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

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

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 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 3 – Stage Fright

Young Apprentice Week 3 – Stage Fright

The teams were sent on a quest to locate 10 items (including a candelabrum, pictured) needed for a stage production. The aim: get all items on time and for the best price. There would be penalites for any items not found, and for not geting back on time.

Sugar decided to mix the teams up once again, presumably in the hope of ensuring there wouldn’t be a third successive boy fired. David went to Platinum on the back of 2 previous losses. His only success so far has been getting into the final three each week. Navdeep and Alice went in the opposite direction.

Both Steven and David wanted to lead Platinum. Steven won, but appeased David by making him leader of a sub team with Amy and Lucy. For Odyssey, Andrew was PM.

Essentially, success in this task depends on 4 things;

  • have a process or system
  • be clear about your role
  • choose locations carefully
  • if you want to negotiate, you have to identify at least 2 outlets selling the item

Therefore the role of the PM is to implement these. Once again, there was a contrast in styles between the 2 PMs. Both teams divided the items between the 2 sub-teams, but Steven (Platinum) had his team phoning from cars and researching on the go; whereas Andrew had Odyssey do some research and phoning from the Coliseum. It wasn’t long before he and Ashleigh were out tracking down items. These approaches showed that neither PM was clear on their process – what is the best way to win this task? In turn, this led to a lack of role clarity because the 2 are closely linked. The key part of the process they missed, was that if you are going to negotiate you need to have leverage in the form of competition between sellers. Otherwise, why would they bother (as several retailers, not starstruck by the cameras, pointed out)? You also need to choose locations carefully. Patrick in team Odyssey was the only individual to even identify where they were starting from in Central London. At one point, Platinum PM Steven was heading off to Croydon (12 miles and several hours) to buy a car. To maximise time, you have to choose locations that can be reached, and returned from, in the available time.  Neither team demonstrated an understanding of these points.

The task itself became enjoyable enough TV, as nobody could work out what a candelabrum is, in yet another indictment of  the candidate’s knowledge / education. Do people become entrepreneurs because they find the traditional approach to success (University, Profession) beyond them? You might think so if you watch this lot. Eventually Odyssey worked it out and found one.

Based on the results this week, the more measured apporach of team Odyssey paid dividends and they won the task, despite their sub-team not leaving the Coliseum until nearly 6 hours into the task! They got 6/10 items, whereas the more “active” approach of Platinum, got 5 items. Negotiation was poor on both teams, as they generally went to the first seller they found. No competition, no negotiation. There was little evidence of the 2 PMs being effective leaders, and the fact that the sub-teams never worked together allowed for plenty of bitching, especially from the girls, though Patrick was happy to join in. Doesn’t he remember what a mess he made of being PM?

In the boardroom it became clear that penalites for being late and missed items would be crucial. Both teams spent about the same on the items they found, but Odyssey won because they had lower penalties for missed items. In truth, neither team was good; it’s just that Platinum was poorest (by about £170). So, one of last week’s final 3, Maria, who spent the whole episode bitching again, avoided the boardroom. I can’t see her lasting the course. She does not come across well.

For Platinum, Steven brought back 2 members of his sub-team. David (3 appearences in the final 3 out of 3) and steel-jawed Amy. These 2 fought the whole time and were prime candidates. The only thing likely to save David was his gender. I couldn’t see Sugar firing 3 boys in a row, and so it proved. Any of the 3 could have gone, especially Steven for his poor leadership, and at some point there will be a multiple firing. This should have been the week. In the end Amy was fired, but David surely can’t survive another final 3. He seems to be going backwards. He still has the same 1970s attitude to women and leadership, but his spirit has been broken like a castrated bull.

Who has impressed? Not many, in truth. Andrew has confidence and fight, but was a poor leader. Lucy spent most of this episode separating David and Amy. Navdeep has been shown to contribute little, but has looked good when she has (though she got caught up in the bitching with Maria and Patrick). Ashleigh is quiet, but exudes Yorkshire common sense. Alice hasn’t shown much but a nice personality. Steven was also a poor PM.

So, all still to play for.

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.

Young Apprentice 2012 Week 1- Would you employ any of these wannabe entrepreneurs?

Young Apprentice 2012 Week 1- Would you employ any of these wannabe entrepreneurs?

Last Thursday saw the welcome return of the younger sibling of BBC’s “The Apprentice”. A full list of the candidates can be found here, but *spoiler alert* it does reveal the identity of the person fired in Week 1 (Candidates).

