Tag Archives: Debra Barr

Product, Product, Product

It never fails to amaze me how many Apprentice candidates seem to think they can sell ice to Eskimos, but fail to get the basics right in picking the right product, for the right customer. This week with Sir Alan having set up pitches with a high class designer store and a long established hardware store, one team pitched a two person dog lead and an expensive cross between a sleeping bag and a jump suit, and the other a cat playground that was just a painted cardboard box and a one sided bicycle pannier that almost everybody said would unbalance the bike. Of the four products, only the one sided bicycle pannier sold, and that was a small number to the designer store on looks alone.

What that did do though, is level the playing field. With four poor product choices, and minimal sales to the potential big prospects, it came down to a battle of the salespeople, a chance to find out who was all mouth, and who had the potential.

After some team swapping, and based on the previous bravado, Ignite were in a strong position, they had Kate who has been a strong candidate so far, with Phil and Ben neither of whom have been shy in telling everybody what strong candidates they are. They also had Lorraine who whilst she seriously rubs people up the wrong way at times has consistently been right, and Yasmina. Facing them were Debra who also talks up her talents in sales, but was on a final warning from last week, along with Howard who we’ve barely seen, Mona who badly mismanaged the first task and survived by the skin of her teeth, and James who Sir Alan described as the village idiot last week.

Unlike previous selling tasks, every candidate had their own individual order book, and all but three managed to sell, those three, well the problem was pretty apparent…

The double whammy here is that or weeks, Phil has been in conflict with Lorraine, and from the moment she put herself forward as project manager, you could see the general laid back attitude to the whole task, so confident that if they lost the task, as project manager Lorraine would be shown the door.

However as always, it comes down to the boardroom. Things kept coming back to the lack of orders, so Phil tries to highlight his previous success – the selling task last week where he made a loss but won by default, and ignored repeated suggestions from Lorraine that the rug was worth a lot more than he thought, and then Nick brought up Pants Man from the week before. Amazingly at this point, Sir Alan still seems to be wavering towards Lorraine, so she plays the relationship card and mentions that she believes the relationship between Phil and Kate has affected the task. At this point Kate defends herself, and just for good measure sticks the knife into Phil. With that, Phil is gone, and certainly in this house and I’m sure a good few others we’re mightily pleased he’s gone.

What follows now of course is the massive effort to rebuild a reputation, so on You’re Fired we had humble Phil who plays down his talents, agrees with the comments made about him and is even vaguely complimentary about Lorraine, something that continues in his exit interview.

That leaves one other of the trinity of failure this week, Ben (who got a scholarship to Sandhurst don’t you know). Had it not been for the whole Phil and Kate thing, he would almost certainly have been in the firing line. Despite all his comments about his sales ability he flopped totally, he was just lucky that he failed along with Phil and Kate, and thanks to that and the ongoing arguing between Phil and Lorraine, he could take a bit of a back seat. Had he been in the boardroom after his spectacular loss last week, and a singular inability to sell this week, it certainly would have been a difficult one for him to talk his way out of, in much the same way as Phil was a strong candidate to be shown the door once he was picked. The interesting battle of course would have been Phil and Ben – but it might well have been a battle where Lorraine went down in the crossfire…

Apprentice Rule One: Read the Instructions

There is a classic mistake that candidates on the Apprentice make, over and over again they fail to read the instructions, miss the giant sized hints that they get given, and mess up as a result.

In previous series, the shopping list task has been about making the most money possible, getting everything on the list whatever the cost, this time it was a bit different…

Rather than a list of items to buy, there was a list of items to sell. The similarity was that mixed in amongst the bric-a-brac were some gems to catch the teams out – valuable shoes, a first edition of Octopussy and the most valuable item of the lot, an Indian rug.

The other big difference was in the scoring. Quite often the the Apprentice seems to attract sales types who will do anything to get a deal, any deal, a favourite strategy being the last ditch sell off to clear stock. In a normal scoring task, where it is purely about total sales, that would probably have won the task, but not this time.

