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 7: For Sale

Sell! Sell! Sell! You guessed it, this week’s task on the Apprentice is all about selling. Each team must select two innovative products to sell to retailers, but they’re given individual order books and told to get as many individual sales as they can.

Again, this is not a task with a great deal of complexity. Choose the right product for your target audience, and close the sales. Pitfalls might include any kind of exclusive offer, or any significant discounting.

Lovers Lead makes dogs howl

Empire, led by Mona, chose a pet product a double handled dog lead called Lovers Lead, which I had doubts about but the pet shop owners were interested in. Their second product was a sleeping bag with arms and legs, sort of a sleeping bag crossed with a Michelin Man suit. Ugly – but I can imagine people using it. In any case Mona negotiated a sale straight away.

Ignite, led by Lorraine, chose a bike bag and a cardboard cat box. I have a cat, she loves boxes but I’m not sure I’d buy one that looks like a firetruck for her. I also have a bike, but the bike bag on offer is hopeless, stuff would fall out of it. So I’m curious about what will get sold.

At 6pm it was all over. Orders and Sales were added up. The teams went back to the board room to hear the results. Sir Alan was annoyed that neither team had really chosen products for the two pitches he’d set up. These were with buyers with big purchasing power so it’s a gift. Usually it takes a lot of effort to get into a sales meeting with such a buyer. Instead they thought they’d make more on the second day in meetings that they had to set up themselves. It appeared that Kate, Ben and Philip messed around in the task – it looked like they figured Lorraine would get fired so they didn’t need to work.

Quote of the week might be Lorraine “I’m a bit of a slow burner in the thinking process”. And she said it like it was a good thing.

Sir Alan did his best to draw out the tension on the results but it was a clear win for Empire with a total of £4501 in sales against a meagre £1302 for Ignite. So then who was responsible?

Yasmina and Lorraine made all the sales, which is pretty much a get out of jail free card with Sir Alan. Lorraine took Kate and Philip into the boardroom, which I thought might have been a mistake.

But Lorraine dropped their “relationship” into the discussion and her boardroom tactic became clear.

It worked. Sir Alan is already fed up with Philip’s attitude and it wasn’t long before he said “Philip, you’re fired”.

Good decision.

Apprentice 6: Bargain Basement

This week’s task for the Apprentice is a sort of reverse treasure hunt, the teams are given identical sets of 10 items and they have to research the value and sell them.

Two tricks to this; sell everything, and sell it at a profit – so your research better be good.

Unfortunately I’ll be out of the country and won’t be able to see the show – yes, I am that sad. But I’ve already made my prediction on thrusites, for Noorul to be fired. With only 5 in each team it’s no longer possible to freeload or hide and since the task involves selling I don’t like his chances. In addition Sir Alan has been itching to fire him for the last two weeks. So his team are likely to lose and all the losing leader has to do is take him into the board room.

I may get to see the show (recorded version) on Sunday. In the meantime this made me laugh this week;

Postscript:I saw the re-run last night. Un-be-liev-able. I said above that your research should be good, neither team did particularly good research particularly in relation to the rug (which turned out to be the hidden gem of the ten items they were given to sell). I also said to sell everything at a profit – and not only did Ben rush to sell things at a loss, in the boardroom Noorul rushed to take credit for it! It’s very simple maths; you’ve started the task with a set of assets with a known value, you cannot got back to Sir Alan with a lower sum of cash, you’re better off taking the assets back to him.

But neither team figured that out, neither team asked – and both teams made a loss.

The board rooms squabbles were incredible, but my prediction was right, and after much shouting Noorul was fired.

Apprentice 5: Cereal Killer

The fifth task for the candidates was to develop an advertisement for breakfast cereal for kids.

They need to create a name, design a box, choose a cartoon character to promote the product and then film an advertisement.

The big risk in this task is in taking yourself too seriously, do not make anything with any kind of style or finesse, and make sure that the name of the product is mentioned a lot and make sure that the box is front and centre – particularly in the end shot.

Ignite, led by Kimberly was hijacked by Philip who came up with possibly the worst idea in advertising history “Pantsman” to sell breakfast cereal. I kept having flashbacks to Ren and Stimpy. The team were all over the place, infighting and backbiting. They didn’t give the designer enough input so the box was only printed on one side, and it was green. Green is my favourite colour but it doesn’t belong on a cereal box, for proof look at the cereal boxes in your supermarket. But the ad came off as pacey and funny.

Empire took a better strategy in terms of branding, they used a pirate theme and carried it through all aspects. Their character was a pirate’s parrot, the box included a treasure map. The ad was a bit lame, but got the point across really well. The team work was really miles better.

CM200904_apprenticecereal2There were both tough teams; Kate got Ben and Debra to work well, but Kimberly failed with Lorraine and Philip. That’s the key difference – Ignite took too long to make bad decisions.

So should the leader who couldn’t lead go? Or should the guy who sabotaged the leader and forced his bad idea on the team go? Or is the fault at the door of Lorraine as Sir Alan said in his summary?

For me firing Lorraine would have been a mistake, she fought against a very bad idea – that doesn’t seem fair.

Apparently Sir Alan agreed; he wants her to come back and be team leader and told her so.

Just before turning to Kimberly and saying “you’re fired!”

Personally I think Philip should have gone, it was his terrible idea. But he’s unlikely to last much longer.