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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Apprentice Without Ethics

The Apprentice

The Apprentice's Week 4 Task -
Sell Sweets At London Zoo

The Apprentices were given the task of designing, making and selling sweets to children visiting London Zoo.

Just to make things more difficult the manufacturing facility was located 70 miles from London.

This task really sorted out who could organise and communicate the best.

Eclipse Team ("managed" by Adam)

I was immediately under-impressed by Adam when he suggested that they keep everything simple. So what should the theme at a zoo be? Animals ...

Come on a little, just a little, more thought could have come up with loads more interesting, intriguing and attractive themes. Here's a few that are coming straight off the keyboard as I type, dress as:

  • Natives, in full native dress, grass skirts and necklaces of shells
  • Old fashioned explorers - yes I know one was but I mean the whole team
  • Zoo keepers, but instead of "Zoo Keeper" on the fronts and backs of their uniforms "Zoo Sweetener"
  • "Lollipop men" with a "zebra" crossing leading to their sweet stall

Ok that's enough. Would any of these have frightened the kids like the animal suits did? Very probably not!

In line with keeping everything simple Adam asked the confectioners about using organic and natural products for the sweets and was told that would increase the costs. So he immediately squashed the organic idea.  Without finding out how much more it would be or whether they might be able to get a nice premium price for it. 

The sweets they went for were an orange boiled sweet lolly and an animal paw chocolate lolly.

Their ingredients were pretty much natural until someone in the team (Adam?) decided to move away from keeping "everything simple" and added jelly diamonds to some lollies and hundreds and thousands to others. That meant the lollies couldn't be labeled as "natural"

Adam wanted to get the maximum number of sweets made which meant staying a long time at the confectioners. Sophie complained bitterly.

Then there was the stupid mistake made when Adam told Natalie to get labels made up called Orange Tiger lollipops and she called them Natural Orange Lollipops instead. The result of that was the team had to withdraw the lollies from sale until the zoo decided what to do about the labeling.

The wrong location was chosen, is this an ongoing theme? Luckily Simon suggested they moved to a much better location.

So onto the sales.

Sophie was useless at sales. She just didn't know what to say and was obviously uncomfortable. She said that parents had been approached 3 or 4 times already. In the boardroom she said she didn't like selling if it wasn't value for money. Is she completely naive? You can't assume value for people. Value is their own perception. If people don't think there's value in a product, guess what? They don't buy it!

Here's a thought: Next time someone does a task like this maybe they should also give out fun and free "I've bought one from X team" labels so that people are intrigued by the labels and the team doesn't try and push for more sales. Parents might even buy sweets to get the labels to stop being harassed by the other team!

 Adam managed to wind up several people on his team by "coaching" them on how to sell better. I do agree that coaching is a good thing. For it to have worked it would have been better to have a 15 minute group meet where everyone tells the one thing they do that improves their sales. Then go and do it.

Adam dressed as a lion wandered around checking up and... coaching! As an experienced salesman this is the task he should have been on selling full-time. As it was he didn't and the result was that they ended up giving away the sweets they made at the end of the say.

What Adam did do well was to get the maximum amount of product out of the materials they bought.

What could he have done better? There's so much ...

  • Fax the label content to Natalie, that avoid the risk of spelling mistakes, incorrect titles or missing ingredients
  • Have a barnstorm session on selling approaches with a strategy of informing other team members of good ways of selling
  • Realise that Sophie was a completely useless salesperson and put her in charge of something useful but not salesy
  • Listen to their market research which said boiled sweet type lollipops wouldn't go particularly well - they ended up giving them away
  • Keep sweets simple
  • Use some uncommon common sense when thinking through a theme for the sales pitch
  • Use the good people to bring out their ideas on selling, market research, location...

The net result was that they lost by £10. And yet they needn't have. All that Adam had needed to do was sell lollies rather than wander aimlessly scaring children.


Stealth Team (managed by Ghazal)

Ghazal seemed to be trying to do everything herself. She watched the chocolate, she designed the sweets, she made the monkey lollipop sweets.

It was only when Margaret pointed out that time was moving on and that she needed to get a production line going that Ghazal woke up and started to get others involved more.

