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HR Insights - Extra 
Over the next few weeks and whilst The Apprentice is being shown on the BBC, we will be running a second blog, concentrating on the programme and the candidates... *** Spoiler Alert*** - the following blog will reveal the results of this week's episode. 

12th June 2013 
“You’ve actually pitched them to the Queen… or did you pitch to the Corgis?” Lord Sugar, Episode 7 
 
We’re at the halfway stage of the competition now and as predicted last week; this week saw the inevitable double-firing, leaving just half of the original candidates now left in the competition vying for the top prize of a business partnership with Lord Sugar. 
 
This week’s task was at times painful to watch; and not just because I had suffered a back injury only a couple of hours before the show started, but for the lacklustre approach to the task in hand taken by all bar one of the candidates… And the one candidate who was this week [almost] a shining star was surprisingly, Jason; on two counts – firstly, he seemed to come into his own this week as one of the salespeople with responsibility for selling the ‘big-ticket’ item for team Evolve and secondly, by coming out of his shell, he forced the usually arrogant Neil to ‘up his game’, even if it was to avoid being shown up by Jason. The net result of this little ‘in-team’ battle was that they managed to sell three of their big-ticket items, netting £30,499 – not the greatest amount ever seen on the Apprentice, but certainly the most convincing of the series so far. 
 
So what was Jason getting right on this occasion? Predominantly, he – whether knowingly or unwittingly, was building a ‘rapport’ with those visitors coming onto his stand. By this I mean he was engaging with them by ‘mirroring’ their words and body-language and once he had formed that connection, he was able to engage in banter with them on their level. He didn’t seem to be bothered about whether they were ‘lurkers’ i.e. people who have nothing better to do with their time but to meander around camping shows with no intention of buying anything or whether they had come to the show with the express intention of walking away with a caravan or similar. By having this very relaxed attitude, the visitors did appear to be quite comfortable in spending time on the stand, without fear of ‘pressure-selling’. He was also remarkably relaxed and there was none of the creepy awkwardness that we had seen in previous weeks; something about caravans and campers unleashed a totally different Jason on the world and with hindsight, this might have been the week he dared to have been Project Manager! 
Jason was this week's shining performer; his approach not only netted him a big sale, but forced Neil to up his game too... 
So what of the others… Kurt put himself forward as the Project Manager for Endeavour and what a shambolic performance he gave, his only qualification for this being a caravanning holiday when he was 8-years old!! Kurt, he is a bit of a puzzle really… Throughout his time on the show he has displayed an attitude towards the process that is so laid back, it is in fact horizontal! At one stage, I did think he may have had the potential to go a long way in the process, but truth be told, I think that he has definitely shown himself to be a very definite ‘one-trick pony’; if it’s not a ‘smoothie’, our ‘smooth operator’ appears to have no interest in it whatsoever and this was never going to go down well with Lord Sugar. 
 
As Project Manager in this task; his concept of ‘market research was to play a game of ‘spot the caravan’ on the motorway and then to determine the age of the person with the caravan which he (and Alex) surmised frequently as ‘old’! At this point, I was reminded of my best friend at school; having called her one day from my University ‘student digs’ for a ‘catch-up’, she proudly told me that she and her then boyfriend had bought a caravan – at the grand old age of 19!!!! Consequently, I determined at that point that we no longer had anything in common and we’ve only spoken a couple of times in passing since… 
 
Anyway, I digress. The point of this ‘market research’, however crudely (and rudely!) it was done, identified to Alex and Kurt that their target market may be the more mature person, so what did they then choose to sell? The ‘big-ticket’ option that was aimed at a slightly less mature age-group and possibly more specifically at those ‘festival-going’ types who would want something that was more comfortable than a tent, but ‘cooler’ than a caravan… 
 
Having then selected a wholly inappropriate item to try to sell, Kurt selected himself and Myles to spend the day trying to sell this item; much to Alex’s chagrin and presumably with the express purpose of ‘stealing the glory’ of a single, task-saving sale… How wrong could he be!!! 
 
Myles, for the first time found himself on the losing side and whilst he must still rate as one of the favourites in the process, I did begin to question his credentials on the evidence of this task. He very quickly came to the conclusion that they had chosen the wrong product to sell and proceeded to spend the day displaying body language that pretty much told everyone else that they had chosen the wrong product… It is a tough message to give to someone who claims to be a high-powered salesperson, selling to some of the richest people in the world; but he could probably have learnt from Jason on this particular task!!! 
 
