The Apprentice Week 11 – Final Interview

lord-sugar4The Apprentice Week 11 – Final Interview

So we now know that the winner of this year’s Apprentice will be female. Luisa and Leah will contest next week’s final to become Lord Sugar’s Business Partner.

This week the candidates were interviewed by 4 of Lord Sugars’s most trusted advisers; Margaret Mountford, Claude Littner, Claudine Collings, Mike Suter. It is their job to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

The process is great to watch, but must have been tough to go through, and in the end it comes down to how strong the business idea is.

In the Boardroom, Jordan is quickly dispensed with because he does not own his business idea (in keeping with his experience as a Business Analyst). Next to be fired is Neil, the most consistent performer in the series. His plan involves an online Estate Agency, but when it is pointed out that his plan has a fatal flaw in it and he refuses to see it, he is fired. It is with genuine regret that Sugar lets hime go.

Francesca fails because of the (lack of) numbers in her business plan. She has run 3 successful businesses, but couldn’t give Claude the turnover. Nor could she justify her business projections for the proposed new business. So she was fired.

That leaves the final to be contested by Luisa, who has a new baking brand business idea and Leah who has a well researched idea for affordable cosmetic surgery. It is no surprise that Luisa is in the final, as she has the drive and has smoothed off her rough edges in recent weeks. In the clips we saw she came across as confident and assertive, and kept her frustration in check. Leah has little experience, but a well thought out idea. Both produced poor plans, but came across well face to face.

In the end it was the correct decision. Both are strong candidates, and it will be a great final. The only disappointment for Lord Sugar is Neil not being there. In the earlier series of tHe apprentice, Neil would have won and made a good employee. Without a solid business plan he had to go.

May the best woman win.

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 7- Caravan of Love

The Apprentice Week 7 – Caravan of Love

Your fired

This series of The Apprentice is really standing out for me. Not for the quality of the candidates, as of the original 16 only a few seem to have anything to offer. No, for me it is the more overt personality clashes. We expect this in the interview segments, but even in the tasks it is clear that some people can barely tolerate each other.

We’re back to a selling task this week. The theme is holidaying and recreation, specifically around caravanning. They have to identify items to sell at a camping and caravanning expo.

Neil joins Evolve as PM to balance the numbers. In Endeavour, Kurt gets the nod, due to experience of caravan holidays, over Alex who also wanted his chance. He is disappointed to be overlooked and displays a bit of immature petulance.

Both teams seem bemused by the choice and function of the available items and can’t disguise their contempt for the whole idea of caravan holidays. They also observe that the demographic at this expo are generally the retired, over 55s.

First task, they have to be able to convince the designers / suppliers to allow them to sell their accessories. Myles in particular excels with enthusiasm and insincerity in equal measures. Luisa performs the same task in Evolve.  Both teams find it difficult to get the designers to move on price. But Leah and Natalie, working with Myles,  push hard for a discount, with no joy.

Eventually both teams go for the same items, an electric bike and children’s box.  Despite Myles charm, Endeavour get both products. Leah’s  lack of enthusiasm and pushing hard for discounts is blamed by Myles. As alternatives, they are left with  the boat box and a camping chair.

In a great example of contrastive analysis, Neil and Jason work together to source a high ticket item. Neither seems able to stand the other. Eventually, they opt for the folding camper. sold on the sales potential by the designer,  as it is targeted at the older customer and sales have been steady at the expo.

Kurt and Jason are also working together. and go for the higher priced retro camper. This is an interesting choice, given that it is aimed at the 35-45 ages group, and there aren’t many of them around.

When it comes to selling, Neil shows his experience and seta targets and wants to see competition. Kurt divides up to team and chooses Myles to sell the camper van, despite Alex’ wanting to do it. Again, Alex is not happy.

Jason’s “camp” style seems to go over well with the punters, who are mostly older, and he makes the first big ticket sales. Myles finds selling the retro camper difficult, but even his charm can’t sell an item aimed at 35 year olds to an audience of over 50s.

Both PMs struggle to get their own sales going, as does Jordan, but Natalie and Jason flourish selling their accessories. Leah sells one of the boat-roof boxes and towards the end of the day, she is drafted by PM Kurt to try and sell the retro camper. His strategy here is to use Leah as eye candy, but she is brought in too late.  Leah nearly gets a sale, but runs out of time. Neil gets a late sale for the folding camper.

