If episodes of the Apprentice came with catchy titles, last night’s episode would have been called “Pass the Hot Potato”.
The hot potato being the role of Project Manager.
Task number 2 was to design and pitch (to JD Sports, Firebox and John Lewis no less) an item of wearable technology. Lord Sugar suggested that Robert, 25, Marketing Manager and with aspirations to run a high-end fashion brand should take on the role of PM for the boys’ team. No sooner had they sat down at the table than Robert was shaking off the role faster than a contestant from “I’m a Celebrity” can shake off a spider after a bush tucker trial.
Apparently the task wasn’t high end enough for him.
Next to take on the role of shirker in the boys’ team was Solomon, 22 year old technology entrepreneur. To be fair I thought his reasons were a little more justified. He works in the social media field which has next to nothing to do with designing wearable technology. I’m sure Solomon’s knowledge of wearable technology is probably on a par with the knowledge my friend with a PhD in semiconductor technology has of social media – a smidgen more than nada.
The rest of the boys’ team sat with their heads down, scribbling away on their notepads or gazing out the window – anything but raise their hands. Then up steps Scott, Clinical Development Strategist who confesses that he went to a wearable technology conference two weeks earlier. Done deal then.
The girls’ team wasn’t much better. Like the boys, no-one stepped up to the mark until someone suggested that Nurun was the most qualified for the role since she sold head scarves on the local market – or something like that.
Wait a minute. The task wasn’t high end enough for Robert to Project Manage, but apparently low end enough for Nurun the head scarf market retailer? Hmmmmm.
So finally, after what seemed like an age we had our Project Managers.
Lesson No.2 Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone
Now I don’t agree with cajoling people into taking on responsibilities they don’t feel capable of but on the other hand when you are running a business you have to take risks, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and you have to step up to the mark. Yes you can delegate tasks to other people and, as I pointed out in the previous post, should play to your strengths. But ultimately as an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you and you have to step up.
It didn’t get much better in the boys’ team. The sub-team (who had no appointed leader) discovered at the designer’s that their initial idea was unworkable so ended up with a grey sweatshirt with a hidden camera in the front (at chest height no less). Except it wasn’t hidden because when it was switched on, the front of the sweatshirt lit up to say “on air”.
No surprise that none of the retailers went for it. Combine the dodgy product with the worst-pitch-in-the-history-of-Apprentice-pitches from Daniel “I’m a selling machine” who told the retailer he would never wear it outside.
They didn’t really stand a chance.
Daniel’s pitch was closely rivalled by Nurun who ummed and erred her way through her pitch but the girls’ team at least had a design with some merit (a short jacket with an Iphone charger in the pocket, lights on the lapels and solar powered heat pads). Even Karen said as much and an order was placed by one of the retailers.
Unsurprisingly though this wasn’t JD Sports.
Lesson No. 3 Know your target market.
Neither team produced an item of sports clothing, even though the right sports clothing could probably have been sold into any of the three retailers. In effect they limited their market to just two of the three. I’m not even sure why they bothered to pitch to the sports retailer to be honest. If you know who your market is (which of course you should) and it’s presented to you on a plate, best to create a product they might actually want, don’t you think?
Since none of the retailers placed orders for the boys product, the girls team won. Go ladies!
So who would Lord Sugar fire?
He announced on Epsiode 1 that with 20 candidates instead of the usual 16 he could fire more than 1 candidate each week. Surely this would be one of those weeks? Indeed it was.
Not only did Lord Sugar fire two candidates, last night we saw Apprentice history made when Lord sugar didn’t even wait for Robert to be brought back to the board room before firing him for not stepping up. Robert was fired with the same speed he’d shirked the responsibility in the first place.
There’s that hot potato again.
The second candidate to go was Scott, the Project Manager, so Robert was probably doomed either way. As long a they had the creepy spy jumper and Daniel pitching, whoever acted as PM would probably have gone.
So after just 2 episodes the boys are dropping like flies.
Could it be female entrepreneurial domination? Of course as soon as one team starts doing consistently better than another, Lord Sugar steps in and starts moving people across. We shall wait and see if he moves the teams around next week and if we start to see contestants playing to their strengths and stepping up when it counts.
The question is, do you think you could do a better job?
What entrepreneurial advice would you give to this year’s candidates?
Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Here’s my favourite quote from last night’s episode:
Lord Sugar (on the spy cam jumper) “No wonder the three retailers didn’t want to stock it. I think even the shoplifters would bring it back.”