The Apprentice 2016 Week 5 – On yer bike

The Apprentice 2016 Week 5 – On yer bike

bikeThis week the teams focused on utilising and demonstrating a relatively new business tool – Crowdfunding. This is raising funds through public support; offering rewards to members of the public and institutions to help with development costs. The two teams were asked to identify new items involved with bicycle safety and design a marketing campaign to raise funds through crowd funding. Titans, led by sales manager Samuel Boateng focused on a gilet (or is that gillet? Recruitment agent, Trishna didn’t seems sure) with high visibility LED lighting. Nebula chose headphones that allowed the wearer to still be able to hear traffic. They were led by beachwear company owner JD O’Brien.

Crowd funding involves setting up a donations page, where would-be donors can see what they are supporting and what rewards they will get for their support. You then need to have some kind of PR stunt to generate interest, trying to generate leads and drive traffic to the donations page through social media. There was also the opportunity to pitch directly to companies, large and small. Despite the fact that there are several candidates who describe themselves as having digital and traditional marketing experience, once again both teams were underwhelming in their endeavours.

“This lack of urgency is suicide in a competition like The Apprentice”

A key component of these tasks is allocation of personnel. Despite what we have seen in previous weeks, JD put the toxic mix of Paul and Sofiane in the same sub-team. These 2 guys struggle to work together. Paul is controlling and subject to frustration and sulking; Sofiane is a maverick who doesn’t listen. We got to see both of these behaviours. JD effectively abdicated responsibility of the sub-team, who were producing a promotional video for the website. This Laissez-faire style of leadership is fine when you are organising a social event, but has no place in business. This lack of urgency is suicide in a competition like The Apprentice. The leader needs to delegate tasks, but should be aware of what is going on. In this respect, JD failed.

Samuel was far more controlling. He set out his (bizarre) vision for the PR stunt; a mime in   Paddington Station which was excruciating to watch. This was a pity, because the video produced by cake company owner Alana was the best thing about their campaign. She was effectively marginalised by Karthik for the rest of the task.

For Nebula, there was a delay in getting the donations page up live on Day 2. Although this was led by Paul, on the previous day JD had failed to agree any rewards for donors! Paul had to rectify this, but the lack of a coherent strategy came to light when the team pitched to potential investors; there was no increased reward for buying 180 units or 12! In addition, their PR stunt, involving a gospel choir at Kings Cross station was poorly thought out, as there was no obvious link to the product.


Kings Cross Station was treated to a Gospel Choir

In the pitches, we got to see more of the same behaviour; Samuel took over and Alana was “benched”, but he was incoherent in opening the pitch. Karthik was in his element and really sold the product. For Nebula, JD was also ineffective and Sofiane went off script. He was supposed to focus on the pricing, but couldn’t resist selling the product. This left pricing to an under prepared Frances. It was no surprise, then, that Nebula lost the task again.

Pitching is an opportunity to Position your products features and benefits. However, to do this, you need to Understand your audience. In this respect, Nebula were especially poor.

In the boardroom, JD was very noble, accepting his part in the failure of the task. He was almost looking for volunteers to accompany him into the final three. He eventually chose Rebecca (who has lost 5/5 tasks) and Paul. Not surprisingly, Paul attacked JD’s leadership, and JD agreed! JD was fired. Once again, he didn’t seem too surprised or bothered. He seemed to believe that falling on his sword was the honourable thing to do, and Paul was happy to apply a coup de grâce. Based on his lack or urgency and poor leadership, JD was a nice guy, but useless PM. It is great to be fair and a nice guy, but abdication is no substitute for delegation.

The Apprentice 2016 Week 3 – Brighton Rock

The Apprentice 2016 Week 3 – Brighton Rock

southend-rockAfter the disaster that was Week 2, Lord Sugar took control of things this week and mixed up the teams. He also appointed the PMs for a task that involved the design and selling of confectionary in Brighton. This time, the team with the biggest PROFIT would win.