Lord Sugar was explicit in stating that this task was all about the ‘selling’ and this is something that should have been music to Myles’ ears; surely if you are a half-decent salesperson, you would be able to sell ‘coal to Newcastle’ and ‘ice to Eskimos’!!! Having the wrong product shouldn’t have been quite so much of a hindrance for him as he made it into on this occasion… 
 
But what struck me about both Project Managers on this occasion was that whilst Neil did at least set some sales targets for his sub-team, albeit that they were ill-thought through and were probably never going to be achievable (ever heard of SMARTER objectives Neil??), neither Kurt nor Neil made any attempt to check in with their sub-teams during the course of the day – I am deliberately ignoring the one effort at such communication performed by Kurt when in an act of desperation, he contacted the sub-team to request that Leah joined him and Myles as ‘eye-candy’!!! Although in the short time that Leah was at that stand, she did come the closest to closing a sale on a big-ticket item; which just goes to prove how rubbish Myles and Kurt actually were on this task!! 
 
Had they taken the time to check in, they would have been clear about what and who was selling well and taken a decision as to whether it was appropriate or necessary to rotate the teams around... For instance, perhaps a switch between Alex - who was clearly fuming at not being allowed to sell the big-ticket item and Myles, who was clearly uncomfortable trying to sell an item he had played no part in selecting may have yielded a different result at the end of the day...  
 
The day seemed to be run as though they were in fact four teams competing against each other and not two and this probably had some bearing on the overall low sales of the large and small items that both teams were trying to sell… It seems as though, despite a strong start from the boys team, that both teams have become stuck back in the 'storming' stage of Tuckmans model of team development and appear destined to remain there for the remainder of the series... 
 
At the end of the day though, it was Kurt’s team that lost the task and inevitably he brought ‘Alex the eyebrows’ and Natalie back into the Boardroom with him. Without realizing that a double-firing was on the cards, I believe that there was a degree of tactics at play in this decision. I suspect that Natalie; albeit that she did contribute very little to the task, was brought back as it was well known that having been in the Boardroom on three occasions thus far, Lord Sugar was unlikely to tolerate her in the process for much longer… 
 
The Boardroom itself became quite animated; in between crying (again!), Natalie did manage to come out with what seemed to be a most obscure concept; making a link between her experience in executive recruitment with being able to sell a ‘big-ticket’ item, a concept that was certainly lost on Nick, Karren and Lord Sugar himself. Having pondered this concept a while and perhaps as someone who has spent many years working within Human Resources, it was not such a bizarre concept as at first thought… 
 
In my view, what Natalie was trying to explain (badly!) was that ‘recruitment’ is about ‘matching’ individuals with roles for which they are suited and ‘selling’ is about ‘matching’ items with people who need (or perhaps who don’t realise that they need) that particular item. Basically, she was saying that they are very similar activities and approaches… However; if that principle were to apply then in point of fact, she should have been able to apply it to the sale of smaller as well as big-ticket items and this was clearly something she did not demonstrate throughout this task… 
 
Ultimately, the axe fell on Natalie and Kurt and as the audience in the later BBC2 programme ‘You’re Fired’ showed, this was the right decision for Lord Sugar to make… 
Eight down and seven to go... Who will be next??? 
The next task is all about ‘dating’ and marketing an on-line dating service – I sense that this is one episode that will be sooooo cringe worthy, it will be necessary to watch it from behind a cushion!!!! Can’t wait!!!! 
 
Before I finish; a couple of moments that warrant a mention from this weeks’ episode… Firstly, did anyone else spot the resemblance between Myles and a certain over-excitable ‘bunny’ used to advertise batteries during the pitch meetings??? Somebody really ought to have explained to him the difference between being enthusiastic about the product and just being annoying!!!! 
Myles acted like an over-excited 'duracell' bunny during the pitch meetings; no wonder they didn't get the items that they wanted... 
And finally, despite some of the nonsense that has come out of her mouth since the start of the series; remember the horse/dog/cow moment and this weeks’ classic of thinking the bench in the boat – you know the one, right between the 'rowlocks' for the oars, was in fact a table to put your champagne on… Natalie did come out with an almost ‘Zen-like’ saying during ‘You’re Fired’ – “If it doesn’t work out, try a different direction – don’t give up.” How true! 
Natalie took a break from daft comments this week and entered a rare Zen-like moment... well not a total break!!!! 
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