Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Apprentice- The finalists!

Week 11: The finalists have been chosen! Last task! The teams had to come up with a luxury brand for affordable prices. They had to display their prototypes in their own shop then pitch their new brand and product ranch to top experts in the business. The best brand and business plan will win, this week the candidates had to finally show off business acumen in depth besides active selling, marketing or management qualities. It was about creativity&vision but mostly, understanding the market, pricing strategy and a business plan. Phoenix got Adam as a PM since Lord Sugar felt it was time. Though he kind of grew on us, this week it was clear Adam was out of his depth. He had no idea what the task was about, what a strategy is not to mention a business plan...he did jump head in with excitement and strength but clueless non the less. They chose chocolate! Quickly though it became also jelly's, hot chocolate and other additional products. They had no lead product to represent the brand. Funny enough, Nick’s first business was a coffee shop with one leading product for his new brand. He should have been utilized better not to mention listen to.. Sterling was run by Ricky, praying third time as a PM will be lucky and he will finally win. Together with Tom they chose the male grooming market. They obviously have a personal interest here which proved motivating too. Creating three products with a touch of tradition and heritage to be sold in boutique like flag stores around the country and Europe. They did major market research and knew their niche very well! They visited a chain of salons for men to discuss branding and business modals. Tom was in charge of the brand name and business plan, Ricky went to the factory to create the products themselves under the name: Modern gentlemen. For Phoenix having a mishmash of products the chosen name was: Sweet thing. Nick was in charge of branding and the business plan, Jade went to the factory to make the products. They did go to a chocolatier to do some research but they enjoyed eating more then anything, therefore, they failed to ask important questions regarding pricing and business modals. Nick tried to warn Adam that they should narrow it down, have a lead product so they have a clear brand identity but no one listened. Jade came up with flavors and names for the range. Testing day! Both teams created a space to showcase their brand and range. Sterling was lacking creativity and color. It was very minimal display. Ricky&Tom felt the gray and minimalistic display represents luxury and tradition but it was a little too blend. They did offer wet shaves using their products to create an experience and interaction with the client which was a great idea! Phoenix had a very interesting store, very colorful. Because one of the products was called drunken jelly's, Jade added a cocktail bar to go with it. Qua atmosphere it was a good idea however, I don’t know that people knocking down shots is very chic or luxury...They did have great visual stimulance, smells and entertainment. Next was pitching to industry experts and Lord Sugar himself! Ricky and Tom were brilliant! They drilled each other before hand so were very well prepared and had all their figures. The best thing was that they took the criticism from testing day on board and implemented changes were possible. They made changes to the packaging to make it standout more and look luxury. They will sell only in their luxury flag shops. Pricing was spot on. Adam’s team created a bright and interesting shop but once they opened their mouths, it went down hill... They had no strategy or any kind of real business plan. Nick tried to save the day but there was no attention to detail and their positioning was flawed. The price was actually for mass sales in supermarkets, not the point... They priced their chocolates at 2.99 pound so it was slightly higher then supermarkets and less then chocolatiers but they took a loss! It made no sense, at that price it was not middle position more like loosing position. In the boardroom Lord Sugar had to chose his finalists! Tom and Ricky were very professional and though a few errors were made, they have a better brand and even better plan securing a spot in final. For Phoenix it was fight time! It was clear that Adam had to go..Jade too since I doubt she would actually win this but there you go, she has more luck then brains. Its almost over..Tune in next week to find out who the victor is! Can't wait!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Apprentice- week 10: Two for the price of one!

