This weekï¿½s episode of The Apprentice drew our attention firmly to three people.ï¿½ Only time will tell the extent to which the producers are sign-posting the future, or practicing the art of misdirection, or simply reflecting fairly the balance of what really transpired in the many hours of this weekï¿½s footage that will never be seen!
In fact, in a task that regularly showcases sales skills, the candidates could be segmented into:
1. The leading players
2. The supporting players
3. The extras
The task was to select two British products to introduce to the French market and then pitch them to retail buyers in Paris.ï¿½ Tom was tasked to lead Logic, with Leon, Melody and Natasha and Susan volunteered to Lead Venture with Helen, Jim and Zoe.
The show gave us very little of Jim and Zoe and, indeed, apart from her star-quality cameo, we didnï¿½t see that much of Helen.ï¿½ Tomï¿½s team grabbed the lime-light.
Natasha also got little screen time and avoided the board-room as the least guilty in Tomï¿½s mind.ï¿½ It seemed Lord Sugar was sad not to have a chance to fire her, and she did show little flair this week.
The Supporting Players
Susanï¿½s team won, so well done Susan, but her own performance was a balance of mediocre leadership, a great call on selecting the backpack/booster seat product, and her risibly naï¿½ve remarks about the French.ï¿½ As Iï¿½d hoped, she showed more confidence this week, which paid off, but she is far from the mature entrepreneur Lord Sugar will need to see.
Leon became a key supporting player because he failed so badly on this task.ï¿½ He was not the only candidate to not speak any French, but he did demonstrate the sad stereotype of the Brit abroad who says ï¿½donï¿½t speak the language: donï¿½t want to tryï¿½.ï¿½ Iï¿½ll confess my school-boy French to be lame, but this show ï¿½ and Leonï¿½s performance in particular – illustrated a valuable lesson that Lord Sugar laid down at the outset:
Apprentice Lesson 11
To thrive in todayï¿½s market, preparedness for multicultural business is essential.
Read the papers to learn that the French do indeed drive cars (and sustain a strong automotive industry), and teach yourself basic language skills.
The Leading Players
I can think of more angles for this blog than any that has gone before.ï¿½ Should I focus on Melodyï¿½s brutal ambition and ruthless self-promotion, on Tomï¿½s astute judgement and lack of edge, or on Helenï¿½s competent professionalism and the nature entrepreneurship?
Letï¿½s go for all three. ï¿½Next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I will publish three short blogs, focusing on these three people. ï¿½In the meantime, here are some lessons.
Melodyï¿½s brutal ambition and ruthless self-promotion
Melody’s determination that the booster seat/back-pack was the wrong product led her into the trap of confirmation bias. ï¿½Her attempts at market research wereï¿½sabotagedï¿½by her failing to hear – or possibly, deliberately ignoring – positive feedback from passers-by for the product. ï¿½She only heard the comments that confirmed her opinion.
Apprentice Lesson 12
You must set aside your own opinions and gather market data objectively.
Tom predicted the problem and asked her to do just this. ï¿½The problem was compounded by Leon not being able to hear for himself what people were saying.
Melody’s self-absorbed arrogance at this stage sabotaged the whole team and worse was to come. ï¿½She failed to do one task that Tom asked – research the prospect Lord Sugar had lined up – then showed a level of greed and solipsism that was simply shocking.
Tomï¿½s astute judgement and lack of edge
Tom once again showed ï¿½astonishingly acute judgement – spotting the best product and asking the right questions. ï¿½He wanted to know about the people Lord Sugar had arranged for him to pitch to before choosing his products – compare that with Susan’s “like that – don’t like that” selection strategy. ï¿½But he failed to show any personal leadership and was unable to stamp authority on his team mates. ï¿½Consequently, Melody failed to support him in the selection process and neglected to do the research on La Redoute. Leon, we learned in the “You’re Fired” follow-up, had not heard the request.
Tom’s failings were therefore in not being sufficiently assertive and not even doing a little research of his own, when he realised Melody had let him down on the La Redoute research.
Apprentice Lesson 13
Research your prospects.
… so you can pitch the right products, pitch them effectively, build rapport, and not look like a complete pillock.
Helenï¿½s competent professionalism and the nature entrepreneurship
This was the episode’s big finish: Helen delivered a polished pitch and won E214,000 (ï¿½190,000) of business. ï¿½We’ve not seen Helen carp, bicker, demean, shout, be crass, or be stupid. ï¿½She has shown calm, confident, professional and competent behaviour. ï¿½Is this her or the image the producers and editors have created. ï¿½I suspect it is her. ï¿½My question is this: Helen’s strengths remind me of Stella’s strengths in the last series and Stella won – but the competition was different. ï¿½Has Lord Sugar seen the entrepreneurial flair he wants in a winner of this, very different competition?
Apprentice Lesson 14
Rapport building and a prepared pitch bring in the sales.
He,en did know who La Redoute were, she established rapport, she was calm and confident, and she made the sale. ï¿½Greggs would be sad to lose her.
If you are in any doubt that these are all very capable and talented business people, click on the photos above. ï¿½They will take you to the candidate’s LinkedIn page.