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Friday, March 30, 2007

The Apprentice - First Week, First Blood

The Apprentice's First Task - Sell Coffee!

In the Apprentice Sir Alan Sugar set a pretty easy first task. See how much you can make selling coffee in London from a fixed site and with a mobile van.

Andy Jackson was the girls project manager, team  Stealth. And Jadine Johnson was the project manager for the boys, the Eclipse team.

So how did they do?

Here's some thoughts on their first task.

Eclipse Team ("managed" by Jadine)

Tre Azam and Simon Ambrose drove their mobile coffee van to a pitch where people were already going to buy coffee at inflated prices and started selling well. The first hour they sold about 50 cups. Then Jadine pulled them back so that she could "manage" or talk/shout at them. Later when they went back with Jadine and Ifti in tow as extra salespeople they sold 30 cups in 20 minutes.

The things that they did badly:

  • They assumed that the coffee they bought at a cash and carry was the right one - it wasn't! So they had to go and buy some more elsewhere
  • Jadine pulled a team from a place they were selling (so lost time and profits and they couldn't get back to the same pitch again)
  • Jadine split the winning pair on the mobile coffee selling team up
  • Jadine didn't rally her troops at all, in fact she seemed to spend a fair amout of time shouting at them to be quiet and respect her as the manager
  • Jadine kept going on about branding the coffee by shaking chocolate powder on the top in the shape of an eclipse, and:
    • Then she realised that it would only work on cappuccino - because it's the only frothy one
    • What's the point? No one needs to remember this coffee firm, plus it's just takes longer to get served

On the podcast, now up on the BBC web site Alan's right hand "man", Margaret said the team would have worked just as well if Jadine hadn't been there at all. In my opinion probably better because then she wouldn't have pulled people back from a winning pitch.

Jadine interrupted her team when they were with customers and she kept on going on about them showing her respect. And of course you can hear her shouting when she's coming back to manage them!

The one thing they did very well was to realise that they should only sell coffee - nothing else.  Thanks to Tre I think for pointing them down the right path there.

In summary Jadine the Unjust has got to go. She comes across as someone who would happily accept the praise but equally gladly shovel the derision onto others. Which I think is the reason she left a failing team at the fixed coffee stall to try and join a winning team with Tre - so she wouldn't get tarred with the same losing brush. And why she had a go at Tre - so she could brand him as obstructive. 

One more thing did you notice whether Jadine smiled during her project manager stint?

Stealth Team ("managed" by Andy)

Although the team was meant to be managed by Andy it patently was not.

As an example Sophie (The Human Calculator) decided to calculate the amount of coffee and milk required for their expected sales of 2,000 cups of coffee during the day. She came up with 200 litres of milk! Andy said make it 20. She then said we wont do anything without checking back with you... and then she went and bought 60 litres of milk. And when they arrived at the cash and carry the girls decided to buy biscuits too - without checking with Andy!

If Andy had bothered to worry about whether his team would lose he should have worked out exactly how much Sophie's mistakes cost the team so he could have focused the real blame on Sophie. Because in the follow-up program Sahar Hashemi the co-founder of the Coffee Republic chain said that she thought it was Andy's team's extra costs that pushed them into becoming the losers.

The Coffee Calculation

They were told that a good operator could manage 80-100 cups per hour.

They didn't ask how much milk was required for 100 cups.

Sophie worked out they had a 10 hour day.

She then assumed they'd be good operators and calculated they could do 100 cups per hour at each coffee location. Which is 1,000 cups per location.

With 2,000 estimated cups Sophie assumed the amount of milk required to be 0.1 litres. So the amount of milk you need is 200 litres. Sainsbury's price for milk is 0.49 the cost for 200 litres is £98.00. If they'd bought 20 litres as Andy asked for the cost would obviously have been £9.80 in fact they bought 65 litres which cost about £31.85.

Deviating From The Task

The team deviated from the task of selling coffee because they bought biscuits and tea. Which meant: 

  • They'd paid for stock which they didn't need with the risk of having some of it left at the end
    • Someone, and this amazes me, said if we have any biscuits left over we can always sell them at cost - that assumes people want to buy them!
    • They'd assumed they'd sell about 400 biscuits (at 5p per biscuit that's another £20 costs)
  • By not focusing on just selling coffee the team:
    • took the sales pressure off people to buy coffee (high price) so they could simply buy a cheaper biscuit or cup of tea
    • Ended up spending coffee selling time to get rid of cut-price biscuits and milk

Finally the nail in the coffin was that Gerri The Driver drove the mobile coffee unit to a market, where everyone is used to a bargain and where there were lots of greasy spoon cafes charging 90p for coffee compared to Stealth's £1.50. She sold practically nothing and kept trying to get hold of Andy to ask him what to so. For goodness sake woman! Use your iniative, either drop your prices or move somewhere else you believe will get you good sales! And text Andy to tell him if you can't actually talk to him on the phone.

Andy, Andy...

Nice man. Remember you said "...I'm very ruthless?" No I don't think so. You so didn't protect your position. Because Gerri also didn't help your team. It's all very well hanging around bleating something like, "I've been trying to contact you..." when the solution is already right in front of her face. Gerri, you're next unless you change the way you work.

 And another thing,  calling everyone sweetheart is usually just an excuse because you can't be bothered to remember their names.

Was The Firing Deserved?

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

Neither project manager managed their teams successfully, in fact at all. But Andy on the losing team was always going to go because he didn't appear to have a strategy to deal with losing! Jadine might have gone if her team had lost but I'm pretty sure she would have blamed everyone else before herself.

Andy could have been more on top of what was going on. For a start he should have helped with the buying and then could have said "no" to the tea and biscuits.   He could have considered more about the mobile coffee bar location. And he could have rung Gerri to check on progress sooner and more often.

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