This week’s task was about getting good deals for a fashionable discount site. Both teams had to go out and negotiate the best luxury daily deals they can find to feature on the daily discount company website for 24 hours. They met the CEO who emphasized that they will only accept high end experiences, his team would have to approve the deals before they go live. As ordered by Lord Sugar, Stephan was the pm for team Sterling, Jade was pm for team Phoenix. From the get go, they had totally different strategies and implementation technics. Stephan had a very clever idea, he ordered his team to come back with multiple deals from each business! He did not want to waste time so they booked their appointments on the go, at times having to make decisions under stress. Never a good also caused Stephan to get carries away with multiple deals as opposed to getting first quality high end offers. Jade however, decided to go with quality and not quantity which is a bit odd to me- If you find a business offering a luxury service and you close a deal with them, that means they fit the criteria right?.. Then why not get more from each client?! Well, she didn’t recognize this option. She also wanted to take the time to book appointments so they did that from the office, giving them time and space to select well. Stephan&Gaby came back with multiple deals from a dentist office, gold center and a fish spa (Gaby’s idea). However, there’s nothing high end about this service! Even the owner of the spa himself said he doesn’t think this will be considered a high end experience...No one was listening though. Ricky came back with multiple deals for dinner&lunch from a high end hotel restaurant and a Michelin star restaurant. Funny enough, he had to close each deal with scallops..high end dish I suppose. Stephan did want to send Ricky to a very famous spa hotel which was outside the city, Ricky thought he should stay in town as there are more options in London. Here is an important lesson- Don’t ignore your gut instincts! Stephan caved in but the team missed out on one of the most popular deals people look for on such websites. They had a total of 9 deals. Jade’s team came back with a package for a high end spa and a couple of lunch and dinner deals. In total 6 deals. The website approved however only 3 deals from Sterling and only 2 deals from Phoenix! Sterling sold 7 units of a golf package while Ricky’s deal sold out completely!! He could have pushed them for more units but due to lack of experience in this area, he did think 300 units will be the right amount as it’s only live 24 hours. Stephan and Gaby brought in 350 pounds, Ricky brought in 6,213 pounds! Phoenix sold 70 units of the lunch special however, their spa package sold for 8,630 pounds total income: 14,563 pounds! Making them the winners! Stephan must have been kicking himself for not sending Ricky to the spa hotel, a guaranteed success. Ricky should have gotten more units from the restaurants. For Jade, it was a lucky save as her way of approaching and negotiating leaves much to be desired. One of the clients actually told Jade that when she comes to a business meeting, she should come with intelligence! The spa deal saved her. Lord Sugar’s finger worked over time this week- it was a double firing! Stephan for his caving under the pressure and having no direction leading to bad choices. Gaby for not having a business acumen. It was time for Lord Sugar to see clearly and identify who will not be his partner. Honestly, they should have been gone and it's not too soon either! The final is almost here...Can't wait! Have a wonderfull weekend:)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Apprentice- Week 9: "Less fizz, more sparkle!"

Did you know that 35,000,000 champagne bottles are imported into the UK each year? English sparkling wine has actually won many awards during the past 9 years and yet, French champagne is dominating the market. Lord Sugar feels its time to raise awareness and get people to drink more local produce. This week’s task was to create an awareness campaign for English sparkling wine. They had to create a new image, a marketing online campaign and launch a website. They will also be pitching their ideas to leading people in the industry. Ricky led team Sterling, he referred to himself as David against Goliath as Phoenix was led by Tom, an expert in the wine industry and Nick who is a technology expert. Ricky’s strategy was finding one word to describe the product and create the campaign with that in mind. After visiting a vineyard and speaking with local professionals, it was obvious its all about quality! Ricky wanted every aspect of their work to reflect just that. No cheesy ads then... Gaby showed once again her creativity and after visiting the local supermarket for inspiration regarding colors, fonts and logos, she came up with the logo of the English rose in a shape of champagne glass. Stephan did not actually contribute much to the task because he simply missed the plot! It was not about selling the product but re branding it and raising awareness for it. He ran around the supermarket looking for someone who can explain prices and target groups- all irrelevant information. In his defense though, they all missed the basic idea as will be proven during their pitch later. Stephen suggested the word Grandeur as their name....raising awareness for English wine when using a French name! Hmmm... To my surprise, the team used the name! On Tom’s team things where a bit odd this week. Tom took Adam to visit a vineyard and later a wine tasting, he even conducted a wine tasting of his own later..they did get a bit drunk while Jade and Nick were left holding the beg for most of the first day. Tom was having fun while they worked, well he was the PM..:)) They did the marketing, the website and ad. They chose ESW- English sparkling wine as their name. Incorporating as much English as possible for recognition. They decided to create a label for manufactures to be able to use and put on their bottles with this name so it will be easily recognizable by consumers. I thought that was an interesting idea though I cant see wine manufactures going for it. I would expect them wanting to use their own branding. Otherwise, the site was quite boring. Ricky created a more colorful website with a vision in mind- English heritage and quality. They chose gold, black and white colors projecting luxury and recognition. There was also an option to create a database of interested people, a forum and social media was incorporated as well. They gave a lot of attention to the details. However, both teams went in the direction of sales, speaking to existing/regular clients. There was nothing to create new buzz, attract new