Going to the Dogs

Week 2 of The Apprentice kicked off with a frightening moment – the site of one of the male candidates rushing to get the phone call from Alan Sugar wearing only a pair of lime green y-fronts is the stuff of nightmares, and certainly should have been preceded by a warning that some scenes in the upcoming episode would be disturbing to some viewers.

However it got worse. The task this week was to create a product to appeal to dog owners, and to successfully pitch it to three retailers – a specialist in pet fashions, the pet department at Harrods, and big pet store chain Pets at Home. The key point to note in the task though was that the retail price of what was required was fixed at £29.95, therefore removing the possibility of going for selling a small number of high value items, pointing strongly towards doing something mass market to sell to the high street chain.

Project manager for the boys was Rory a recently bankrupt entrepreneur who was apparently ‘bored of learning from experience’, and Global Brand Consultant Katie Hopkins for the girls.

In the girls camp, things seemed to be well organised, and with everybody working as a team, after one or two wacky ideas, they eventually came up with a flat-pack doggie wardrobe. Over in the boys camp, there was some disagreement.

Last week, the boys had only really won by luck – after problems with purchasing and placement of their mobile stall the girls had lost out last week. This week with the girls better organised, the arguments and tensions in the boys team came to the fore. Rory, mindful of the problems of last week decided that the best management strategy was to treat everybody as five year olds and dictate absolutely everything. For example for the brainstorming session he insisted that everybody else take off their jackets. Then after a big brainstorming of product ideas, at the last minute he threw in, and subsequently picked his own idea. Indeed even when faced with mounting evidence from talking to consumers that a waterproof furniture blanket was a better option, he still stuck with his own idea, a Rambo style Pooch Pouch.

Perhaps the main focus of his team problems was Tre, who is really vocal when he doesn’t agree with something, indeed he’ll even talk over Alan Sugar himself – somewhat of a risky proposition. The relationship degenerated throughout the whole programme, with Tre ending up being taken into the boardroom along with Ifti by Rory when the inevitable happens and the Pooch Pouch fails to appeal to the mass market store, whilst the girls correctly aim for the mass market, and despite a lousy pitch still manage to sell thousands of units.

Now Ifti is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the programme this week. The sum total of his contribution was to almost have a good idea in the brainstorming session, but after that he seems to pretty well shut down. He eventually admits that he is missing his wife and son, although it’s probably as much the realisation that he’s stuck in a house with the rest of the candidates and that if he doesn’t get out soon he’ll end up going potty. Essentially he becomes the first person to fire himself. To be honest I think the guy has had a lucky escape. Although he’s ambitious, he at least is grounded in reality and seems able to balance his work life with his home life. The whole premise of the show is unrealistic in a business sense anyway, as even in the most high pressure situations you are unlikely to be totally isolated for twelve weeks unless you are in very specific careers. Certainly I take the fact that he essentially got himself out as a plus point for an employee that is well grounded, rather than totally immersed in the kind of management, sales and marketing rubbish that some of the others spout – usually before they do something totally idiotic. Anyway, once Ifti had gone, Sugar didn’t let the other two off, and ultimately it was Rory that went, with, as is often the case with the vocal candidates, Tre being left to fight another day.

I have to say that in this situation, it was exactly the right decision. Rory was one of the two ex-public school boys who were shown last week comparing old school ties, and sizing up the quality of the totty amongst the female candidates. However when it came down to it, to quote an ex-work colleague, he had about as much managerial skill as a tin of beans, giving an archetypal demonstration of all the best ways to annoy and demotivate your employees. True there are times when teams need a firm hand to get them back on track, but starting off by dictating what they should wear in a meeting, really isn’t the way to go.

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