“It Looks Like Kids Vomit in Araldite!�

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This week, The Apprentice was all about sweets. The teams had to manufacture and then sell sweets to the visitors to London Zoo, and the team with the most profit at the end of the day won. The result was the closest yet, with the winning margin being £10. Although not intended, it also ended up being a battle between one team with a smaller stock selling at higher prices, and the other with masses of stock selling it cheap – the higher prices winning.

This was one of those weeks when in actual fact I thought the wrong team won. The whole reason that Ghazal and her team had small amounts of stock is because only half the team were involved in manufacturing. Through a crazy piece of organisation (that didn’t seem to affect Adam and his team) the only place to get the sticks for the lollipops was in London, and the sweets were being manufactured on the South Coast. As a result Tre and Kristina waste four hours bringing the box of sticks (which were only available in multiples of 1000) down to the factory, and head back to London to organise props. As a result they are two hours away so whilst the rest of the team are failing to produce more than 100 lollipops, Tre is back at the house playing pool, and Kristina is washing her hair. That’s not the only jaw dropping moment, in trying to reduce the cost of the box of sticks, Tre at one point suggests to the wholesaler that he do a totally illegal VAT fiddle to cut the cost – with Margaret Mountford, Sugar’s lawyer in the room! The next day in the selling, Tre is by his own admission specifically targeting ‘fat people’, and Kristina is handing the lollipops to small children and then demanding money from the parents on the basis that the parents won’t refuse.

The other team weren’t without their fair share of problems either. To start of with, they do market research which comes up with the fact that most parents don’t want to be feeding sugary sweets to their children. Unfortunately that idea gets cold water poured on it by the sweet manufacturer, who instead recommends boiled sweet lollipops, in which they use ‘natural flavours’. As a result the team decide to produce ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’ and Chocolate lollipops similar to those produced by the other team. Natalie then gets sent off with Simon to sort out the printing. Meanwhile the rest of the team head off to Asda, and stock up on all sorts of sugary (and not very natural) sprinkles that they set into their ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’, and when they are told they have to list all the ingredients, phone Natalie with the wording, and to change the name to ‘Tiger Orange Lollipop’ – unfortunately having got the signs and printing part done, Natalie sticks with the ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’ name – landing the team in hot water with the London Zoo staff. Ultimately they have to cross out ‘Natural’ on all the packets on the day. Alongside this, Simon, having been far too interested in looking at the animals has totally messed up on the location for their stall, and they initially end up around the back of a corporate hospitality tent, wasting valuable time as they move.

Their selling doesn’t go much better. Adam as project manager, decides to manage rather than sell, and proceeds to manage from inside a lion costume for about four hours, and just seems to wind up particularly Natalie by trying to coach the team as to the best way to sell. Alongside this you have Sophie who has a bit of an issue (unlike Kristina) with hassling parents endlessly to buy lollipops that to be frank she wouldn’t want any kids of hers to have – interesting Natalie admits at one point to having the same issue. Although they have massively more stock, and are selling at cheaper prices, at the end of the day they are literally giving the stuff away to get rid of it, and loose by £10. Adam brings Sophie and Natalie into the boardroom.

The whole boardroom is interesting. Firstly, Alan Sugar really doesn’t like the Orange Lollipops – whatever they are called – describing them as looking like ‘kid’s vomit in Araldite’ at one point, and ‘sick on a stick’ at another. He is also less than impressed with the time it takes Natalie to admit that the name issue was down to her. In the early stages of the boardroom he has a long talk with Sophie over the realities of business, especially when she admits that she has problems selling a product that she thinks is poor value. However she does then say that she is aware that she is commercially naive, but that she is looking to learn.

Much of the rest of the discussion is three way between Sugar, Natalie and Adam again over the labelling, but also because Sugar believes that Adam is running a vendetta against Natalie, and because he is disappointed that Adam wasted hours in the lion costume. Then after all of that, he sacks Sophie for not being enthusiastic about the selling.

I have to say that I was surprised at the choice, and it perhaps says as much about Sugar’s philosophy on selling that he sacked Sophie for not being keen on selling the sweets, but selling them anyway, rather than Adam for not selling anything and spending half the day dressed as a lion. Personally I can well understand Sophie’s argument of being unwilling to use sales techniques (such as those being used by Kristina) that she wouldn’t be happy to have used on herself. Certainly I would have thought that if you give Sophie a quality product that she believes in then she’d have no problem, and from my point of view having someone who respects their customer enough not to sell them overpriced rubbish is probably better for long term reputation as having someone who will sell anything. Having said that, the environment of The Apprentice is much more about making as much money as possible in a short time, whereas in the real business world many companies are interested in building a long term relationship of trust with a potential customer – the idea being that a happy customer will come back to buy again.

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