Monday, 23 April 2012

#TheApprentice - you never learn!

A little under a year ago, I wrote this Blog post about the television programme The Apprentice.  Regular readers (whose existence I seriously doubt) will remember this post fondly.  For non-regular readers (whose existence is also somewhat dubious), I shall paraphrase now...

The central tenet of my post from June 2011 was a disappointment at the behaviour of the losing team, in a task when the finish was so close to call, the difference between the profits generated by the two teams was a mere £6.  I felt that such a tiny disparity between the two teams' performance proved that they had been evenly matched, and yet Lord Sugar was still angry, describing the task as a "failure".  When asked who, in the team, was responsible for this supposed "failure", the various team members set upon each other like jackals, despite having been excellent team players, with real rapport and camaraderie, just hours before.

A similar (although not identical) situation arose in the most recent episode of this series of The Apprentice - in which both teams were charged with the task of devising a new fitness class, and franchising their ideas to gyms and health clubs around the country.

The team who eventually lost this task (Sterling - led by the hilariously-named Ricky Martin, a businessman and professional wrestler [?!]) came up with what I thought was actually a better concept, overall.  They pitched their ideas to three gyms, two of whom bought trial runs of the class.

The team who eventually won this task (Phoenix - led by the disappointingly-ordinarily-named Stephen Brady [no relation of Karen's, one assumes!]) had, in my opinion, a poorer concept - and of the three gyms, only one thought the idea was worth buying into.  (Interestingly, the third gym also didn't like the idea as it was pitched - but saw potential for it to be developed into another idea, which they felt was viable, albeit with a totally different target market.)

The reason that the Phoenix won this task, however, was that the one gym which was interested in their idea bought a large order straight off, while the two gyms who liked the Sterling's ideas better only bought a short trial period each.

Lord Sugar was very clear, in the Boardroom:

"Whichever way you look at it, £12,810 is playing £7,970."

No, Lord Sugar, there is another way to look at it.  Allow me to point it out to you...

Of the three companies pitched to by Sterling, two of them were interested in the product - that's an uptake of 66.7% - but of the same three companies, only one of them was interested in Phoenix's product, giving Phoenix an uptake of only 33%, off the same number of pitches.  And although Sterling's profits may be only 5/8ths of Phoenix's, in this initial stage, I think it's difficult to deny that Sterling's product would reach a wider audience, and that this would, in long run, give them the potential to generate much more revenue than Phoenix could.

After this, of course, it was the same old story.  Despite a strong showing - working well, and generating profits of almost £8k - the members of team Sterling turned upon each other, and clawed and bit one another, until one of their number (Duane Bryan - whom I had previously thought to be one of this year's stronger candidates) had been dismissed by Lord Sugar.

What had Duane done wrong?  He had directed a promotional video of the fitness class Sterling were selling - a video which was later identified as the main reason for Sterling's downfall in this task.  In my opinion, Duane didn't really do a great job directing the video.  But neither did he do an especially bad job.  And this was a promotional video which got two-thirds of the companies to which Sterling pitched interested enough in the product to part with their money.  Was the promotional video the weak chink in Sterling's armour?  Possibly, yes.  Was its weakness reason enough to fire Duane from the process?  Not in my opinion, no.

In my opinion, Sterling had the better product, and the greater number of orders, and therefore should have won the task.  Phoenix were lucky with the one order they did get, and, in essence, fluked it.

But having (unfairly) lost the task, what should the strategy have been, for the members of team Sterling, going into the Boardroom?  I have yet to see it, but I remain convinced that Lord Sugar would be impressed by a display of team unity.  Just once, I'd love to see a team stick together in the Boardroom - so, here's my advice to future Apprentice candidates...

In situations like these, when Lord Sugar asks "who was responsible for this task going wrong?" reply "no one!  Because this task didn't 'go wrong' - it went right, and we've £8,000 of profit to prove it!  Yes, technically, we 'lost' - but that doesn't mean we did badly, or that was deserved to lose, or that anyone deserves to be fired.  We were a little bit unlucky, yes, but we put on a good show regardless, and you can't penalise someone for that."

Go on, try it.  I'll bet you your profits (whatever they may end up being) that Lord Sugar is impressed.

1 comment:

Rhys said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the points you make Kit!

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