What always amazes me about The  Apprentice and its Junior version is how these enthusiastic contestants never seem to learn from the past. Does anyone on the programme ever bother to watch past episodes? I can’t believe they do, or we wouldn’t see the same mistakes series after series. It’s obviously not about age and inexperience. Maybe its just nerves. I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know; just like in Gremlins, there are certain rules to follow if you want to surive. Sugar actually reminded the candidates of the first 2 at the start of the programme;

  1.  Don’t hide. Be seen to be active and to contribute. Max clearly didn’t remember this.
  2.  Don’t be a bully. If you are going to dominate, make sure you are right and your team wins. David would do well to learn from this as it nearly cost him this week. He has strong views and isn’t afraid to share them, even if some of them went out of fashion before he was born.
  3. If you are  an intellectual, you will have more to overcome if you are to succeed. This is Sugar’s Achille’s heel – he is very wary of bright people. If they are to succeed, they need to show that they have “common sense” as well as intelligence. In business circles, this equates to Goleman’s Emotional Intellingence, which was very fashionable in the 1990s. This was another problem for Max, and in combination with point 1 above resulted in hime being fired.
  4. And most obviously of all, win every week. That way you will last until at least the last few episodes.

This week, the task was to sort through a ton of used clothing to find some gems to re-sell. The team that made the most money, would win. This was (once again) clearly stated at the start of the programme. and yet one team chose to ignore it. Sugar split the group by gender, and the boys chose the name Odyssey (though David who suggested it struggled to spell it) and Fashion Designer Patrick as project manager. This girls went for Platinum and trainee accountant and part time retail worker Ashleigh as pm. Their backgrounds shaped their strategies, such as they were; Ashleigh focused on maximising profit by minimising costs. Patrick went for innovation, imagination and potentially higher ticket prices. This involved modifying clothes to make something new and desirable. It proved to be a fatal mistake, as the boy’s costs were much higher and none of the modified products sold. On the other hand, the girls made more profit by not even washing some of the used clothes they chose! Their success is something that Sugar made his money on, and Ashleigh will have impressed Sugar with her approach.

So, it was no surprise that the boys lost. It was possibly a bit of a surprise that Parick chose David to bring back into the boardroom, but perhaps Patrick recognised that David had been strongly opinionated. In the end it was the third person in the boardroom, Max, who proved to be the fally guy. In reality, based solely on this task, Patrick should have been fired, but Sugar recognised that dspite his mistakes there was courage and drive their. Something to mould. In Max, Sugar saw someone who hid from the responibility of selling (rule 1). In fact he demonstrated very poor interpersonal skills. He is also extremely bright  (rule 3). Taken together, these were a lethal combination and Max was fired more for what he didn’t do and who he is than for what he did. In brief, he was not Sugar’s cup of tea. A bit harsh? Probably, but it is his money that he will give away.

The message for wannabe entrepreneurs is to be clear about your strategy. Both strategies here were potentially valid, but only one was delivered (Platinum). An ability to relate to and influence other people, whether colleagues or customers is absolutely necessary. Patrick and David survive for another week, but their cards are marked.

Next week, the teams have to produce a cookery book.

Why Young Apprentice Needs To Be Fired

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

Why Young Apprentice needs to be fired.

Last night’s Final of Young Apprentice (formely Junior Apprentice, child of The Appentice) was a real let down. Following on from last week’s car crash of a semi final, where several innocent candidates “left the process” (read here), the final revolved around a pointless task and a protracted interview in the boardroom. Put simply, this format did not work and should be fired. If Young Apprentice is to return (and the voice over at the end of the programme assures us it is) then it needs to revise the format for the last 2 episodes.

So, why was last night such a disappointment? Well, it wasn’t anything to do with the candidates, James and Zara. Both came across extremely well and approached the task of producing a viral video for a new video game with energy and creativity. However, the task proved to be incidental. Yes, it was nice to see the ghosts of candidates past, and I would pay money to see Harry M  made to wear a pig costume throughout the presentation (surely some revenge there for his attitude in the series). But the task proved to be pointless. There was no professional assessment or scoring to differentiate the candidates, it just became a platform to launch a prolonged interview in the boardroom.

In the boardroom, the supporting former candidates were quickly dispatched and the interview began. We were reminded of the highs and lows of each candidate; James’ early manipulative approach of both team mates and customers, Zara’s preference to be a back-seat driver rather than volunteer to be PM. And yet they did good jobs in the final task, so that wasn’t going to differentiate them. Even the last opportunity to sell themselves / stab their opponent in the back was extremely polite.

