The Apprentice 2012, Episode 5: Losing the Vision
Well, I said creativity would be central to this year’s Apprentice (in my 3 April blog post) and what could be more creative than this week’s task?
That task was to:
- Come up with a new fitness programme that will start a trend
- Create a promotional video and branding, and
- Pitch it to three health and fitness chains to secure licensing deals
Both teams could claim an “expert” as team leader.
The Teams and their Ideas
Phoenix quickly chose Stephen Brady – Health and Fitness Sales Manager – to lead them. The team members were as last week: Jade Nash, Katie Wright, Adam Corbally, Azhar Siddique and Tom Gearing.
Stephen told his team that centres were looking for unique (for which, I think we must infer “somewhat novel” and fun programmes. After a few quick ideas (They really do need to read “Creativity in The Apprentice: Getting Creative Ideas”) the team rapidly alighted on the idea of a retro theme. Almost as soon as a grotesque image of Space Hoppers entered my mind, they were mentioned – alongside perennial favourite, the Hula Hoop. And so the cheesy seventies disco pastiche that is “Groove Train” was born.
Sterling had a choice of experts, but in the vote, horse-rider Jenna (Dressagercise, anyone?) Whittingham lost out to wrestler-boy Ricky “the Fitness”Martin. And yes, I think he does call himself “The Fitness”, as in his catch phrase: “Witness the Fitness”. The rest of the team were Gabrielle Omar, Laura Hogg, Duane Bryan and Nick Holzherr.
Ricky’s brainstorm consisted of lots of ideas… from Ricky (please please please would future contestants read “Creativity in The Apprentice: Getting Creative Ideas”) followed by a suggestion of mixing martial arts with street dance in a combo that would become known as “Beat Battle”. The idea of getting accurate martial arts moves into a dance strikes me as a good one – as long as you understand the martial art well enough to get the move right and teach it safely. Ricky chose knee and elbow strikes and punches from MMA – Mixed Martial Arts. I suspect, moves originating in Muay Thai.
The Videos were at the core of this exercise and started to show us more about some of the candidates. Adam and Jade battled over control of Phoenix’s disco-styled video while Azhar got on with starring in it. The resulting video was very good, which I would ascribe to Jade’s direction rather than Adam’s constant chafing. It was in the Sterling dance studio production set that we saw evidence of Rule 4.
As a reminder, rule 4 is one of eight rules I listed earlier this week for evaluating creative ideas on The Apprentice.
Rule 4: Too Many Opinions Cloud Judgement
This is especially true when those opinions are different to yours.
It is best in these circumstances to terminate the conversation with the dissenters
and discuss “why you are right” with the people who agree with you.
In this week’s case, Duane had a clear idea of how he wanted to direct the video. Laura and Nick had more ideas – some good. As Nick said, presciently as it turned out:
“We are in danger of doing just a dance routine and not including the martial arts”
Duane, however, invoked rule 4 – although only partially. In his case, there was no one who agreed with him to discuss why he was right. So he continued instead to keep telling Laura and Nick why they were wrong – without listening. We saw an intolerant and combative side of Duane that was unattractive and disappointing. The final video was bland – but with a confident and crisp performance from Laura. I will bet that she can present well.
Ultimately, Duane invoked Rule 8
This is the big one:
Rule 8: You are an Apprentice Candidate
You don’t need rules… any rules. Just do it! If you need to lie to your colleagues,
insult shop keepers, or argue with Nick Hewer when the camera has just caught the truth,
that is your prerogative.
Ask: “What would Nietzsche do?” The will to power is all.
And so it came to pitch day. Both team leaders chose to deliver all three pitches and both did so competently – but no more. Sterling offered licensing for £45 per month, per club and took a leaf out of car insurance companies offering two months free on a one year contract. Phoenix went in at £35, with a package price for all of the clubs in the chain. But then they had to confront the vexed issue of the equipment. Firstly: the cost. Stephen thought fast and invoked Rule 7.
No one has exceeded last years bid by Jim Eastwood to create Hollywood blockbuster tie-ins to support his product, but Stephen made a token effort at Rule 7.
Rule 7: When it Gets to the Pitch, it’s not too Late
If your standard approach of patronising your audience of experienced professionals
is really failing and they tell you they don’t like your product, take it on the chin and
offer to change your product instantly and give them exactly what they want by
dipping into the magic budget bucket.
Stephen offered the first club free equipment, the second a set of made-up-on-the-spot charges (£2 for a Space Hopper) and then reverted to no charge for the third. None of this, however, fully dealt with the problem of storing Space Hoppers.
So, to numbers…
|Fitness First||Pure Gym||Virgin Active|
|Sterling||one-off £5 fee to develop concept.||£45 pcm
x 3 month trial
x 22 clubs
|Phoenix||Hated it||Didn’t like it||Liked it for mum & child:
x 6 month trial x 122 clubs
So, a lucky win, I felt, for Stephen and his team and almost certainly a narrow escape for Adam. back to the Boardroom for Ricky and Co.
So, let’s get this straight…
Nick contributed pretty much nothing other than one sage remark – and even sat back and disengaged from the process of editing the video. Gabrielle and Jenna looked like empty dresses for most of the task – although we learned in the You’re Fired follow-up show that Gabrielle came up with the name Beat Battle.
So, who did Ricky take back for the last round of tonight’s mixed martial arts beat battle? Duane and Laura, of course.
Laura looked pretty safe to me – even Duane jumped to her defence. This left Duane and Ricky blaming each other – with Laura siding with Duane.
Ricky committed the sin of bringing in the wrong people, but Duane picked up most of the flack for shooting and editing a video with too little emphasis on Sterling’s key differentiator: the martial arts. For that reason, Lord Sugar fired him.
I was sad to see Duane go
… not just because I tipped him highly a few weeks ago, as being creative, energetic and engaging.
I also think he is a nice and talented guy. He will do well.
So why did he have to go?
Duane made two mistakes and, I suspect, either alone could have allowed him to get a second chance:
- He lost sight of the vision; the key thing that made his team’s product special. And the buyers said as much: they wanted more martial arts content.
- He lost sight of the fact that colleagues may have different ideas, but to lead (as he tried to lead the video production effort) you must respect and listen to them. His cardinal sin was to become intolerant and almost aggressive with two people who could have helped him look good and the team win. I rate Nick very highly and Laura showed some real commitment and competence – up to the point she gave up, exhausted, arguing with Duane.
I did not want to see Duane go but I have to admit that, in the context, he did deserve it.