As someone commented in my first piece on the Apprentice it is not about business it’s about TV. However in this blog piece I do try to look at where we can learn from how the apprentice candidates have handled a particular task. This week’s episode I am at a loss. I am still trying to get over the statement of the series “Do the French like kids?”
However there was someone who did stand out for me in this episode and single handley won the task for her team. That was Helen who really might as well be made the business candidate right now as she is so far ahead of the other candidates. Helen went in and presented to La Redoute the French mail order catalogue company. Which I thought most people would have heard of but she seemed isolated in her knowledge that they also sell in the UK very successfully. Another plus point Lord Sugar for Helen she not only has business acumen but she also has a good grasp of general knowledge. The product they were selling was the child’s car seat which could also be a rucksack. It was a great product and Tom was a fool to let it go. That said even with a great product to sell I am sure that if this presentation had been given to another candidate they would have not been able to get the sale that Helen did. Firstly she got her audince on board immediately. She showed knowledge of their product and also let them know that she had bought from them in the past. Immediately you could see that they were sitting up and taking notice. She had shown empathy with them and knowledge of their company. My colleagues laugh at me that wherever I am presenting in the country at the start I will always come up with a story of previous visits to that part of the world or a family connection with it. Why? To show my audience that I understand their part of the world. Exactly the same as Helen did and it works people want to feel that you understand them. Her presentation was then concise and to the point selling the plus points of the product but also pointing out how the product would benefit La Redoute and it’s customers. And then she finished it with a great answer to the question about price. Yes she said it is more pricy (truth not flannel) but the benefit is that your kids are safe and we know how your customers value their kids. Job done the win was in the bag down to that one presentation and in particular the presentation skills of Helen. Using empathy, knowledge and the truth. A winning formula.
I am afraid that the other two things that stood out for me was Susie’s question about whither the French like kids and Melody’s sudden belief in her market research.
Taking Melody first. I know I have said in this blog piece that you need to listen to your customers and the importance of research. And I do believe in that 100%. Indeed I was in discussion yesterday with a client who is wanting to launch a new product. We have agreed three possible options and we are now going to research these with existing customers as well as carry out desk research to look at the existing market place, competitors, trends and so forth. But what we won’t do is carry out research with 4 individuals and then take that as the bible as how people feel. But that is what Melody did. She asked four people outside the metro station if they would use a car seat and then when they said no took that as a comprehensive study that Parisians don’t use cars. Plus why didn’t she tell them it was also a rucksack she could have got a different view. This is so stupid in the extreme it’s hard to work out how she is on the programme particularly even after seeing that Paris has a major traffic issue she still went into the board room and was adamant that she was in the right as she had carried out market research. Focus groups are a valuable tool but they have to be taken alongside other research and also quite simply your own common sense which was lacking here big time. Not just by Melody but by the rest of the team. There was a priceless moment when Melody was in a stream of traffic that she paused and said but there are cars here. Yes Melody like every other city in the world just as there are children and parents who want to keep them safe. You quite simply lost the task at that point.
Research is important but you need to set it in context and like all business decisions you need to use your own knowledge too. Well that is if you have some.
Melody would have been given the prize of biggest blunder of the week if it hadn’t been upscaled by Susie. She decided to be the leader though she freely admitted she didn’t know a thing about France. Well to be honest no one really did. But no one showed this quite as much as Susie. But do you know it left me wondering if she really understood humans at all? Because at the end of the day we are not so different from the French. Yes there is language and cultural differences but apart from that we have lots in common. But even if we were talking about a country at the other side of the world. Her two question would have been ridiculous. “Do the French like Kids” and “Do the French drive cars.” Simply humans love kids it’s that simple in fact animals love their kids. That is why at this time of the year you will hear female cows breaking their heart as their babies have been taken away from them. Humans and animals we are made to love kids. So we all love kids and if we have them our own in particular. So I do worry in the extreme what planet little Susie is living in to ask this question. Her next was not much better. Again we all know that we live in a planet where we drive too much and France is certainly not immune to this. Karen Brady was as gob smacked as the rest of us. And I know Susie was the leader of the winning team but I would have fired her for gross stupidity and sent her back to what ever strange planet she lives in where people don’t like children and don’t drive.
Lord Sugar commented last night that if he was going into business with someone he wanted to do it across the world. Fair point Lord Sugar but did anyone other than Helen show they had the intelligence to do this? No or NON. I don’t want to stop the series early but quite frankly think you have your winning candidate. Though we still don’t know what the candidates winning business ideas are. But from this trip to Paris I would say there is really only one candidate in the running. But yes I will watch the biscuit episode next week as it may cause further outstanding statements from Susie and who knows Lord Sugar may see sense and go for multiple firings. Apprentice 2011 – BBC Wednesday 9pm. Six human candidates remaining and one from a planet unknown where they don’t like kids. Who will be Lord Sugar’s business candidate? Do you agree that there is an out right winner already or do you favour another candidate?