22nd October 2014
"It’s got lemon grass from Thailand, Aloe Vera from Africa and Green Tea from China, so let’s call it ‘British Breeze". Nick Hewer
So here we are in Week three of the process and as has become customary at this time, the teams went from boys v. girls into two mixed teams. From Team Tenacity, Lord Sugar moved Lindsay, Roisin, Nurun and Bianca to Team Summit and replaced them with Steven, Daniel and Felipe; prompting one of the boys to make a comment along the lines of ‘the dead-wood having been moved out of Summit’ ~ would these become ‘famous last words’… Probably!!
The task this week was to produce some ‘high-end’ luxury products ~ candles and scented diffusers and to sell them for the highest margin that could be achieved.
Having learnt from the previous tasks, two Project Managers stepped up promptly for this particular task; Katie for Tenacity on the grounds that she bought these products herself so that her house didn’t smell and Roisin for Summit on the grounds that she was an Accountant and understood numbers… Some more famous last words perhaps…
Tenacity began by sending out a sub-team to conduct market research and they found themselves speaking with a retailer of these high-end products, who advised them to keep their product ‘plain and simple’, with a neutral colour (e.g. cream/white) and to use soya wax rather than paraffin wax… However, whilst her sub-team was out conducting this research, Katie had decided they would opt for a ‘yellow candle made with paraffin wax’ and refused to listen to the feedback from the sub-team… Remind me again, what is the point of market research???
The team then went to pitch their product to a Private Members Club, where ‘Ace Salesman’, Daniel decided to try and push a bulk sale onto the owners and even having been told that they only had 21 bedrooms in the establishment, still he tried to sell them more than they would realistically want or need… Although my role requires me to do a bit of selling, I’m no expert salesperson but even I would have known in a task focused on ‘margins’ that it would have been more effective to have listened to the establishments’ requirement and tried to push them a lower number of products at a higher unit price… Isn’t that how it works?!?!?
Despite these considerable holes in their understanding of the business world, Tenacity did in fact go on to win the task, having achieved an average selling price of £16 per unit compared with Summit’s average unit price of £9.50. They only won by having achieved a measly £14.77 more profit on the task than Summit, but critically by having products left to sell – meaning that had they had more time, their profit would have been considerably more.
So what of Team Summit then? With the ‘dead-wood’ gone and an ‘accountant’ in charge ~ how could they fail… How indeed!!! They had the better looking product on the whole and even without the benefit of Tenacity’s market research, opted for a neutral colour – though their product name was as equally bizarre as that of Tenacity’s, opting to call a blend of linen, cranberries and driftwood ~ “Beach Dreams”…
What was sadly lacking though amongst this team was an appropriate pricing structure and strategy and despite Roisin’s declaration that she understood figures, what she clearly didn’t understand the point of the task being to achieve the ‘greatest margin’ not the highest sales; as she and the team opted to sell products in high volume at low cost. James, as leader of the sub-team trading at Greenwich Market, exacerbated this policy by adopting a totally random approach to selling and allowing the members of the team to sell items at whatever price they could achieve, without any clear direction of what the bottom line should be… those of course who bothered to sell anything (see below…).
There were of course further problems with their approach to the task… Having pitched to the hotel manager on day one of the task and securing an order from him, sight unseen of candles and scent diffusers, the team then returned on day two with enough candles to fulfil his order, but with no scented diffusers having off-loaded their entire stock at an earlier appointment – a classic case of ‘over-promising and under-delivering’. This was further exacerbated when mid-way through a sale to an ideal client and acting on James’s say-so, Roisin cancelled this sale mid-way through to save the remaining items for James to ‘flog’ at a bargain bucket rate… So not the point of the exercise!!!
Back in the boardroom, there was a further twist in the tale as Lord Sugar had to act quickly to beat Lyndsay to the punch and issue his immortal line ‘you’re fired’, before she had the chance for an Apprentice first and say ‘I quit’!!! The level of honesty displayed by Lyndsay in explaining what could only be described as a lacklustre performance from her, was in truth quite refreshing; she surely can’t have been the first candidate to have recognised she wasn’t right for the process, but she was perhaps the first to admit it in the Boardroom.