The Apprentice – The Final

The final task for the candidates was to develop a new chocolate, along with packaging and shoot an advertisement.

The two remaining candidates are the team leaders and had to choose their team. Yasmina won the toss and chose first.

They started with the idea of marketing chocolates to men, but were talked out of it by the experts rather quickly – it’s women who eat chocolate and women who buy chocolate.

In a quick change Yasmina decided on a different path; “Coco Electric” chocolates with unusual flavour combinations such as strawberry and basil. Their branding was good, using black and shocking pink they created a logo, posters and good packaging. The pricing was at 6 pounds for a box of 18 chocolates.

The downside was the flavours, the actors used in the ads spat them out – not a good start. The ad itself was fairly cheesy, a small group sitting around eating chocolate and getting a “shock”.

On Kate’s team Ben came up with the concept of his and hers chocolates, and wanted to put them in a box shaped like a “69”. Kate squashed the box idea by saying she couldn’t credibly present it at the pitch. But she cleverly took the best of the idea and transformed it. Creating three trays in a small box “for him”, “for her” and “to share”.

The flavours were fairly high end luxury flavours – chosen by Debra, they sounded great, but came with a heavy price tag of 16 pounds. This took it out of mass market, but it was not a specialist/artisan product.

The initial name was awful “Intimate” when combined with the pastel colours gave quite the wrong branding, reminding Nick of a product in the category “feminine freshness”. Debra spotted it, Kate listened, and a ten minute brainstorm later it was rebranded as “Choc D’Amour”. The ad took romance into the naughty zone, and apart from the smeared chocolate was really good.

The presentations were both good, Kate was a much better presenter but there was more styling in Yasmina’s presentation.

In the board room Sir Alan kept the audience guessing, or at least tried to, balancing Kate’s shortcomings against the possibility of Yasmina leaving to continue her own business.

Right on cue: Yasmina; you’re hired.

Good decision – I think she has incredible determination and a lot of untapped potential. I think we’ve already seen the best of Kate.

So that’s it until next year, when there’ll be at least one change to the line up, Margaret Mountford is leaving the show to be a student. OK I guess studying for a Ph.D. in papyrology isn’t that “studentish”. The show won’t be the same without her.

Apprentice 10: TV sells

Today’s task is choosing and presenting products on live TV. It’s the task which has the most potential for hilarity, 2007’s winner Simon Ambrose famously embarrassed himself while setting up ‘the bouncer‘. It’s also the task that has the least to do with business – sales are highly dependent on the presenter’s skills so it’s a task typically handled by specialist companies. But the candidates jump right in.

There are just two key success factors; choose products with wide appeal, present them in a sincere but entertaining way.

Ignite consists of Howard leading Kate and Lorraine; Empire is led by Yasmina with Debra and James. It was tough to pick a winner ahead of time, Debra and Yasmina are in conflict, and if James presents he’s likely to come out with a Jamesism that is offensive. Howard doesn’t overflow with leadership skills but Kate will support him – but Lorraine is also likely to shoot her mouth of on live tv. TV sales channels monitor the direct sales and can correlate changes in sales rates to the word.

Ignite chose

  • fugly jacket (but it’d sell on daytime TV)
  • a low fat chip pan (good pick)
  • a craft toy sequin cat thing (horrendous)
  • an airguitar (I want one)

Empire chose

  • a garden tool leaf pick up thing (not a bad choice)
  • polo poncho scarf warm up thing (hideous)
  • a remote control toy car (cool)
  • a hairgrip thing (fugly)

The results were pretty close, but it was clear that Empire had presented better, and when the sales figures came through that showed in the sales. Sir Alan complimented Debra on her presentation skills, apparently the studio said she was close to the same level as a professional in terms of sales. With a total sales of £940 she’s well in the lead on this.

Empire won despite having a worse set of products, they’d chosen low cost, low risk problems, but luckily sold volume.

