The Apprentice 2011Susan Ma is in the last six. �She’s done well at times and really struggled too. �And she is the youngest there (I think she mentioned that, but not so much lately).

Last week I looked in depth at�Melody,�Tom and�Helen. �This week, I want to focus on Jim (yesterday), Susan and Natasha (tomorrow).

Is Susan the mouse that roared, Bambi missing her mum, or a capable business woman. �Iain Duncan Smith famously failed to hold the confidence of the Tory party as the “quiet man”; I want to ask:

Can the quiet woman win The Apprentice?

Susan Ma

Susan Ma

Susan Ma on LinkedIn

Susan is an academically strong candidtae who started her own business while at university. �Studying and running a business is a big stretch, and the nature of Susan’s business puts her in the top 2 1/2 candidates on my “genuine entrepreneurometer”.

Jim, Helen and Natasha had not started their own businesses (unless you count Jim’s speaking) at the start of the series. Melody (the “1/2”) had, but as a campaigning/services business, the capital risk was very low. �Only Tom has also a track record in a product trading start-up.

Her business is Tropic Skin Care. �What do I know about cosmetics? the square root of zero, sadly, but the website looks impressive to this untrained eye; it claims strong sales and offers a lot of compelling testimonials. �Susan is clearly a highly credible candidate and an effective business-woman. �She also comes across as having a bubbly and likeable personality.

Susan’s website is here.

Susan’s Judgement

Susan has got it right and got it spectacularly wrong. �I’ve not been keeping score, so I will own up to ythe risk of perceptual bias in stating my impression that her score is roughly even on this. �But there is a line from Cat Stevens thatI always liked:

“You’re still�young,�that’s your fault, There’s so much�you have to know”

I have always interpreted “that’s your fault” not as “you are to blame”, but as “that’s what your problem is”. �It is saying that youth makes mistakes, but it isn’t forever. �With age comes wisdom. �And Susan is young.

But Susan is playing with grown ups

This means she cannot just hide behind her youth – if it’s a problem, she needs to fix it quickly, because Lord Sugar will not be offering �250,000 along with a voucher for kindergarten. �And, to her credit, Susan seems to have got that message.

her judgement is not the only issue, however. �She is still struggling to influence colleagues effectively, and the trailer for next week hints at a row with Natasha. �Can the Susan make herself heard and also�suppress�her “but that’s not fair” reflex?

Fairness in Business

I have often noted that people say “that’s not fair” to mean “that doesn’t suit me” and this has sometimes been the case with Susan. �At other times, she does seem the recipient of the short straw. �But fairness is not the same as honesty, and Susan needs to remember that fellow candidates are competing with her, and it isn’t their job to treat her fairly – although I do think she should expect respect and integrity their dealings.

Insufficient assertiveness has been Susan’s chief failing. �It looks to an outsider as if Susan is ineffective at influencing the others. �She comes across as submissive at times and whingey at others. �Is this the narrative the show’s producers are imposing on her or is this really her personality? �Unless Susan can get a grip on this, she will be trampled by the others and will leave Lord Sugar wondering how she could handle fractious employees or assertive buyers.

The Conclusion about Susan

Susan’s entrepreneurial track record and her academic strength compete with her inexperience in set piece business events like pitches and her lack of polish in commanding respect from colleagues. �It makes her a fifty:fifty bet but, like Tom, with Lord Sugar in the background, and an Apprentice win under her belt, she would gain not just the confidence, but the kudos that will win her respect. �Remember, Lord Sugar is looking for an Apprentice, not a skilled craftsman. �If Susan can persuade him that she is close enough; she can win.

More Apprentice

Brilliant Influence, by Mike ClaytonPerhaps Susan could learn more about the skills and science of influence, from
Brilliant Influence: What the most influential people know, do and say.

�If you want more influence; achieve more and ultimately succeed,
you will find a way to secure such results within this book.�
Perry Timms, Head of Talent & Organisational Development, Big Lottery Fund


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