R&D Director a&dc
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The Apprentice Assessed: Week 5 – A passion for fashion

4th Nov 2010
R&D Director a&dc
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Blog Entry by Will Mitchell, Director of Consulting, A&DC

This week's The Apprentice was a tough one to analyse.  No one did anything particularly wrong.....right up until the point that Paloma managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Showing a distinct lack of judgement, she just didn’t seem to know when to shut up.

Therein lays the root cause of her demise.  Regular viewers will have winced week on week as she snapped and sneered her way through the tasks. Her lack of Emotional Intelligence and flawed Values, as she acted the vicious wolf to Alex and Sandeesh’s ‘Bambi’ and ‘Thumper’ (Marcus Briggstock, Apprentice Your Fired) were laid bare in the boardroom.  It was clear that her arrogance and deep hunger to succeed in the apprentice (Drive in overdrive!) were her undoing, making Lord Sugar’s decision a simple one.

Initially it seemed that Alex was a ‘dead man walking’, having positioned himself as the ‘retail guru’ he put himself on the line by failing to attract customers “like bees to a honeypot”.  Acting more bumbling than bumble bee, he was reduced to wearing a sandwich board, frightening off passers by and suggesting the team lie about celebrity guests in store. Low Emotional Intelligence, poor judgement (Intellect), Drive in overdrive and Values issues to name but a few!

In the boardroom he did himself no favours, initially denying blame for any errors prompting Lord Sugar to retort, “the man who never makes mistakes, never makes anything” highlighting the importance of learning agility. Nick Hewer’s supporting comment of Alex as being “not totally irritating” was barely a ringing endorsement.

In the other team, Project Manager Liz showed learning agility during the initial briefing meeting commenting that based on previous weeks’ tasks “we must make the right product choice today”.  And she ensured that the team did what they needed to secure the best products, showing energy and warmth (Emotional Intelligence) in the supplier meetings.  This was in marked contrast to Paloma and her team who (perhaps exaggerated by some harsh editing) appeared stilted and lacked connection with the supplier, closing one meeting by commenting “we’ll be in dialogue” – ouch!

This week’s task clearly centred on choosing the right product.  One supplier of ‘recycled clothing’ must have been included as a deliberate red herring designed to make selling difficult for the teams.  In a rare moment of clarity and commercial awareness, Stuart “the brand” Baggs commented “recycled clothing, isn’t that what tramps do”. Although not entirely appropriate, it at least showed recognition of the product-market mismatch. 

So, clothes selected, the teams had just one day to sell all they could.  Strong sales skills were demonstrated by several across both teams, with Chris showing true charm (Emotional Intelligence) telling a customer wearing a dress made from old ties that although a number of people had tried it on, “no one looked as good in it as her”.  And she bought it.

Liz’s team may have had the best product but as a team leader, she showed low drive in failing to get the shop open until 45 minutes late, missing valuable custom.  The bizarre decision to have Stella English as window dressing generated another moment of Nick Hewer genius likening Stella’s live window display as more akin to Amsterdam than Manchester.  One wonders how Nick knows this.

Desperation for sales forced a couple of good marketing decisions.  Alex redeemed himself slightly  by arranging an advert to be filmed and played every 15 minutes, much to the Stella’s horror.   Liz showed strong learning agility and intelligence towards the end of the day agreeing a 20% discount with the designer, helping to shift the glitzy party dresses. 

A lucky escape then for “you’re a disaster” Alex and “not sure what you bring” Sandeesh, who will both surely fall in the coming weeks.  Both Liz and Stella continue to demonstrate a balance of warmth yet quiet determination and look hard to beat at the moment. 

So what was this week’s key lesson? Know when to shut up, and if you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam, make sure you go with Nick Hewer!

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