For the newly re-constituted teams, cake-company owner, Alana Spencer, was given the PM role for Titan, and for Nebula it was sausage distribution business owner, Oliver Nohl-Oser. Both have experience in related industries, but would it be relevant enough to bring them success? The early team discussions were notable for 2 things;

  1. Neither PM was very decisive or assertive. Both team have members with big personalities (egos), so it is crucial that the PM find ways of allocating and controlling individuals such as Karthik, Paul and Sofiane. The early signs weren’t promising, with Paul insisting that he be in the same Nebula sub-team as PM Oliver
  2. A lack of any obvious strategy in either team. These 2 factors would prove crucial later in the task.

The leadership expert John Adair defines leadership as being about getting the balance right between the Task, the Team and the Individual in his Action-Centred Leadership model. Both Alana and Oliver were poor on each count.

Task – although on the surface, both teams were busy, there was no clear strategy outlined by either team, especially in relation to pricing and negotiation

Team – the format of the task with 2 sub-team makes it difficult to co-ordinate the activities of all members, but I’m always amazed at how “hands-on” the PMs are. Better to be able to communicate (two-way) with each sub-team than get overly involved in the task

Individual – Managing personalities, from the passive to the aggressive, makes for great TV, but there are some individuals (see above) who are maverick to the point of destructiveness.

There were more tears this week, this time from Alana who demonstrated that she does not have the emotional resilience (EQ) to handle the pressure. Both Oliver and Alana are probably too nice to last long in this competition.

The Brexit negotiation team should note the lack of success this “bull in a china shop” approach can have

The task unfolded with the lack of focus we have come to expect from this year’s contestants. Apart from Alana’s tears and shortcomings, Titan at least worked as a team, though sub-team leader, sales executive Sofiane , worked hard to lose the task, especially in his “hard” negotiation style with Brighton Football Club. The Brexit negotiation team should note the lack of success this “bull in a china shop” approach can have. For Nebula, marketing agency owner Paul chipped away at PM Oliver from the outset. First he was criticising him from within the same sub-team, then he manoeuvred himself into a different sub-team for Day 2, took the huff and opted out. Paul comes across as controlling. He had some good points to make, but played his card of self interest first all too often. The rest of the team are now alerted to his tactics.

It was only a marginal surprise that Nebula lost the task, but less surprising was the dithering that Oliver demonstrated in choosing who to bring back into the “final three”. It was brave to bring Paul back, but it would give us a chance to see if Oliver could be assertive and stand up for himself. He couldn’t. Oliver also brought back Mukai, who was once again ineffective and, after he failed last week as PM, was on a warning and looked vulnerable. The fact that Oliver was fired and both Mukai and Paul survived was very telling. On this week’s performance alone, Oliver deserved to go as he was most responsible for the failure of the task (he had no pricing strategy) but Mukai was very lucky to survive. Good guys don’t last long in this programme, but hopefully neither do bullies such as Sofiane and Paul.





The Apprentice 2012 Week 10 – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

This week was a tale of two Spa-Hotels

The Apprentice 2012 Week – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

The numbers just didn’t add up in this week’s BBC Apprentice. And I’m not just talking about Jade’s negotiation with a top restaurant at St Pancras station. No, with 3 episodes to go, seven candidates is just too many and a double firing seemed inevitable. And so it proved.

Lord Sugar described the task as replicating a start-up business. What it actually involved was identifying high quality products or services and negotiating the best possible discount (up to 50%)  for an upmarket Groupon-like daily deal. They were clearly briefed to go for “high quality” products. The team with the biggest profit would win.

We already knew that Stephen -entering the last chance saloon- was assigned as PM for Sterling. This was his escape clause in avoiding getting fired last week. Lose this one and he would be out. Stephen was leading Ricky, and Gabrielle (or Gabriella as Stephen insisted on callling her; they’ve shared a house for 10 weeks and he still can’t get her name right?).

