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Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Apprentice - So Bad Sir Alan Fired Two!

The Apprentice

The Apprentice's Second Task -
Design & Sell Pet Accessories!

The Apprentice candidates were handed a task that required to design, prototype and get orders for a pet accessory.

The companies they were to pitch to were a large chain, Harrods and a specialist high end pet boutique.

This is one of those tasks where you have to take 5 minutes to sit and think marketing strategy!


The girls did. Did the boys?

Nope. Nothing on strategy.

The obvious strategy was to design a product that would appeal to the large chain because if they ordered their order would be likely to be a nice big number. The other two would be chicken feed in comparison.

Katie Hopkins made some stupid management-speak statements as she began the task of leading the group. Rory Laing was unbelievable as the boys team leader.

So how did they do this week?

Here's a look at their second task.

Eclipse Team ("managed" by Rory)

Rory didn't work out where people's skills lay and just accepted a design team that didn't include Ifti (a product designer). He then spent most of the task telling them what to do, even down to telling the "design" team to take off their jackets and ties.

He let the design team work out some designs. He reviewed them. Rubbished all of them and then showed his own design - a sash that could contain water,  biscuits and pooh bags...

Sensibly he'd sent a team to look at the pet stores and also to a focus group to check their design idea. Simon Ambrose talked to one customer and found that he'd been searching high and low for a waterproof, pet hairproof throw to protect his sofa.

When this team reached the focus group the group pooh poohed Rory's design. One man saying he wouldn't feel right going around wearing a sash. When the throw/blanket was mentioned there was universal agreement - yes a good idea.

In the meantime Rory and the rest of the team had gone to the design team and had decided they had to go with the sash. Despite strong feedback from Simon about the blanket.

Tre Azam was an absolute pain in the proverbial as he went on and on about how other part of the boys team weren't doing anything!

Can someone tell Jadine to stop thinking of tying the team's name to the task? In this case she said they should use "clips" to hold the items to the sash because they were the E-clips, or Eclipse team!

Tre Azam had to walk away again. Sir Alan later called him motor mouth. Also Rory suggested that Tre wasn't a team player. Really?

The things that they did badly:

  • Rory didn't allocate a proper design team to the task
  • Rory didn't listen to the market research from his own team
  • Rory tried to make people respect him as a manager when he hadn't won their respect
  • Tre - kept rabbitting on and on
  • Tre's attitude was that they should just get something, anything, produced.
  • The research team didn't appear to feedback to the design team the strong results from the focus group early enough
  • Rory didn't check how the research was going
  • Rory almost assumed the design team would not produce and had his own ready - why not have taken part
  • The team tried to win every pitch, but didn't win the important one
  • Rory didn't realise that Ifti wasn't really bothering, or pulling his weight

Eclipse lost the task by a massive margin. In the boardroom Ifti admitted he'd not pulled his weight at all as he was missing his wife and child. Then he said it was a long-term issue and so Sir Alan had no option and fired him.

In summary Ifti wasn't functioning as part of the team and Rory was completely ineffective as a team manager. It was right that both should go.

And in parting Tre has had his card marked by Sir Alan. He's had positive feedback about the way he works. That is not contributing as a team member, not even wanting to be in a team, being unable to be led by anyone!


Stealth Team (managed by Katie)

Katie appeared to manage the team reasonably well. The one thing that could have caused them to come unstuck was trying to think of a new design idea in 15 minutes before seeing the prototype design team.

Yet their market research showed they'd backed a winner.

Their product was initially going to be a doggy rucksack. This changed rapidly into a special cupboard for keeping all the dog biscuits, leads and coats in.

Gaza froze during her pitch and eventually handed it over to someone else to finish. She needs to make sure that she gets to do, and finish, another pitch in task 3 otherwise there'll continue to be a question mark over her confidence. I think she might push to be project manager to show it was a hiccup this week. I don't think she should do that she needs something with less pressure first.

Did the girls team do anything wrong?

The pitch to the dog boutique was risible and was obviously changing moment to moment according to the woman they were pitching to.

They did however use the right strategy and concentrate on winning the major chain to get a reasonable order  - 2,000 units giving a profit of £5,000 which dwarfed the boys profit which was in the hundreds.

Was The Firing Deserved?


You can't possibly have a team manager who just lets it all happen. Equally you can't have one of the team not contributing.

Really I had wondered if Sir Alan would fire Tre because he was just plain rude and Rory obviously found him unmanageable.

What could Rory have done to improve matters?

The first thing would have been to get Tre and Simon (a great working team from last week) out in the pet shops talking to people. Then they all should have gone to the focus group (much though I hate them normally) and got their feedback.

Also Rory should have managed the team's time much, much better. By telling them when to wrap up research to go to the focus group. To give them deadlines for when he needed to hear stuff from the focus group and research.


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