In tonight’s episode, the last six was whittled down to the final five, and I stop being even handed and start expressing an opinion about the candidates.
Let’s remember what this series is about: finding a business partner to start a business with Lord Sugar. ï¿½So Lord Sugar stripped it down to fundamentals, because he is wise enough to know that, whilst the business he and his apprentice launch will be modern and sophisticated in form; in substance, it will be as basic as tonight’s task: buy stuff, sell stuff at a profit, buy more stuff, sell more…
This was his chance to see entrepreneurship in the raw: acute sense of what the market wants, connecting with customers, rapid reaction, and hard graft.
So it was a shock to him as much as to the viewers to see that the whole thing turned on strategy.
But before I get carried away, let’s see how the teams shaped up this time:
Each team had ï¿½250 worth of miscellaneous “market stall” goods to trade
and the clearest of briefings from Lord Sugar.
Both teams found instant success with nodding dogs in markets.
Both teams sent a second initiative in a bizarre direction:
Susan decided to hawk ï¿½10 duvet covers door to door in Kensington. ï¿½The fact that a maid refused to answer one door should have been a clue: if you have a maid, then she doesn’t buy her bedding and you don’t buy a ï¿½10 duvet cover! Susan, you live in Croydon: there is a great market there where you could have shifted those things and it may even be where you’ve sold some of your cosmetics: You should have known better!
Melody and Helen headed into east end shops to try to flog them goods in bulk. ï¿½But ladies: you are buying from the same wholesalers that the shopkeepers buy from. ï¿½They know the prices and can get them at the same cost. ï¿½How could you possibly have expected to make any sales? ï¿½The fact that you did was bizarre. ï¿½It’s an easy jibe that you tried to sell ï¿½25 watches to a pound-shop owner, but you also tried to sell towels to a hardware shop. ï¿½You should have known better!
Apprentice Lesson 17
Use your common sense.
Think it through before you act: in this case, what’s my product and who am I about to try and sell to?
And then Strategy became the Issue
… which it shouldn’t have done. ï¿½This was a tactical task: Lord Sugar had spelled out the strategy in his briefing.
Let’s look at each contestant’s “strategy”.
Impress Lord Sugar by proving he can sell. ï¿½Identify the strongest product. Notify his PM what it is so the team can buy more.
Verdict: Right on all counts, Tom. ï¿½You did sell, you did advocate for the nodding dog. You followed Lord Sugar’s steer at the team level and at the personal level. ï¿½What you failed to do was convince Melody or Helen to do the same… again.
I have already said “Tom must show Lord Sugar he can assert himself, trust his good judgement and drive it home, and lead people.” You didn’t Tom.
Use his strongest asset – his personal charm – to sell. ï¿½Then do what Lord Sugar told them to do – seek to replenish the best sellers: umbrellas in his case.
Verdict: Spot on, Jim. ï¿½Nick Hewer, observing, noted Jim’s “abundance of baloney” but looked charmed by his sales technique, describing his brilliant sales performance as a “tour de force”.
I have already said that Jim needs to “rein in the excesses of his style” and show more integrity. ï¿½Tonight, you did, Jim.
Get out and sell, and buy products she believes in.
Verdict: ï¿½Pretty good. ï¿½Day one was a disaster (see above) but Susan bought stock she knew she could sell and sold well on Day 2.
I have already said that “insufficient assertiveness has been Susanï¿½s chief failing”. Tonight, I felt you were more in control than Natasha, with whom you clashed, and you handled yourself well in the house, after the boardroom. ï¿½You are showing more confidence and I think Lord Sugar is noticing this.
Sell in bulk to retailers. ï¿½Show your teeth in a coldly ruthless attempt to displace Melody as PM.
Verdict: A ridiculous sales strategy that showed she did not intuitively understand the nature of wholesale/retail. ï¿½Only time will tell if her teeth were real (I think they are) and how Lord Sugar regards that calm but bitter exchange.
I have already noted Helen’sï¿½competent professionalism, and asked the question: “Has Helen shown any real entrepreneurial flair?” Tonight, Helen, you showed none.
Buy stock and sell it – avoid over-committing cash.
Verdict: Half right: half wrong. ï¿½Yes buy stock and sell stock, but Lord Sugar had made it clear that stock holding at the end of day 2 would count at full value. ï¿½I suspect that Natasha had in mind the corporate need to control cash-flow and minimise stock holding. ï¿½But this business model is different and Lord Sugar had made that completely clear in his briefing. ï¿½Natasha, you failed to hear it.
Lord Sugar clearly wanted to fire Natasha tonight and she should have gone.
I have already said that Natasha will have to convince Lord Sugar “on more than just some good judgement.” ï¿½Tonight, Natasha, you absolutely failed and, worse, your demeanour and defensive behaviour convinced me that my total immersion metaphor is spot on. ï¿½You have been immersed too long: tonight, you flailed and very nearly drowned.
Go with Helen’s crazy idea, then go with the products that she wanted to sell, then sell hard on day 2.
Verdict: ï¿½Her selling on day 2 was great, but fundamentally, Melody has failed to learn that Tom is more often right than wrong, and that it would be a good thing to listen to him.
As we now know, Lord Sugar fired Melody.
I have already described Melody’s “solipsism” and ï¿½tonight Melody, once again you failed to listen. ï¿½And in the follow-up “You’re Fired” show, something you said made me really worry. ï¿½You acknowledged that people need to see some of your true vulnerability but appeared still to be thinking that “listening = weakness”.
I know you know that it isn’t at an intellectual level.
You need to start believing that it isn’t, deep down.
Apprentice Lesson 18
Listening is strength.
Listening opens you up to influence, which is difficult and uncomfortable. ï¿½But listening does not compel you to agree: it compels you to respect and evaluate.
Mike’s Way to Always be Right
If you want to be right all of the time, be prepared to change your mind quickly when you are wrong.
So goodbye Melody – a fantastically talented woman who will go far. ï¿½I wish you well.
So, now we are down to the Final Five, and I for one cannot wait.
I am on holiday next week with my family – hurrah – but I have made arrangements.
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