Ignite’s chip pan and jacket should have got more sales on the shopping channel, apparently they’re the top selling items for the tv channel (who knew?). The air guitar only got about 10% of sales expected by the production company, it was an OK choice – could be a fun impulse buy. The last choice was a craft thing, where you stick sequins on a polystyrene cat or dog, it might appeal to a niche market of bored 9-year-olds.

The winning team got to fly with acrobatic flying team, serious fun! The losing team was back into the board room.

Sir Alan was not impressed with any of the team, but it looked like Nick saved Lorraine’s bacon by pointing out that she goes by instinct and her instinct is often right. Sir Alan tried to fake out the viewers by pointing the finger at Kate – but she’s got “final” written all over her. Eventually he decided Howard was just too ordinary and said “you’re fired”

Apprentice 9: Oh Baby!

Today’s task; select two baby products to sell, go and sell them at a baby show. It’s a lot like task 7; choose the right product for your target audience, and close the sales. The one pitfall is choosing the wrong products. Choosing high end is a high risk strategy and you need to research your audience.

Ignite led by Lorraine chose a collapsible pushchair and a baby helmet. Good decisions, the first item is higher priced but essential for mothers, and with a lot of people in London using public transport easily collapsible push chair is a good option. The baby helmet isn’t essential, but the team sold it as “your peace of mind purchase for today”. It was reasonably priced and did make some sales. Howard and Kate did well on sales, and they seemed to work reasonably well with Lorraine. The only fly in the ointment was that some other exhibitors had the same model of pushchair at a lower price.

CM200905_apprenticehorseEmpire, led by James chose a rocking horse and a birthing bath. Bad decision on the rocking horse, it’s a luxury item and expensive coming in at £1700 pounds for the cheapest model. No sales were made. Choosing a high end product like this is a high risk strategy.

Their second product, the birthing pool, was another niche product – only 2.2% of births in the UK are home births and not all of those will use an inflatable pool. It might also be something that people research but order as cheaply as possible online since it’s easily shipped.

The teams left behind a cardboard cradle and fabric high heeled shoes – that was smart.

Lorraine seems to have tamed her worst aggressiveness, and Howard and Kate did well working with her. They had the right products and they sold. It was a worthy win.

CM200905_apprenticefired.pngJames took Ben and Debra into the boardroom; Margaret clearly unimpressed with Debra. Sir Alan had little patience with any of them. Ben unconvincing, James unconvincing and slagged Debra, calmer than usual in the boardroom but pointing the finger at James.

Sir Alan thought that Ben didn’t show enough potential; and turned to Ben and said “you’re fired”.

Bad decision, Debra is devisive and difficult, James is odd and saying inappropriate comments that can cause issues. I’m not saying that Ben is that great or deserves to win. On this task he wasn’t the worst. The biggest downfall in this task was the product selection, specifically choosing the rocking horse, and it was Debra who pushed for the horse to be selected.

Apprentice 8: Brand Me Baby!

This weeks challenge is the most difficult so far, the teams are charged with rebranding – updating the seaside town of Margate. I’ve never been to Margate but I can’t say I’ve been impressed with UK beaches in general, and the Apprentice site itself refers to Margate as having “Once a jewel of the Kent coast, Margate still has a faded grandeur, but it is up to the teams to bring a much-needed sparkle for the 21st century.”

CM200905_margate.pngTheir job is to produce posters and information that will attract new tourists to the town – and pitch their campaigns to tourism industry experts and residents of Margate.

Debra led Mona, Howard and James for Empire and they quickly decided to target the gay market – over Mona’s objections, she didn’t think it was “suitable” for Kent. Yasmina lead Kate, Ben and Lorraine for Ignite and target the family market based on the logic that in the current financial crisis families won’t be able to afford foreign holidays.

The pitches were well done by Howard and Kate, but the posters and brochures were horrendous. Extremely old fashioned looking and with way too much text on them, in the case of Empire the brochures weren’t finished. In the end the experts and residents gave Empire a total of 8/20, and Ignite 14/20.

