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.

Predict Apprentice – Real Time

Real time online prediction from Thrusites. In combination with your twitter ID you can vote for who you think should be the next to leave the Apprentice (note; this is the UK version). You can see a general trend against James, Ben and Debra. Although my money is on Debra lasting to the last 4.


The site displays the avatar of your twitter ID, in a long histogram. You’ll need to scroll down the site to check the lead contender for firing.

After the show you can see the show results and who’s been the best at predicting – again displaying the twitter avatar. Yes that sparky avatar is mine.


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.

The Apprentice – one week to go

The Apprentice, the UK version, starts again 25 March on BBC 1 at 9PM.

The candidates have been announced for what is billed as “the job interview from hell”. As in other years there’s a range of ages; 21 to 36, and a range of occupations; lawyer, teacher, sandwich maker, consultant and a fair few who are already managers.

On paper the sandwich maker – actually a young guy who has built up a chain of sandwich shops and already makes more than the job offers – looks interesting. Young, driven, no education are all characteristics guaranteed to appeal to Sir Alan Sugar (SAS). However the big question, if he’s already earning so much and has been so entrepreneurial why go for this? SAS is likely to conclude that it’s for media exposure and that won’t score points.

An unlikely candidate is Anita Shah, a highly-educated articulate woman. SAS tends to throw these out in the first couple of week unless they show big personality (read; are very annoying) and are therefore good TV.

CM200903_apprentice02This year we get to play along – there’s an online score counter so you can follow who others think will be fired, and add your opinion to the mix. I’m assuming I’ll be able to play along from outside the UK.Last year’s winner lied on his CV, imitated a pterodactyl in an interview, and frankly showed little leadership in any of the tasks. It can only be up from there.