do their research in Tesco, and yet again we get our weekly Stephen “comic” moment as he goes looking for a wine expert, much to Gabrielle’s dismay.

Both PMs identify their brand values; heritage and quality for Tom and Phoenix; quality, quality, quality for Ricky and Sterling. The rest of the programme follows how the teams try to reflect this in their websites (including promotional video) and pitches to an expert panel.

Remember the “fitness regime” task in week 5 ? You would expect that Ricky would have learned a lesson, when  the failure of a subteam to deliver the video he wanted cost him the task. Obviously he didn’t, and despite Jenna and Stephen being clearly told that the video must not be cheesy, that’s exactly what they produced! The video was clearly not what Ricky requested, and it undermined the excellent work done by both Ricky and, especially Gabrielle, on the website, and logo, both of which said “quality”. The video said “crass”. It cost Sterling the task.

Not that Phoenix were perfect. Their video was “boring” to quote both PM Tom and Lord Sugar. Directed by Jade with the help of self procaimed “choreographer” Adam, it was poor. Tom and Nick spent a long time designing the perfect website, but for the wrong concept. They seemed to think they were there to sell brands of English SW (sparkling wine), rather than the concept of English SW. This was a fundamental error, and could (should?) have cost Phoenix the task. If it wasn’t for the cheesy Sterling video, it would have.

So, Tom et al survive. Having seen the praise heaped on Gabrielle’s clever logo combining a rose and a champagne flute, Ricky wisely brought back the video makers; Stephen and Jenna. Track record actually favoured Stephen (won 6/8 previous tasks, first time in the bottom 3, so maybe not on Sugar’s radar) over Jenna (lost 5, in the bottom 3 for the third time) but it looked bad for him when Ricky suggested he should be fired.  However, it was Jenna’s suicide speech as she tried to defend the video she principally created as “quality” (it wasn’t) that did for her. Stehen added a desperate plea for another chance and a promise that he will win the next rask as PM. Sugar accepted this, and said he will hold him to it, and Jenna was fired.

So, this week we have learned that good as Tom and Nick are, they are capable of getting things wrong by not paying attention. This week it was following the wrong brief. Tom, like Ricky, should have overseen the video. Ricky came out of this quite well, despite him not learning form his previous (video production) mistake. He has to be up there with the favourites. However, it was Gabrielle who came out best this week, and I now see her a clear favourite. Adam, Jade and, especially Stephen, are on borrowed time unless they reveal previously (well) hidden talents.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 8 – Hogg Roasted on Back Of Poor Sales

The Apprentice 2012 Week 8 – Hogg Roasted on Back Of Poor Sales

This week’s BBC Apprentice focused on the teams identifying urban art and selling it to the public and a corporate client.

Tom took on the role of PM for Phoenix. He got the job based on his enthusiasm for and knowledge of art. For Sterling, Gabrielle took on the task. This gave us the chance to see, in my opinion, two of the stronger performers to date.

The first part of the task involved a sub team checking out urban artists in Bristol, while the main team did the same in London and met a corporate client. For Phoenix this was Renault and for Sterling it was a brand of Gin. Suitably briefed, the teams set off on their tasks. Both PMs demnstrated good leadership skills with focus on the task, team and the individual. Truthfully, most of the candidates seemed out of their depth, but this allowed Tom to shine with his obvious knowledge of the subject. However, this was to prove both a strength and a weakness, as he got so wrapped up in his topic that he failed to impress his preferred artist (Pure Evil) and it eventually cost him the task. Tom had put all of his hopes (and plans) into securing Pure Evil that he had no plan B. In the end he “took a punt” on Jessop, whose art resembels Iron Maiden album covers form the 1980s. These pieces were high ticket items (up to £10K) but Phoenix sold none. Tom did do well with Renault, his corporate client, in understanding their needs from an artist who would represent their brand (“frenchness”) and the budget they had. He chose his other preferred artist, Copyright, to fit their needs.

For Sterling, Gabrielle correctly identified that they needed to impress each artist that they were passionate about their art. This they did  and Sterling had their choice of artists, including the much desired Pure Evil. One criticism that has been levelled at Gabrielle is that she lacks business acumen, and fuel was poured on this fire when she failed to explore what budget her corprate cleint, a Gin Distillery, had at their disposal. This error was compounded at the gallery when Gabrielle got everything wrong. She served wine, not gin and tonic, ignored her corporate client and never introduced the cleint ot the chosen artist (Nathan Bowen). However, sales for both of her artists were brisk.