In the boardroom, Myles blames Leah for them not getting their preferred items and is supported by Natalie. Alex reiterates his unhappiness about being frozen out. Endeavour is clearly not a happy ship.

In Evolve, Neil reviews his sales plan, in particular why he rejected the retro camper because it was wrong for the demographic they were selling to. He is proved to be correct,when it is revealed that they sold 3 of the folding campers and outsold Endeavour on the accessory items. Not surprisingly, Endeavour sold no retro campers.

So Evolve wins, and Neil has to be given credit on a number of fronts; his business skills in rejecting the the retro camper, and his overall team management. Despite getting neither of the accessories they wanted, they still outsold Endeavour.

As Evolve are leaving, Jason is called back to be congratulated by Sugar for selling one of the folding campers. We’ve waited a long time for Jason to be anything other than good TV, but he did well in this task.

Back in the boardroom, the dysfunctional nature of Endeavour is revealed. Kurt realises his position is weak,  and is rightly criticised for choosing the retro camper over the folding camper. Fingers are pointed in every direction. Leah is horrified when Nick reveals that she was brought across to sell the retro camper as “eye candy”. Maybe this is why he makes the bizarre choice to bring back Natalie and Alex into the final 3, despite the fact that Leah was blamed for scaring the designers off with her pushy negotiations and Myles sold nothing?

Sugar wonders if Kurt is bringing Natalie back for tactical reasons (she is in the last chance saloon) and challenges Kurt on this. Both Alex and Natalie put up a robust defence, but Alex is partly blamed for the choice of products.

Not surprisingly, it is Kurt who is fired. Not only did he bring the wrong people back into the boardroom,  but his choices throughout the task have been poor. Sugar does spring a late surprise and Natalie is fired also, just when she may have thought she had got away with it.

This week has been a bit of a leveller, with Neil looking a strong candidate. His instinct for business is good, and he is a strong leader. Jason has also finally shown he has a little ability, but both Jordan and Myles were poor and Alex’ lack of maturity came through. For the girls, I’m losing confidence in my early favourite Leah and Luisa still has plenty to prove.

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

The Apprentice Week 4 – Muck and Brass

courtesy of BBC

courtesy of BBC

The teams assemble at Surrey Docks Farm in East London, with the girls desperately in need a win having lost 3 on the bounce. However, the teams are mixed with Uzma and Natalie going one way and 3 of the lads going the other way. At least some of the girls will win.

The task is to open a Farm Shop, source stock and sell it. Biggest profit wins. Both teams seem to miss the point of a Farm Shop and instead go for the more profitable “takeaway” market.

Luisa gets the nod as PM for Evolve, and they go for meat (buffalo burgers), jackets and soup. Neil leads Endeavour, as he’s “a born leader”. As he’s been leading from the back (according to himself) this should be a breeze. Kurt has some experience of dairy and Neil goes for his idea of milkshakes. No discussion allowed.

Each task is always about leadership, and we saw an excellent example of this last week from Jordan. This week we have the autocratic style of Neil versus the democratic / laissez-faire approach of Luisa.

Research and stock purchase follow. Buffalo is different, expensive and high margin at £159. At the dairy, Alex rushes the numbers and everyone is confused. They get it for £40 for 100l of Jersey milk, if they bottle it themselves.

The Evolve sub team is given £40 to buy veg for “window dressing”. They end up spending £146! Miles railroads Luisa, who caves in. Then they go for Apple Juice, and despite Miles wanting to spend more money, Luisa finally says no. There is no clear strategy or communication between the sub teams in Evolve, and Luisa comes across as indecisive.

The Endeavour sub team buys fruit, with a budget of £100. Kurt disagrees but Neil isn’t listening. Kurt is reluctant to spend and only buys a small amount of stock, using only £33! He is banking on the shake being profitable and promises to sell 200 units.

There is no clear strategy or communication in Endeavour, either.