Tre and Kristina were doing the marketing for the product and hung around in a stick wholesaler trying to get him to reduce his price. Like he said why would their budget be be important to him? Eventually they bought the sticks at the original price and complaining all the time took them the 70 miles to the confectioners. Why hadn't Ghazal simply rung up the confectioners and asked what they thought they needed before they left London and where the best place to buy labels, cellophane and sticks was?

In trying to do everything Ghazal stayed with Jadine to watch the chocolate melt - it takes 2 hours. Unfortunately because Ghazal hadn't given Jadine the role of chocolate watcher they both wandered off and missed the point at which they could use the chocolate. So they had to wait another 2 hours!

The theme they chose was the cheeky monkey and had the cheeky monkey lolly and fudge. Tre and Natalie did a good job getting nice bright tee shirts advertising the product which was completely spoilt by everyone having to wear a bit of fur. Why? All that happened was that they got hot and hid the message on the tee shirts.

So onto the sales...

Tre said he would target fat people! Hmm. He's not politically correct is he? But even so he's cutting down his market by a lot.

Kristina gave children lollipops and forced the parents to cough up for them. After all she'd probably reasoned the parents didn't want a scene of their children being forced to give up their sweets broadcast nationwide. As she said she wasn't there to make friends - you can say that again. I wonder if she ever has repeat customers? What she was doing was borderline ethical.

Ghazal's team had managed to produce a very paltry number of sweets compared to Adam's and priced them at £2.50 and yet managed to sell them all. So obviously price is not particularly a problem!

Ghazal seemed to be under a lot of pressure and didn't really manage her team particularly well. She managed to get Tre's back up but I'm beginning to think a saint would get Tre's back up. Although he did manage to refrain from too much shouting this week.

Was The Firing Deserved?

Natalie lied and said that the lollipop label mistake was not her. Well we'd all just seen it on TV and Sir Alan had been briefed so he knew all about it too. Naughty Natalie! She'd have been fired if there wasn't someone who admitted they didn't really belong there.

Sophie, as much as admitted that she couldn't work for Sir Alan. She didn't like selling, "where it wasn't value for money". Like I said before value is what the buyer sees not what the seller thinks.

After all someone who's a millionaire but who needs a drink of water or they'll die will pay anything, a thousand, a million pounds to get that drink. Overpriced? To the person who has a lot of water, yes. To the millionaire? No, it would save his life.

Sophie was just a complete fish out of water in the commercial world. She didn't realise that sometimes you need to burn the midnight oil to get things done. Or that you need to act as part of a team. Or that your mistakes impact on the whole team. She was the right one to fire this time but Natalie's card is marked, because Sir Alan doesn't need an apprentice without ethics! 


Rob Artisan said...


what amazed me was that Sir Alan did a Ratner and no one noticed.

When the scientist girls was being mocked for not knowing the essentials of business.

For Sir Alan, this was buy in cheap crap and sell or take the client for a ride and sell well above a reasonable value.

If someone admitted that he views pulling fast ones as a core approach I would stay clear, especially as he is stupid enough to say it.

There is a line between making money and being a Ratner. at least do not admit it, even if everyone thinks it.


Jim Symcox said...

Hi Rob

I'm an Amstrad shareholder and I know exactly how much profit we make. Believe me it should be more!

I also owned Amstrad's first true PC, the 1512 I think, and that was actually a well-built reliable product.

I think the point Sir Alan was making was that business must make profits to stay in business, grow and develop further for their customers. Certainly I know from Amstrad's figures exactly how much goes in R&D, marketing and ancillary services.

I think they could do with a great marketer to help them raise their profile more ... hmm.

Ratner on the other hand wasn't in the segment of the market his products were aimed at. So he made his remarks based on his own view.

Whereas everyone (Ratner's target market) who'd been buying the jewelery had been quite happy with it. Because they could afford the items and they looked reasonable to them.


Ron said...

I've just watched episode 4 (chocolate at the Zoo).. Stealth's numbers do not add up. They won with 9xx in sales but yet only produced 110 lollies @ 2.50 and 120 fudge @ 3.00 making sales of 635 total possible. Take off expenses for materials. What's up with that?

Jim Symcox said...

Hi Ron,

Are you recording the shows? Unfortunately I haven't so I can re-watch them.

So I really don't know whether the numbers add up as they should.

I would think they do otherwise there would have been a feeding frenzy in the blogosphere about the fact that show can't even add up. As to how they got the figures... no idea.


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