The teams were told right at the beginning, that the task was about valuation, so at the end of the task rather than being a loss, unsold items had a value, as did the items they sold. At the end of the task they totalled up the value of all the sales, along with the valuations of the unsold items, and compared this to the total of all the expert valuations. As a result selling any items at a loss cost the team – it would have been better not to sell them at all. It said so in the instruction dossier that neither team bothered to read properly, and as a result both came back with a loss.

Exhibit number one, team leader Phillip trying to sell a rug that he’s decided is worthless. Note also that his nemesis Lorraine who spent most of last week telling him his idea was pants, is also right this week… Luckily for her Margaret is very clear who has the right idea, and even christens her Cassandra (to a totally blank look from Sir Alan) in the boardroom. 

Things weren’t much better on the other side. Here Noorul has an accurate valuation, but team leader Ben steps in and closes the deal on a stunning loss. Amazingly in the boardroom Noorul tries to take credit for this deal even when others point the finger squarely at Ben.

So with both teams making a total mess of it, eventually it came down to who made the biggest mess, and thanks in part to some luck – in particular selling the skeleton for above valuation to a bloke in a pub – Phillip came back with the smallest loss. He didn’t get off scot free though, as Lorraine got complimented for being right, encouraged to speak up, and Phillip got chastised for ignoring her feelings about the rug. Surprisingly after last week Lorraine seems like she might go further than I thought. Certainly it would have made an interesting boardroom if those two had gone in, because of the clear support Lorraine was getting from the other side of the table.

I wasn’t too disappointed though, as what the win meant was that Ben was in the firing line, and in my eyes clear favourite to go. Of course for Ben that wouldn’t be a problem as he had been offered a scholarship to Sandhurst, which he didn’t take. However as he tells the camera frequently it gave him the ability to think under fire. Like this bold, clear decision making over who to bring back into the second stage of the boardroom…

The irony of his rationalising here, cut short by Sir Alan is that his strategy to bring in two consistently weak candidates paid off and despite his weak performance as task leader, Sir Alan takes the opportunity to fire Noorul on the basis of previous performances instead, leaving Ben and Debra to ride again.

The two of them don’t get off unscathed though. Debra goes into her whole Rottweiler routine again, but also verbally attacks Nick – earning a swift reprimand. Ben was also seen to be floundering around, and clearly irked Sir Alan, and short of some sort of Damascus Road experience I suspect both of their days are numbered. I’d have been happy to see any of them go, and really I thought Ben deserved to go, but as has been pointed out in what is an entertainment show, the least entertaining candidate of the three went. Certainly I do look forward to the opportunity to see Ben flounder around, consistently proving that he lacks the skills and experience to back up his rhetoric, and equally the chance to see Debra open her mouth and put her foot in it. Whilst both of them seem to be trying to outdo themselves in arrogant rhetoric, Debra perhaps seems to have slightly more to back it up…

Keep It Simple

Tonight was one of those Apprentice episodes where I was really left wondering if I was watching the same show. The general opinion on You’re Fired seemed to be that James should have gone, and that the failure was down to him, but I’m not so sure. I’m with Margaret, that on this task he seemed to manage well, and certainly kept his concerns about the product prototype in check in order to try and keep motivation in his team. To my mind the failure was squarely with Ben, who pretty much took over when it came to the product.

Look back at the product design meeting. As Howard and Kate discuss back at the apartment, there were other ideas, but they were bulldozed under the onslaught of Ben. When James and Kate having done market research and realised that competitor products are simple, and phone Ben to tell him to keep it simple, Ben ignores it totally and comes up with a multi-gym in a box. You can see it on James’ face in this clip of the products being revealed – this is anything but simple, and yet after struggling to come up with a product, Debra and her team produce exactly what the other team have been advised to produce, a simple product.