Next day it is all about the selling. The shops are located at Broadway Market. Luisa gives a pep talk at Buffalocal, but Neil is frustrated that the sub team bought so little fruit and veg. The shop (Fruity Cow) is still not ready 45 minutes after opening time. Neil’s leadership style has shifted from dictator to more dictated to.

Early feedback on the Buffalo is that it is expensive and there are no early takers for lunch of soup and jacket potatoes. They have nearly 350 servings to move, in addition to the buffalo, which eventually starts to shift. Miles (of course) suggests the soup etc. is put on display outside of the shop. Eventually they start to move, but Miles is unhappy with the aesthetic of the jacket spuds, and blames Jason. Increasingly, it is Miles, not Luisa who is seen to be leading the team. Luisa recedes further into the background

The milkshakes start to come in thick and fast.  As stock moves, Kurt suggests buying cheap apple juice as a new line. By mid afternoon, Neil is looking to get rid of stock, but is unhappy with Uzma’s contribution (what contribution? I hear you ask). Both teams are left with unsold stock, but Neil is (of course) confident.

In the Boardroom, strategies and tactics are scrutinized, especially the takeaway angle from both teams. Miles sticks the knife into Luisa, and the support from the rest of the team is muted to say the least. Neil’s leadership style is also examined and Kurt is especially lukewarm about it.

The numbers for both teams come in and Endeavour have a profit of £539 to Evolve’s  £630. Neil loses by £91. They didn’t sell enough milkshakes (113 v a target of 200). For Evolve, Luisa was a poor, indecisive PM, and Miles is happy to take the credit for rescuing the team. From the edit, he may be right.

In the autopsy that follows, Sugar questions Neil’s inability to change direction when things started to unravel, but Kurt is given credit for the fruit juice initiative. Eventually Uzma comes under the spotlight as well, and her contribution is deemed to be lacking. Neil principally blames Kurt, but brings Uzma as well as she was the weakest person in the team.

Uzma puts up a spirited defence to Neil, who is accused of being “cocky” by Sugar. Kurt is criticized for offering to sell 200 milkshakes, but he did contribute a lot of the profit. Uzma says Neil should go, and Neil says it should be Kurt. Sugar inevitably fires Uzma, but not before scaring both Neil and Kurt. It is the right decision based on the first 4 tasks, but Neil could have gone for his poor leadership.

This week both PMs were poor leaders, but for different reasons. Luisa listened too much and eventually, Miles took over, possibly rescuing the team. Neil was autocratic, especially over the strategy, but then was weak and indecisive when things started going astray. It was Kurt who adapted the strategy, but he was over confident to get stuck with a large sales target.

Good leadership requires clarity over the task (better in Evolve) with the team pulling in the same direction to deliver the task (both teams failed here) and with every individual contributing. Uzma failed in this respect, but Jason is another yet to show any real talent. Jordan remains the most impressive of the boys, with Leah (quieter this week) the best of the girls. Miles may be annoying and vain, but he did make a solid contribution this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apprentice Week 3 – Design Flaws

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

The Apprentice Week 3 – Design flaws

This week the teams are tasked with designing a new flat-packed piece of furniture. It’s a research, design and pitch task.

The teams assemble along gender lines once again, at the home of the Design Council. Sugar warns the girls as to their behaviour, but for the first time allows both teams to choose their own PM. Business Analyst Jordan leads the boys, whilst Natalie heads up the girls.

The girls go for a multi-functional cube shaped table. Everyone is on broadcast and no one is on receive. The boys go for a folding chair, championed by Alex.

The next day, Rebecca reveals on that she is not in favour of the cube, but finds herself as part of the Market Research (MR) team, along with Sophie who claims to have expertise in this area. Not surprisingly, they hear mixed feedback, but is this due to a poor product, or poorly conducted feedback? The first rule of MR is to be open minded and neutral, which is why we generally use external agencies. Rebecca seems quick to jump on any opportunity to re-design the cube, but Sophie is just too unassertive. Similarly, the boys MR includes doubters, so conflict results in both teams (so we are back to Storming behaviour again (see last week). Divisions become apparent within the sub teams of both the girls and the boys. It is how the 2 PMs handle this situation that proves telling. There is broad consensus in the boys’ team, led by Jordan, and argument amongst the girls’. Natalie ignores the feedback and pushes on with the product.