So how did Lord Sugar decide upon a winner? Once it was revealed that Zara would use the money to develop her film production business, but James had no plans, other than to continue his Economics education, I felt really let down. James has no business, and has no plans for a business. Is he really going to use the £25K prize to pay his University fees?? As this process was about identifying a future entrepreneur, the prize could only go to Zara, and it did. On this basis, the right finalist won, but were James and Zara worthy of being in the final? Not James. It would be nice to know how the other candidates would have used the prize money.

The funny thing is, I remember feeling let down at the end of the last series of The Apprentice (read here), and for the same reasons. On both occasions, the big reveal about how the prize was to be used, suggested that the whole process had been a waste of time.

The real issue is the format itself. Both Young Apprentice and its older sibling have moved into Dragon’s Den territory. The original concept of looking for someone to work with Lord Sugar, and other people, validates the weekly tasks and generally led to tense, exciting finals. If these series are to continue, they need to either return to the original format, or find new tasks to fairly evaluate the entrepreneurial ability of the candidates. Oh, and the candidates themselves should have some real ideas worthy of Lord Sugar’s, and the viewer’s,  investment.

Young Apprentice Week 7 Shock – Nobody Fired

Carnage in the Boardroom - who would survive?

Young Apprentice Week 7 Shock – Nobody Fired.

It was a brave attempt at a new approach to a tried and tested formula, but it failed to grab the imagination and is not likely to be repeated. I’m not talking about how teams Atomic and Kinetic approached designing and marketing a new brand of popcorn in this week’s task, but rather the producer’s idea to fire the whole losing team . Did I say fire? Well that’s more than Lord Sugar said. Possibly revealing his lack of comfort with the new format, Sugar described each of the 4 candidates who did not make it to the final as “leaving the process”.

With 6 candidates left this was a big “semi-final”, and the need to get down to 2 for next week’s final something new had to be tried. Was this the first evidence of cutbacks in the BBC? Did the producers suddenly find themselves with 3 fewer weeks than they had planned for? You can imagine the conversation the producers had;

“Sorry, Guys, the budget’s been cut. We only have 2 episodes left. Let’s brainstorm ideas for how we can make this look like innovation”

With hindsight, it would have been better to have had double firings over a couple of weeks, as this format left the viewer knowing in advance that several of their preferred candidates were likely to go.

The teams were (yet again) re-booted;

Atomic – Lizzie, and the Harry twins, with Harry H getting the nod to be PM.

Kinetic – Zara, Haya, and James, with James as PM.

Notice that each team had a mix of male and female. It was my belief from the outset that whichever team won, the final 2 candidates would prove to be one male and one female. And so it proved to be. Sugar spread his bets by keeping James and Harry M apart, either to avoid civil war, or because they have been 2 of the best performers this season. Similarly Zara and Lizzie, the 2 strongest girls left.

Sugar made it clear that to win the popcorn task  would require “teamwork”. Is that irony in the choice of product, as the task was popcorn compared to the real issue? This was particularly challenging for some of the candidates, who have had to learn what a team is (Harry M, James and Haya come to mind). Not only that, but being a good team was not enough to secure a final slot, as having won the task, one of the successful team would be fired (sorry, leave the process). In summary, you have to be a good team to win, then a complete b**tard in the boardroom and stab your team mates in the back to get promoted. Sounds just like the corporate world I used to work in, but does it help us to find an outstanding Entrepreneur? At last, the true formula for success in (Young) Apprentice was stated for all future candidates.

The mechanics of the task involved opportunities for individuals to shine, as apart from the PM, there were tasks around designing new flavours of popcorn and ot’s packaging, as well as pitching to would-be buyers.

Kinetic won, beating Atomic with more orders from; a Cinema chain, a Lo-cost airline and a Supermarket chain by 115K to 90K. It wasn’t that Atomic bombed, but rather that Kinetic moved (geddit?) more stock, despite the airline not ordering any from them.

So, goodbye the Harry Twins and Lizzie. They didn’t even get an epitaph to camera as they presumably shared a taxi to the station. Harry M left without a single win to his name.

We still needed to lose one more from the process, and if my theory was correct, James was safe as he was the only boy (as well as the successful PM). That left a straight choice between Haya and Zara. Zara did all of the 3 pitches, and was excellent, persuading 2 outlets to buy their poorly branded La Popcorn. She must have been good, as even James the PM hated the flavours (a forgettable mix of mediterranean veg and Feta cheese). Haya contributed least to this task and couldn’t give a good enough reason why she should stay in the process, focusing on what she had learned, rather than what she had achieved. Haya left the building and, the process.

So, next week’s final is between James and Haya. At least the format is back to the traditional series finale, with the ghosts of  candidates past returning to the process.  It’s too close to call, but as there is pitching involved, maybe Zara just has the edge.