customers, nothing about why you should drink it for example. The ads created by both were if were honest, quite awful.. Though Ricky said specifically no cheese! Jena created a very cheesy wedding ad which she thought was humorous. Adam tried to show you don’t need a special occasion to drink so it showed people meeting up in the pub for dinner. Watching Adam this week was hilarious! He didn’t even know what champagne is and where the name comes from, he kept calling himself a chorographer (instead of director)even though there was no dancing involved.. I cant see Lord Sugar ever working with someone like that but he is funny Ill give him that. In the boardroom it was clear Ricky had good ideas&a clear vision like his slogan- Less fizz more sparkle! His pitch was good, a lot of attention to details but a very cheesy, done to death ad and even though Tom seemed to not have a clear vision and created a boring campaign with no raising awareness story, the experts felt it was still better so Phoenix won. For Tom, it was a close call. I do think he would have gone home, he didn’t do too much his team did all the work while he was basically drinking. Very odd behavior on his part. It was close for Stephen as well. This time it was obvious he can talk the talk but in action, he has very poor performance and the guy can not take any responsibility! Jena was fired for the cheesy ad and for missing the point of both the task and the fact that she disrespected the product, not understand the damage a campaign like that can do. Stephan was told he is the next PM and he better win or else..Cant wait! I actually think that in spite the hard work, both teams should have lost. They totally missed the point from start to finish with out achieving their objectives at all. As always, I'm happy to hear your comments and ideas about this week's episode! Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Apprentice: Lesson #8: People (not products) sell people!

This week’s task was about shifting urban (graffiti) art in London’s cutting edge East end. Both teams had their own gallery space on Brick lane, they had one evening to sell their chosen art to the public, private collectors and one corporate client each set up by Lord Sugar. Both teams had to select two artists, for each sale they will receive a 40% commission. Sterling was led by Gaby who could not have been more enthusiastic through out the task... You can actually see her evolving through out the show! She’s improved her leadership skills in a big way. Being passionate and excited about the art was her only gameplan. When the sub team went to meet with the artists, they did not ask any of the questions they should have like: What’s your budget? Does size matter? They were however so enthusiastic and engaging with the artists that later, they could pick any of the artists they were interested in. Tom was the PM for Phoenix. Tom knows the scene very well and was indeed very knowledgeable however, by trying to impress the artist with his knowledge he forgot to be engaging or passionate about the art they were seeing. Big mistake as the artist had the last word regarding who will represent them. Showing no passion about the art and not speaking to the artist on their own level, caused Tom’s number 1 choice to go with Gaby instead. If the seller doesn’t show any passion or is not appreciating the art, how will they be able to sell it? Gaby’s corporate client was a distillery. They were looking for an art piece to do with London and local history, their budget was 10,000 pounds however, the team didn’t know that and what they chose therefore did not fit their client needs. Gaby said she didn’t ask the question on purpose unable to explain the logic behind it.. In hindsight, had they known the budget, they could have picked Jessop's posters selling between 8-10,000 pounds and blow Phoenix out the water! When Tom met with their client- a car manufacturer, he handled it very well. Engaging, asking all the right questions and giving them a lot of attention when they showed up at the gallery. One artist was very popular- Pure Evil. He chose Gaby though leaving Tom surprised and with no plan B...He then chose James Jessop who makes beautiful art however, very pricy and the size of the paintings is poster size accommodating only a very small niche. Tom decided to roll the dice.. They showed Copy right&Jessop. Sterling showed Pure evil and Nathan- a builder turn artist. Show time! Sterling had trouble shifting the art at first. Stephan had an interesting idea, Nathan was creating his art live for people to see, they were able to engage with him personally however, his art proved to be a little pricy. Phoenix did give us a master class at how NOT to treat a corporate client! When the clients walked in, no one was there to greet them, introduce them to the rest of the team or the artist present, they were not even offered a drink. Needless to say, they left quite fast with not even a single goodbye from the team. Phoenix were trying their best to shift a Jessop but it proved to be impossible, Copy right did sell quite well. Adam was as far out of his comfort zone as possible but he adapted fast and proved to be the best sale’s person! It was clear he had no idea what he was talking about never the less.. Copy right was their bread&butter, one Jessop would have brought the house down but it wasn’t to be.. So who won the task? In the boardroom, it was Gaby’s flattering and engaging the artists took to and was why they wanted them to represent them. Tom realized that knowledge will only get you so far and though it didn’t make sense to him, engaging and socializing would have been a better tactic. Gaby’s team treatment of their client cost them big mistake as they did not purchase any art at all. Tom’s client did purchased art worth 5,000 pounds! But in the end Sterling won the task with 4,579 pound in commission. Winning by a difference of just 137 pounds! Tom earned a lot of respect as for the first time ever in boardroom history, he fought for himself without smearing or pointing fingers at everyone else. He was honest and took responsibility for the risky moves he made. Lord sugar liked that. Lara took a back seat though out the task, she was also the weakest sales person on the team. She offered Tom no impute or advice at time of crisis, Jade was so indecisive but she sold better so Lara got her walking papers and rightly so! I was impressed with Tom, only two years out of university and already showing great business skills and understanding he’ll go far! Who is your favorite? Which artists would you have chosen? Please share with us:)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Apprentice- week 7- Can you smell what sells?...