Over in Phoenix, Adam, Tom and Nick were happy to allow Jade to be PM when she informed them that she worked “with company’s like this” in her previous role as a Business Development Manager.

There was a clear difference in approach between the teams. Jade got Phoenix involved in some detailed and time consuming planning with the strategy of identifying a few top notch targets “quality not quantity”. Stephen went for quantity, looking for 5 or 6 “premium”deals. The only problem was they were out chasing opportunities without any apparent planning. Stephen’s background is as a National Sales Manager, a role that should include more than just impementation of a tactical sales plan. The programme editing made sure that we were aware of the differences in approach.

We didn’t really get to see much of the planning ( it does not makesas good television as people runnning around ) so it was hard to judge how good the Phoenix strategy was, though they did have a precise list of targets they went for. Yet, even amongst the scatter-gun approach of Sterling, there was some evidence of planning. At one point, Ricky, working on his own, was scheduled to go to a leading Spa Hotel in Tring. Ricky was worried about the journey time to and from Tring and that this would stop him calling on more leads. After initially telling Ricky to  stick to the plan, in the end Stephen had a major wobble and agreed with Ricky. No trip to Tring, then. This was the pivotal part of the task for Sterling, and would cost them the task and Stephen his future in the programme.

Although much more focused, the 2 sub teams in Phoenix did not have everything their own way. Jade and Nick  did secure a good deal with a Spa (over 50% discount) but were woefully under prepared (despite all of that planning) for a meeting with restauranteur Marcus Wareing at St Pancras station. In real life this would have cost them the opportunity, but the power of TV cameras meant they eventually got a 30% discount. We also saw Tom and Adam (The Jeeves and Wooster of this week’s task) apparently complementing each other very well. Tom has an eye for fine things, and Adam will beat any customer into reducing their prices in a negotiation.

For Sterling, Ricky specialised in restaurants also, managing to consume scallops in 3 of them across the day! He did manage to secure a useful double deal with one quality restaurant, but made the fatal negotiation error of limiting the number of meals for lunch and dinner to 190. In negotiation, always try to get the other side to put the first offer on the table. Again, this was a crucial mistake that cost Sterling the task.

In the end, There was much running around the streets of London trying to sign up anything. For all of their different approaches, Phoenix signed 6 deals and Sterling 9. Both teams had one or two to make up the numbers (scented candles for Phoenix and fish pedicure for Sterling).

In the boardroom, it was revealed that Phoenix had 2/6 deals accepted by the daily-deal company and sold £14563. Adam and Tom had no deals accepted. Sterling had 3/9 accepted but sold only £6440, £6090 of which was down to Ricky’s restaurant double deal. Sterling lose again.

So, we know that Stephen must be fired. Ricky is praised for the double deal but criticised for limiting the number of meals available at the restaurant, though it is unlikely that it would have turned the task. No, Stephen has to take the blame for poor leadership and, along with Gabrielle(a), poor sales (£350), despite having had more deals accepted. Sugar pointed the finger at the missed opportunity at the Tring Spa as crucial to Sterling losing, hammering another nail in Stephen’s coffin. But, at this point the producers and Lord Sugar throw a curve ball. Gabrielle’s lack of contribution in the task (I have barely mentioned her this week) has highlighed what a number of us have suspected for weeks – she is very creative but has poor business acumen. Gabrielle is fired first. Ricky just survives and replaces Stephen in the last chance saloon as Stephen finally gets fired.

So, its all change this week. One of the earlier favourites has gone. Of those left, Jade showed promise this week, but Tom’s star is falling. Adam continues to hang on in there, but surely would have gone if Phoenix had lost the task. Nick is probably the most rounded candidate of those left, but I’m left with the image of ice-cold Ricky slowly stabbing Stephen in the back in the boardroom. Et tu, Ricky?