In terms of design, the girls look for ease of assembly, but struggle to identify an inspirational design they can agree on. Alex pushes the boys with an easy to assemble folding chair, but as time is running out, mistakes are made in both teams.  Nick reminds us that it a camel “a horse designed by committee”, something that could apply to both products.

Once again, there is no agreed process on how the item will be designed and produced. This is the key to success here; role clarity and trust. If you set up a MR team, you need to listen to them. In the end there is a lack of buy in, especially within the girl’s team, because their input has been ignored.

Prototypes are produced overnight. The girls’ “Tidy-Sidy”, but the cushion is the wrong size.  The boys are happy with their product.

At the pitches there is mixed feedback to both products, but the girls get more consistent negative feedback. For the boys, it is the length of the legs that splits opinions, depending on who they are pitching to. Zee in particular fares badly in the pitches for the boys and is removed from further pitches by PM Jordan, but the girls get slicker as the pitches progress, despite having a poor product design (a box on wheels).

Next day, it’s into the boardroom and both PMs are given support from their teams. The orders are counted and it the boys run away with it, thanks to an order of 2,500 units ordered from the catalogue company. The girls lose again.

Sugar tells the boys that Alex’ product is the best he has seen in the boardroom.

Interrogation in the boardroom allows Sugar to be wise after the fact and rubbish the product. The girls look to see who is to blame and the bitchiness returns. Rebecca is quizzed about her dislike of the product. Observer Karen blames the team for trying to incorporate everyone’s ideas. This has to be the responsibility of PM Natalie. The MR is also challenged and rubbished by Sugar.

Natalie brings back Uzma and Sophie. Natalie blames both for hiding. Uzma is blamed for the design and Sophie for the MR. Shouting ensues. Sophie says it’s all unfair, but eventually Sugar makes his decision and it is the PM Natalie who must take the overall blame, but thanks to “gut feel” it is Sophie who is fired, for hiding. Sophie keeps her dignity, but not her job.

In the end, Sophie was fired for “hiding” something that Sugar hates. Her real crime was to be too quiet in a loud team. She had some good contribution, but she was just too nice and too quiet. Natalie probably should have been fired, but she put up a robust defense and survived.  In contrast, Jordan was an effective PM , and led the team well. He looks like one to watch. Zee, on the other hand seems to have lost the fait of the rest of the boys, and is unlikely to last long on this performance.

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 7 – Double Jeopardy

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of bbc.c.uk

Young Apprentice week 7 – Double Jeopardy

It’s the semi final of this year’s Young Apprentice, and in a twist the task started almost immediately after last week’s boardroom. Both teams are informed that in the losing team this week, 2 candidates will be fired.

Six candidates remain; in Odyssey there are Steven, Andrew and Lucy and in Platinum Patrick, Ashleigh, and Maria. After a bit of wrangling, Lucy and Patrick assume the roles of PM. The task; each team has £1500 to spend on  2 items from a list and sell them at the WOMAD (World Music) Festival. The team with the largest sales (plus remaining assets) wins.

The trick here is to choose the best items (i.e. those likely to sell), get them at the best discount to maximise profit and then sell them. In terms of choosing the best items, the fact that only Steven appeared to have any experience of festivals was always going to make it difficult to choose the best items. So both teams dispatched members to do some market research; Andrew for Odyssey went to a shopping mall, where the shoppers didn’t seem to match the likely profile of WOMAD revellers ( older, more affluent, eco-conscious, possibly with young children). He found out nothing. Ashleigh went to Camden Town, a more likely location and found out some useful information. Unfortunately, what she did find out was ignored by her pm, Patrick, who had already decided on the items he wanted!

Lesson: If you don’t know your market, do some focused research and pay attention to what you learn.

Both teams decided they liked the portable disposable loos. Patrick wanted the umbrella that can also be used as a seat (or bum rest at least). Both good choices you would think, given English summer weather. Odyssey were interested in the portable washing machine (really? at a festival??) and the Onesies – one piece animal costumes. Platinum got the nod for the portable loo despite having offered a lower price. This was due to heavy handed negotiation and a lack of enthusiasm for the product from Odyssey’s Steven.