CM200905_apprenticefired2.pngDebra bought James and Mona back into the board room, a great debate started which Sir Alan quickly labelled it a “Punch and Judy Show”. Debra tried to pretend that the “gay market” wasn’t James’ idea, and tried to claim that she couldn’t make decent posters out of the content sent to her.

Debra played a smart boardroom game, keeping relatively quiet but pushing all Mona’s buttons. James isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’d pulled his weight on this task – even so Debra managed to neatly discredit him.

But it was Mona’s half-heartedness for the task that seemed to bother Sir Alan the most, after deliberating for a minute or two he pointed the finger at Mona and said the words she feared hearing “You’re Fired”

photo of Margate beach from anaru via flickr

Apprentice 4: Beauty and the Beast

The fourth task for the candidates was to develop and sell a new beauty product.

There are three parts to this task; design, brand and sell.

The design part was relatively simple, pick a base organic ingredient, pick a recipe, add some smells to it. Manufacture.

It was here that Empire (with Paula as leader) made their fatal costing mistake. It’s relatively simple maths but 3% is not the same as 3gramms. They bought 450g of sandalwood to add to their seaweed. Their product was better quality – but the one ingredient pricing put their budget from 5 pounds to over 700 pounds.

Ignite (with Noorul as leader) chose honey as their organic ingredient and with much screaming collected a supply of honey. Their product was pretty awful and seemed to dissolve on first use.

Both teams did OK on the branding; Empire went with “RockPoole” as a brand name reflecting the Poole origins of their seaweed, very simple packaging. Ignite named there’s “Honey I’m Home” with a simple bee theme. They dressed in beekeeper suits to sell at the market, which made them look remarkably like bio-hazard cleanup people.

In sales; both teams ended up selling at markets, choice of wrong locations. The Empire team made up for costings errors by bulk selling the last of their product for 400 pounds – but not enough.

CM200904_apprenticepaulaIn the board room there was the usual brawl. Paula took Yasmina and Ben into the boardroom, Yasmina has shown some potential so it was pretty clear she was coming out again. Ben put up a fight in his usual belligerent style. Paula made most of the decisions regarding product and branding to generate a good product. But that one cost mistake killed any chance of winning.

The quote of the week has to be “knee deep in crabshit for 300g of seaweed” from James, with Sir Alan’s “in a bleedin’ soap opera” a close second.

Sir Alan has pushed for cost control in every episode this series, and in every series. This is a fatal mistake. The only question was where he would see the responsibility lying.

Paula half-delegated the costings to Ben and Yasmina. And that was the problem. If she’d fully delegated the costings, she would have been able to also delegate the blame away in the boardroom.

So Sir Alan made a decision “Paula, you’re fired”.

It’s a good decision. Her team made a loss based on one simple maths error, and the excuse “I’m HR, I don’t do costings” is not good enough – you’re trying to win the apprentice, you better be able to do costings.


Postscript: the guests and audience on “Apprentice: You’re Fired” all thought Ben should go rather than Paula. Well that wouldn’t have been such a bad decision.

Continue reading “Apprentice 4: Beauty and the Beast”

Apprentice 3: Get Fit

The third task for the candidates was to develop and sell a piece of fitness equipment. The body rocker vs the home multi-gym.

There are two parts to this task; design and pitch.

Neither product was really convincing – but the body rocker at least looked like something could be sold and indeed got a total of 10,280 orders from all suppliers (the bulk coming from John Lewis).

The best performer goes to Philip for two reasons – his line “it’s the ipod of the exercise world” and for defending Lorraine. Lorraine’s pitch seemed weak, but somehow they scored sales so it’s a bit churlish to complain.

Sir Alan Sugar commented that the product was “bloody awful” and quoted one of the company reps as saying “the best thing about the pitch was that they took the thing away with them”.

James was a pretty awful project manager and took Maj and Ben into the boardroom with him. I thought James would go – he was a clueless leader. Maj doesn’t seem very active, he does only what he’s told, waiting for his project manager to give him more work. Ben was responsible for the ridiculous product, an ugly black box with wires hanging out of it, however he was the only one coming up with ideas (partly because James didn’t lead the brainstorming very well). Ben comes off as pretty sneaky.