In the boardroom, the errors for each team were explored in forensic detail; Sterling failed to secure the Gin Distillery, but Phoenix got Renault. However, Sterling made sales for both artists, but Phoenix failed to sell any high price Jessop’s. Tom’s high risk punt backfired and Phoenix lost the task. Tom quickly realised that Adam’s sales alone made him immune from firing and chose to bring back Jade and Laura. Jade had been warned last week that she only narrowly escaped getting fired and Laura looked vulnerable on the back of the lowest sales. In the end, the difference in sales between the teams was only £137, but Tom who was vulnerable due to his having no contingency plan. However, he used a combination of honesty, a bit of humility, and defelection to get Lord Sugar to focus on Laura. Sugar showed his favouritism by giving Tom credit for his risky strategy, and on the back of consistently good performances he survived. Laura had failed to make a similar impression and she was fired.

So Tom survived, but both he and Gabrielle have revealed weaknesses. For all of that, Tom actually looked to grow in stature based on his performance in the boardroom. Adam again showed he thrives in any sales environment, but Stephen looks more and more like a dead man walking.

In my next post I will review the remaining candidates left at the half way stage.

The Apprentice 2012 – Strategic Review Proves To Be The End For One Candidate

The Apprentice 2012 – Strategic Review Proves To Be The End For One Candidate

Week 7 of The Apprentice saw Jade become the last candidate to have a go as PM. We have now had the chance to observe all of the candidates leading a project, and the pack is slowly taking shape in terms of front runners and also-rans. That Jade survived into week 8 was due to a flawed “strategy” from one of her losing team. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Lord Sugar reshuffled the teams moving Stephen to Sterling, with Laura moving in the opposite direction. Jade took the hint to be PM of Phoenix, and Nick beat Ricky hands down to lead Sterling. Each team was given £150 to purchase items from a Warehouse and sell on to the public in Essex. The winning team would be the one with the biggest turnover (including remaining stock as assets).

Immediately there was a contrast in styles and urgency. Nick and Sterling were decisive in terms of locations to use and lines to focus on (household goods for one pitch and beauty products for the other). Laura and Sterling got mired in discussion and were indecisive on both counts. Immediately, Azhar started chipping away at Jade, repeatedly asking her what her strategy was. He did offer some suggestions, but no one seemed inclined to listen.

This proved to be the theme of the task, with general harmony and focus in Sterling and generally decent leadership from Nick. He identified the fake-tanning product as a big seller (in Essex, who’d have guessed?) due to the local predominantly female demographic and put a huge mark up on the price (retailing at £10). Stephen and Ricky were having less success at Romford and once the tanning products started to sell out, they were dispatched back to the warehouse to get more stock. This was good judgement, but bad timing, as they eventually ran out of stock as the sub-team were delayed. Would this prove cruical?

Jade had to put up with constant comments from surly Azhar about a lack of strategy, and this seemed to pull the rest of the team together. Adam in particular was in his element (and natural environment), excelling as a market trader. Jade’s team were also having success with the tanning product, but were selling it at a lower price (£5-£6), but she chose to collect a variety of products for restocking, and this was a poor decision.

In the boardroom it was revealed that despite being out of stock for 2 hours, Sterling still won by £117. This loss could be accounted for by the poor mark up of the tanning product in Phoenix. The team were supportive of Jade, all except for Azhar, so he made sure he came back into the boardroom. Jade struggled to identify who else to bring in, and opted for Tom, who hadn’t done a thing wrong. Jade admitted this was a mistake, so her judgement looked suspect. It was between Jade and Azhar, and things looked bleak for Jade. Her leadership was poor (indecisive, slow to react, pricing), but Azhar had a “strategy” (get Jade) and went for broke.

On the task, Jade should have gone, but Azhar came across as what is known in business circles as a “cynic” (bad attitude, and the energy to show it). Sugar decided that he couldn’t work with Azhar following a sprited defence from Jade, who highlighed her previous success both in and out of the competition and tempted Sugar with her as yet unseen business proposal. Azhar was fired.

In the end it was the right decision to fire Azhar, in terms of being a candidate, but Jade can consider herself lucky to have escaped on the basis of this task. Gabrielle again showed her creativity and Tom was solid. Adam may be a good market trader, but can he do anymore? Ricky and Stephen are out of their depth, but Nick shows promise, but the lack of tanning stock for his team could have cost him the task.

Tom still favourite to win, with Gabrielle a close second favourite.