Young Apprentice – Britain’s Future Entrepreneurs Revealed

Apprentice – Britain’s Future Entrepreneurs Revealed.

If the motley crew revealed in part one of BBC’s Young Apprentice represents the cream of the UK’s future Entrepreneurs, it may be time to emigrate. Over the next 8 weeks we will get to know these individuals a bit better, but on last night’s showing I thought I was watching the wrong show; more Big Brother than The Apprentice. The title’s changed from the last series (Junior Apprentice), and in my mind at least Young Apprentice has connotations of Star Wars. It was the Emperor (Lord Sugar?) who used the term when trying to persuage ambitious Jedis to The Dark Side. Maybe the change is deliberate…

The editing may have been cruel, but the personalities on show last night were, for the most part, not attractive (hence the Big Brother reference);  James, Northern Irish, economist. Gbemi, gobby fashion designer; Zara, film mogul; Ben – Richard Branson fan; Harry Maxwell, pushy and Harry Hitchens, nice guy; Mahamed, small but with a great line in sharp suits; Lizzie and Lewis, scousers; Hannah, nice girl; and Hayley and Haya, mostly anonymous.

And so to the first task, which involved making ice cream and selling it. The teams were set up along gender lines, but who would stand up to be the first Project Manager (PM). It is interesting to hear all the aggressive sound bites from each candidate; you could reasonably expect everyone to want to be the leader. But no, it fell to “nice guys” Hannah and Harry H to step forward in the absence of any other volunteers.

Both PMs attempted to be democratic and good listeners, but it was like herding cats. The real personalities immediately started to emerge amongst the teams. James made an immediate impact – as highly opinionated and annoying to everyone else. Having agreed on team names (Kinetic for the girls; Atomic for the boys) they set about making frozen products. The girls came to a consensus quite quickly, but the boys descended to bickering. Harry did a good job of remaining calm, especially as James disagreed with everything! James came up with a pirate theme, with a contribution from Mahamed. Harry M was good with the numbers and came up with profit targets and aiming to make 60 litres of ice cream. Meanwhile, the girls demonstrated an inability to do basic maths (“Three fours are twenty eight”) and guessed at an amount to make. They then instructed the other half of the team to buy specific amounts of the fresh fruit (through dubious negotiation). Suffice to say, the girls got the wrong amount of fruit (didn’t listen) and the team had to write off 3o litres of product. Gbemi refused to go back to get more fruit and Hannah was unable to assert her authority.

The boys chose Southend to sell their product, but economist James suggested selling well below the market prices. The price they chose was still too low, and this was to prove to be a crucial mistake. The girls went to Chessington World of Adventures, and were forced to mark the prices up, and include some built-in upselling (sprinkles, cones), to compensate for the material they had to throw away.

In the board room, it was revealed that the girls had made the better profit and won the challenge. Harry was forced into deciding who to bring back. It did not prove to be a difficult decision, with Mahamed and James competing to take full credit for the failed task. It was tough for Lord Sugar to decide which of these prats should go. In the end it was sharp dressed man Mahamed who was fired, but it was a close thing. in fact,  James was warned by Lord Sugar that he was on the radar. I can’t see him lasting long.

So, who are the early favourites? Both PMs did well under trying conditions, and Harry M, despite some horrendous sound bites, showed good business sense. He also managed to avoid any obvious mistakes and is my early favourite. He certainly impressed Lord Sugar

Negotiating with Dragons

Negotiating with Dragons

Last night the BBC showed their latest guide to how to succeed on Dragon’s Den. The focus this week was on Negotiation, and a 5 point plan for success.

Here is the 5 point plan, with some sound theory behind it. Unfortunately, the programme presented the points out of sequence. I’ve re-ordered them so they are in chronological order;

1. Have a strategy

Presented last on the programme, the most crucial aspect of any negotiation is to plan  ahead and be clear on  your strategy and the tactics you may choose to use (don’t forget  to allow yourself to react to what happens in the negotiation, rather than be dogmatic). The programme showed Kate Castle as an example and her bold step of revealing her preferred Dragon (Theo). This was a high risk strategy as it effectively ruled out the other Dragons, but it paid off and she got a successful outcome. But was it pre-planned or reactive?

Good planning includes deciding what your choice of negotiating style is (competitive, relationship, collaborative or compromise).

2. Know your bottom line

This is part of point 1 really. Always be clear what your “walk-away” point is and stick to it. You need to know this before you go into the negotiation or you are likely to be disapppinted in the outcome.

3. Don’t be greedy

This starts in the planning phase, but carries on during the negotiation when you need to have flexibility. Look for a sensible level of investment and know what your WIN position is (what do I WANT? what is an IDEAL result? what do I NEED?). The example in the programme was Chinese entrepreneur Ling and her car leasing business. Ling’s expectations were unrealistic and she lost out.

4. Take (or keep) control

This is about keeping on top of your emotions and (if possible) your body language. Experienced tough negotiators will be looking for any opportunity to exploit your weaknesses, so you need to keep cool and detatched. the pitch for the mobile water refreshing unit managed to secure all 5 Dragons on board by using this tactic.

5. Know how to haggle

A crucial skill in negotiation that only works if you have clearly identified your WIN positions and you stick to them. The key thing here is that it is about give and take; don’t be inflexible, unless you stand to lose out, and never give something away for free. Know your “tradeables” in advance – those things that can get a deal moving. The ideal tradeable is something that is valued by the other side, but is of low value to you. Aim to identify tradeable that are valued by the other side as you go through back and forth negotiation (haggling).

So there you have it, a 5 point plan for successful negotiation, this time presented in the right, chronological order.

What the British Airways dispute teaches us about negotiation

I know this is last week’s news, but I’ve been reflecting on the resolution of the BA dispute and what it teaches us about negotiation. Here is a summary of the dispute from  BBC News.

This is a dispute that had been going on for the last couple of years. At times it got very antagonistic. It is also a classic example of what happens when you negotiate from positions. Effectively, both sides drew lines in the sand that they were not prepared to cross (“this is our position”). Unfortunately there was a significant gap between the two parties, so no progress could be made. Worse than this, having stated their positions, it became increasingly difficult to move from that position without losing face. So it became a battle of egos as much as principles. How do we get out of such a predicament?

The eventual successful resolution of the dispute hinged on a copule of key decisons. Firstly, the principle public figues in the dispute were removed from the discussions. This from the BBC News report:

Former British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, who became the focus of the anger of many union members during the dispute, moved into a new position earlier this year. He is now head of the company formed by the merger of BA and the Spanish carrier Iberia, International Airlines Group, and was succeeded by Mr Williams. At Unite, Mr McCluskey succeeded former joint general secretaries Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson. Len McCluskey praised Mr Williams for being “strong, brave and courageous” in reaching the agreement.”

Once the principle antagonists (and their egos) were replaced, there was an opportunity to start again. The above quote relfects 2 other changes that followed. Firstly, the negotiation style changed from Competitive (I win, You lose) to Collaborative (I win, You win). Secondly, this facilitated a change in strategy – negotiate from interests rather than from positions. This approach is about understanding the issue from the other person’s perspective (called second position in NLP) as well as your own. The result? Compromise and an outcome that both sides can live with. Research has shown that the collaborative approach is more likely to produce sustainable results and keeps a positive relationship between the 2 parties intact.

So, when you are planning your next negotiation try usind a combination of a collaborative approach and negotiate on interests rather than positions.