Tag Archives: Sir Alan

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…

Pants

Some teams are just unmanageable. The divisions in Ignite that we saw last week came even more to the fore this week as Kimberly – an early favourite in some quarters to win – struggled to keep the all out war between bulldozer Philip and Lorraine in check. The problem was that the two of them came up with two lousy ideas. Although Philip bulldozed his idea over Lorraine, it is worth highlighting that her idea diverged from the project brief anyway in that it had multiple characters – the brief called for a single character – but with the two of them going for each other it just seemed to deadlock the rest of the team, rather than binning both ideas, they ended up running out of time and having to pick the least bad of the two, losing time and sanity in the process, and leaving them with no time for the vital box design.

The fundamental problem is that with this battle going on within the team, and continuing into subsequent days for someone who is about quiet, co-operative management, it is impossible to handle, and ends up being like a cancer eating away at the team. In the real world, you’d probably be able to work around such a conflict, but in the world of the Apprentice you’re doomed, and it really comes down to salvaging what you can from the task, and playing the boardroom right.

For the first part, salvaging the task, Kimberly seemed to play it right. After the catastrophe of the first day, she took control of the advert, and received a lot of praise for the result, she also seemed to be lining Philip up for the fall by letting him do the jingle. As an aside, Beth reckoned this sequence produced one of the best lines of the night, when the chap in the recording studio comments on how Philip sounds…

She then hands off the presentation to Mona, who makes an utter hash of it telling the client about the product rather than the campaign. However Lorraine starts to mess things up when it gets to the boardroom.

Within moments Lorraine is making her points, attacking Kimberly and distracting from Philip. At one point Sir Alan clearly points the finger at Philip, but taken by surprise by the turn around from Lorraine, Kimberly who has more than once in previous tasks protected her, ends up focusing some of the boardroom rhetoric there, instead of highlighting how Philip bulldozed any other ideas, and laying the blame squarely at his door. As a result it is Kimberly who takes the taxi ride, and Philip gets let off, despite the whole concept coming down to him. Really I think Kimberly was probably the only one worth keeping, and both Philip and Lorraine shown the exit.

Meanwhile, over on the other team, for once we had a great example of a well managed team, that pulled together. The initial idea was good, and although the advert was a classic example of a ropey Apprentice commercial, the team worked well together, and it was clear from pretty early on who was going to win. Certainly on this performance Kate has to be a favourite for overall winner, although the clips on You’re Fired showing her getting friendly with Philip does possibly count against her…

Next week though we do get a chance to mix things up again, with a new twist on the shopping list task. Rather than trying to buy a list of items for the best price, the teams are being given ten items to sell. As always with those tasks the devil is in the detail, and knowing your items is key. You can be certain that Sir Alan will have put some gotcha items in there, and I’m sure we’re going to see some of the candidates mess up spectacularly as a result.

I Don’t Do Costs

Sometimes the candidates on the Apprentice lose through multiple mistakes, sometimes it’s one catastrophic mistake. This week we had both, on the one side we had a poor leader, who struggled to guide his team, and produced a poor product, and struggled to sell his product. On the other side we had a popular leader, who produced a good product, sold well, but ended up making a catastrophic mistake, a mistake that produced a rare significant direct intervention in the task from Nick Hewer.

This was one of the clearest examples of a task that was lost rather than won. Had it not been for that mistake over costings, Noorul was a dead certainty to go. Having said that it was a close run thing in the boardroom, and really came down to Paula showing some integrity alongside Yasmina who turned on her friend to save her skin, and Ben who sadly failed to do quite enough to talk himself out of a job.

To be honest, I thought Ben had blown it for himself with the “I got a scholarship to Sandhurst� comment – he didn’t go by the way – but the point that swung it I think was Yasmina, had she agreed with Paula that Ben had been tasked with the costings too but had dodged his responsibilities, I think that would have changed the outcome. Unfortunately Yasmina turned on Paula and Sir Alan went with the majority decision amongst the boardroom candidates.

Sadly, Paula got the chop, and we’re left with Ben who is rapidly climbing my list of candidates to get rid of. Phil after going up a bit in my estimation last week, came right back down after he lost it with Kimberly primarily because she kept her cool and didn’t lose it with Noorul. Kimberly does seem to have the right attitude for business in real life, but whether she’ll survive against the likes of Phil and Ben remains to be seen.

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.