Where James falls down, like so many candidates, is in his boardroom technique. Whilst he seems to be a good steady manager, at least according to Margaret, when it comes to the boardroom he lets the tension get to him so much that he is getting emotional, and just not thinking. The key bit of advice to keep it simple is just not mentioned, and yet this was a key reason to bring Ben back into the boardroom. This is forgotten, and Ben does a great job at justifying that he shouldn’t have been brought back, and with James having been defended by Margaret we fall back on the old staple reason and Majid is fired for not having done much.

Before I finish though, my vote to go this week was very much for Debra, and certainly if her team had lost, she would have been prime candidate. In a similar way to Ben she can be pretty obnoxious at times, and again she bulldozes her way through people who disagree with her. There are good examples here and here – in the first she misses the point of a suggestion and flies off the handle, in the second she delegates someone to do a task and then micro-manages. The best example of her just bulldozing through others opinions though can be found in this clip.

You have to feel for the other team members here – it is pretty clear that Debra is going to get her own way whatever, and whilst there is only every going to be one winner of the show, you need to keep the other candidates on side, because you can easily find yourself being shown the exit if the other candidates gang up on you in the boardroom…

Never Have So Few Been Cleaned By So Many

Every Apprentice task has it’s traps, and the first one of this season was no exception. Sir Alan explained it pretty early on in this weeks show when he said that all you needed to do was to get a sponge and a bucket and go and wash cars. However the trap was that the teams were presented with vans packed with toys, and given a maximum amount to spend obtaining some of the contents of the van. Power washer? Yes please! Certainly neither team opted for the simple sponge and bucket option, although the boys at least did seem to take on board the idea that they shouldn’t spend everything they were allowed, whilst the girls team spent right up to their £200 “budget�.

In terms of the best return on investment, half of the boys team seemed to have the right idea by spending an hour shining shoes at St Pancras station unfortunately they only managed an hour before the team leader took the decision to return and bail out the rest of the team struggling to clean a fleet of mini-cabs.

As with so many Apprentice tasks this one wasn’t so much won, in that the losing team lost by virtue of messing up more than the winning team. Both teams struggled with conflict as the big egos jostled for position. As it seems happens in every series, the girls team failed to pull it together in much more spectacular fashion, with, as Nick Hewer put it, the disagreements and disorganisation leading to a “spanking in the boardroom�.

Looking at the winning team, there is already a clear divide in the boys, with four lads centred around one of the biggest egos of the night, estate agent Phil. He was given one simple, clear instruction by his team leader – we don’t do insides of cars. Once the car left, Phil produced a whole load of backchat about the time that had just been wasted, and then waltzed into the mini-cab office and agreed a deal that included insides. He then ended up doing the insides and did a botched job. Note the “it’s not as easy as it looks� comment in this sequence:

Phil described himself at one point as a man of action. From an entertainment point of view it seems he is very much of the act first think later category of action men, that invariably scrape through quite a long way, as they are generally pretty expert at the blame shifting when it comes to the boardroom.

That leads us pretty neatly on to Debra who is very definitely another of the stereotypical candidates who will say anything in the boardroom to survive, ultimately forgetting that there has been a film crew around who can show they’ve been lying. On this occasion she was put in charge of one of the two car cleaning teams on the girls team, and whilst her team didn’t go in with a cloud cuckoo land price to their customers, they did mess up significantly on their deal in that they had to ask the customer how to put together their cleaning equipment and then did such a poor job that the customer didn’t give them a further £100 of work that would have won them the task. Her sub-team then moved on to a supermarket car park where she phoned her team leader and called two of her sub-team members puppets, something she later denied in the boardroom. Unfortunately since Anita who ultimately got the chop had decided to play clean, speak up on her mistakes, and not back-stab, Debra had an easy ride through to the next round. Having said that, she certainly has the general all-round cockiness that might well result in her getting into trouble later in the series, and might well reflect badly on her with the general public.