At this stage in the race to be Lord Sugar’s business candidate I should in theory have lots of say about the business accumen of this years Apprentice. I said a lot about them last night as I tweeted with fellow apprentice followers but very little was about their business skills with the excpetion of Zoe who really stood out for me. But when it comes down to it there isn’t really much you can say about this years candidates business skills. However here I go what did I take business wise from this week’s apprentice?
This weeks project was about launching a new magazine and the main part of the task and what they were going to be judged on was that this magazine had to be sold to media buyers. The team who sold the most advertising from the buyers won. I’m not sure that either team really grasped that this was the goal and that the media buyers were also the target audience. In fact the main audience as they would win or lose on what they thought.
Two things stood out for me in particular that were fundamental in this project. Firstly both groups carried out research with focus groups which was good. Neither team listened to what the customers in the group said which was bad and a complete waste of money of an expensive resource. Particularly Jim’s team with the exception of Zoe. It is a well know fact that people currently in their 50’s and 60’s do not see themselves as old and don’t want to be treated as old. The focus group made that clear. Most people would be aware of that anyway. But did they listen? No. The other team were told that young men or lad’s as they were referred to don’t want to be patronised. So what did they do in their magazine patronised them. Both teams didn’t listen but Jim’s team with the incredible title of “Hip Replacement” particularly stood out. What they should have done was listen to the focus group, back that up with other research and then produce the magazine with the results in mind. Finally they should have presented their findings as part of their presentation to the media buyers to show that they really had spotted a niche in the market and that they understood the market.
Ironically Jim’s team and Zoe in particular had spotted a gap in the market. There is a lack of magazines for the 50 plus market and most of them are old-fashioned. A huge opportunity as each and every media buyer acknowledged this. They could have had a magnificent win but instead they had a loss entirely of Jim’s making in my opinion. He should have listened to Zoe and I was very surprised that he lived to fight another day. As leaders we don’t always know best that is why we have teams to listen too. A good leader listens and you know what sometimes changes their mind. It’s not a weakness it’s fundamental to good leadership skills.
The second main flaw here as I said at the beginning was that both teams failed to realise that on this task actually the media buyers were also their customers and the companies who the media buyers bought advertising for. So when considering what target audience they would have for their magazine they should have looked to see what advertisers might be interested in this target audience and again included that in their presentation to the media buyers. For example Jim’s team could have highlighted Marks and Spencers as a huge opportunity for his magazine or ASOS could have been mentioned for the magazine targeting young men. They missed this point entirely. Their presentations were full of hard sell but lacking in substance as they failed to take on board the feedback from the focus groups and totally did not understand that actually the media buyers in this task were the main customers and this should have been central to their strategy but wasn’t.
Lord Sugar’s search for his business candidate goes on but if I was him I would be very worried that the teams cannot grasp even the basics of project planning. Perhaps it will improve as they are some strong candidates in Zoe and Helen and must say I really like Tom. But as for the rest less said the better or see my tweets during the programme. Till next week when the Apprentice heads to Paris can Jim charm the Parisians or will it finally be time to BE FIRED!