The boys weren’t any better behaved in the boardroom than the girls.

Sir Alan got sick of the conversation,  slowed them right down, and fired Maj

In my view it’s a wrong decision, James is pretty hopeless and so emotional. Part of the “bad product” decision is at his door – he couldn’t manage a simple brainstorming session.

Apprentice 2: Cater a Chi Chi Party

The second task for the candidates was a catering challenge. The two team leaders both put themselves forward as the obvious leaders – with some justification. Rocky Andrews runs a chain of sandwich stores, and Jasmina Siadatan is a restaurateur.

However it’s one thing to lead a group of people who know what they’re doing and who acknowledge you as their boss, and quite another to lead a bunch of amateurs who have a vested interest in seeing you fail.

There were two tasks; a lunch service to an office and catering a chi chi party.

Empire, with Rocky as a leader, chose an Olympic theme, after all the London Olympics are only 3 years away. They then figured they could include any type of food, which defeats the purpose of having a theme – which should give you a focus for the evening. Then the guys decided to wear togas (rented) for the party. This is extra cost and as Nick commented “the hairy arms and spotty backs aren’t appealing”.

Their pitch for the party was way out of line £60 pounds per head for canapes – they ended up going with £15. The food they came up with at the party included a nacho chip with a sausage on it – I can’t imagine which cuisine that is supposed to be from.

CM200904_apprenticerockyThe concept was bad – and the execution was terrible. The customer was disappointed and only paid half the fee – the guys ended up with a loss. Not a way to win favour with Sir Alan.

The girls were led by Yasmina who took charge from the beginning, the theme was Mediterranean, which is easy to do, and can be used for both the lunch and the event. She pulled the team together and got them to have fun while working hard. While the execution was a bit off – they  prepared the biggest bruschetta I’ve ever seen  – they were spot on on the night. Hard working, alert, watching the crowd, service minded and attention to detail. It was a win deserved.

In the board room Rocky defended himself well, leaving Howard and James out to hang. I did think James would go – his verbiage was off-putting. However Rocky made too many silly decisions in light of his supposed expertise.

Sir Allen Sugar commented that he was puzzled about how it could have gone so wrong given that both Rocky and Harry had relevant experience. In the end he thought Rocky didn’t have the experience/expertise/potential to go any further.

“Rocky you’re fired”

In my view: James was a pretty close second, and after his outburst in the boardroom he won’t last long. Rocky could have saved himself by taking the negotiator Philip Taylor in to the boardroom with him. Ultimately though, this was Rocky’s expertise, he was project manager, and they lost money. Can’t be surprised that he was fired.

Apprentice 1: Start a Cleaning Company

The first task for the candidates was to start their own cleaning company – just what they were dressed for.

It’s a simple task; strategy = decide what service you want to provide, buy your tools, find your clients, deliver. As always watch your costs.

Empire, the guys team, won and got themselves a cocktail party.

CM200903_apprenticeIgnite lost, despite earning more revenue, because they spent almost all the money they were allowed to spend, coming in just under the 200 pounds allowed. Anita Shah congratulated the team “well done, we’ve come in under budget”. Not an attitude that would work in a start up company – and not an attitude that will work with Sir Alan.

Mona chose the co-leader Debra Barr and Anita Shah to go into the board room with her. Mona damned Debra for not taking responsibility but then pulled Anita into the boardroom based on Debra’s word, something wrong with the story there.

Sir Alan Sugar commented that they’re either very smart or very stupid, to which Margaret Montford commented that they had no commercial sense whatsoever. She’s right.

Sir Alan’s judgement was that Anita, who had put herself forward as “one of the best business brains of Britain” showed no business acumen.

“Anita, you’re fired”.

In my view; none of the women really performed. Usually that gets laid at the feet of the project manager but Anita Shah made the fatal mistake of celebrating being under budget – when they’d actually spent too much.