This week’s task took Lord Sugar down memory lane..this is how he started his empire which is quite unbelievable! The teams replicated Sugar’s first business venture. They were sent to a wholesale warehouse with 150 pounds, they had to choose stock to sell on two location. The idea was to smell what sells! During the day, they had to restock through re-investing their takings in which ever products they saw sold best. Hopefully they delivered the best margin as well. Team Sterling with Nick as PM, had a clear strategy and plan from the get go. Very organized, they decided very quickly on products they felt would suit the public in Essex, they also chose items to be sold in the market- house hold products and items to be sold in the shopping mall- beauty products. ( For example fake tan and nail rapes). Phoenix under Jade, operated in complete chaos! Decision making was strategy what so ever- a word that would come back to haunt Jade... They spent so much time on finding the right location that they had just a few minutes to select the products. Jade wanted a big verity so it ended up being a random mix of items. She decided to split the items 50-50 between the market and the mall. Even though Azhar kept telling her they should send more items to the market and that they should decide which items are fitting which location, he was simply ignored even ridiculed. For Sterling, chosing specific items also matching the location they were at, proved good and sales went well. The fake tan was their best seller! Nick decided quickly to re stock, since it was raining at the market it was empty so Stephan&Ricky were sent to the warehouse. Nick made two crucial mistakes: 1. Their household stock remained in the van instead of being first dropped off at the mall for the team to sell. 2. They were quite far from the warehouse, Nick’s team members were much closer. This resulted in the team having a void period with nothing to sell for close to two hours! Ricky&Stephan were stuck in traffic.. They did identify their best seller so it was said- “Bring back as much tan as you can”. They re stocked three times doing their sums, selling with a high margin. Jade didn't pay enough attention to the price the items can actually be sold for and worst yet, she kept cutting prices which were low to begin with.. Lord Sugar was clear- the winner will be the team with the most assets! Meaning its cash profit and whole prices on items left therefore, cutting prices in that way made no business sense! Because it was a random mix of items, it was very hard to shift the goods. The sale’s team had to go from one item to the other when they have nothing in comment, some not fitting the public and foot traffic there leading to Jade's dropping price to 50%. They restocked three times as well but they missed the point big time- each time,the PM decided to restock on all items! The idea was to smell what sold best and restock that item. Again, she ignored the team suggesting to buy only their best sellers. The end result was that team was left with 7 items, the same amount they started with...Sterling had only two items... Adam did redeem himself a bit this week, he utilized his market sales abilities well. He felt right at home selling really well however, he too missed the mark. He doesn’t understand why one needs a proper strategy, pricing and he didn’t see that the flogging approach made no sense in this case. He made fun of these issues proving he should remain in the market, he will not be partners with Lord sugar well, I cant see that happening... also because he isn't open to learning anything new. You can take the boy out of the market but you can’t take the market out of the boy... Not having a strategy proved a big mistake for Phoenix, and combined with a much too broad assortment and a flogging mentality, it cost them the task- what a shock... Sterling won- 955 pounds profit, 117 pounds more then Phoenix. They did not slash their prices, they priced right from the get go and stuck to that. They sold the fake tan for example for 10 pounds a bottle, Jade’s team sold it for 2.99 pounds a bottle... In the board room, Jade gave a good fight and sold herself better then Azhar. Even though the loss was truly down to her bad management and lack of business skills, Azhar didn’t fight his corner hard enough and it cost him, he was fired. Lord Sugar said he decided to fire him because the team ignored him and didn’t take his opinions on board. This was true however, he at least knew what he was doing business wise. I don’t agree with his decision this week, do you? Feel free to share and add your views&comments on this episode below. Have a great weekend!