Lesson: When you are competing to get rights to a product, negotiating the price needs to be coupled with clearly demonstrated enthusiasm for the product. Steven got this wrong.

The last part of the strategy is to sell the product. The portable loos eventually became a seller for Platinum, but only once they had reduced the asking price (even at this reduced price the profit was a handy 50%). The umbrella seats proved more difficult to move due to the sunny weather on the day.

For Odyssey, the washing machine was a non-starter. As Andrew himself realised, this would be perfect for the “Glamping” (glamorous camping) market. Festival goers usually bring enough clothes to see them through  and don’t want to spend time washing! The Onsies did sell, and became the focus of Odyssey’s campaign.

In the boardroom it was revealed that Platinum had won, but only by about £30. They had the better products, especially the loo versus the washing machine, and product selection proved to be important. However, Odyssey did well with the Onesies. A better second product (such as the face paints which everyone, especially the children, were wearing, as was pointed out by Sugar) would have won the task for Odyssey.

Of the 3 candidates in losing team Odyssey it was no surprise that Lucy survived, though Sugar dragged it out. She had not previously been in the bottom 3. Andrew was a perpetual loser (6/7) and only just survived last week and Steven’s aggressive approach to negotiation cost the team the portable loos, and probably the task, so both had to go too.

So 4 remain; The Fish Wife (as we say in the North East) Maria; The Ghost (Patrick), The One-Trick Pony (Patrick) and the All-Rounder, and my favourite to win, Lucy.

Next week’s it’s the final, but who will be sainted and who will be scrooged?

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 5 – Child’s Play

Your firedYoung Apprentice Week 5 – Child’s Play.

As we enter the second half of this year’s competition, we have 8 candidates left. David, Steven, Andrew and Patrick remain for the boys, with Ashleigh, Lucy, Navdeep and Maria representing the girls.

The task this week was to design a new children’s activity and pitch it to  several holiday providers. Sugar mixed up the teams (Steven and Andrew swapped) and the first task was to agree on PMs. After last week’ experience, Ashleigh had obviously decided that there was no way David was leading again, and she forced persuaded Platinum to give her the role. In Odyssey, Maria suffered a similar fate to David and was overlooked in favour of Navdeep. Lesson: a true leader needs to inspire confidence and in a democracy if you don’t, you’re out. Neither David (opinionated, but backs down and has no business sense) or Maria (a bull in a china shop) inspire.

Next the teams had to decide upon a theme. Maria didn’t let the small matter of not being the leader stop her from forcing persuading Odyssey to go for a Space theme. Ashleigh  used her well known intuition (at least to herself, “it’s never wrong”) to force persuade her team to go for an eco-art theme. These two ladies are not short of confidence and self belief, but can railroad their ideas through, if allowed. Lucy in particular was concerned about the art theme, preferring a dance approach. She argued skilfully, as any aspiring lawyer should, butt ultimately she gave  in to leader Ashleigh. To her credit she did this with good grace and got behind the project.

Ultimately, this task proved to be the unstoppable force (Maria) against the immovable object (Ashleigh). Both ideas had some merit and some flaws . For Odyssey it was the costings, which were guessed at. Ashleigh did not make this mistake, as accounting is her thing. What she demonstrated this week is that she has no real creative flair. The art idea was copied and more thorough market research (say parents rather than children) might have revealed that collecting your children from an activity all covered in paint would not bee popular!

In the boardroom, Odyssey’s Space theme took off, whereas Platinum’s Art theme came crashing down to earth. Odyssey won by a massive amount.

Ashleigh chose to bring back David (inevitably) and Andrew (surprisingly) as he was the one person who (reluctantly) supported her. Lucy was spared, as Ashleigh possibly recognised that she should have listened to her colleague.

David was fired for being generally useless and Andrew’s card was marked for possibly being someone Sugar may not like! Ashleigh escaped major criticism, though she did not perform well here. She will make an excellent Finance Director, but not a Managing Director.

Of the rest, Lucy is quietly impressive with the best communication skills. She is my bet to win. Steven may run her close. Navdeep was found lacking this week, with Maria driving thee project. Maria is probably more effective in this back seat driver role, but her brash nature means she will find trust hard to acquire.

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, Play.com 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.