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Amanda Augustine, Career Advice Expert – TopCVThis week?s episode left a bitter taste in the mouth – and not just because of the underwhelming chocolates. The Apprentice thrives on being cringeworthy, but this week was something special. For Week 10, the candidates were challenged with cashing in on the ever-popular Christmas chocolate trend. The two teams approached the task from opposing viewpoints – one high-end and the other… ?cheeky?. From Claude tasting the mince pie chocolate concoction, to ?Santa School? and the deeply uncomfortable dancing pitches, there were a number of Apprentice firsts this week.
“We saw Sabrina step up for the first time in a while to take on the project manager role, and opt to target the high-end market.”This was a risky strategy – with so many competing brands in an already-saturated market, the team needed their product to really stand out. Fortunately, for the Renoir Chocolat team, although their packaging was not particularly polished, the absurdity of the other team?s efforts gave them a free ticket to the final. Typhoon didn?t seem to have learnt from previous mistakes (i.e. skimpy air hostess uniforms). Their packaging was overly sexualised and not suitable for the family supermarket chain they were selling to. The entire concept was ill thought through. Simple kitchen measurement errors cost Typhoon dearly in terms of the quality of the chocolates themselves, but the ?seductive? chocolate concept was flawed from the very beginning. And as much as Camilla thought she could sell the products through sheer energy alone, if the product itself tastes bad and the way it is presented is bordering on offensive, there really isn?t much more to say.
“When it came to presenting their products to the online gift company and the major retailer, both teams struggled to deliver a cohesive, professional and persuasive pitch.”Team Collaborative lost their way with the childish and unprofessional manner in which they kicked off their presentation. This wasn?t my cup of tea, but I would take it any day over an audience participation elf dance. On the losing team, and in the firing line this week, was Sarah Ann. As the person responsible for the market research, she failed to deliver negative consumer feedback about the flavour of the chocolates. Project manager Camilla was extremely lucky that Sarah Ann had not shone enough in previous episodes to carry her, though, because the execution of the ?naughty and nice? theme was an absolute disaster. All in all, the brand was tasteless, as were the chocolates. Final thoughts? In short, I thought the professionalism was supposed to improve as the weeks went on and we would see the dead wood dropped. But, I honestly feel like nobody sold themselves as a polished, sophisticated potential business partner for Lord Sugar. It was more like watching a group of teenagers messing around on work experience than smart and savvy young professionals embracing a challenge. Next week is all about the business plans, but whose will measure up to scrutiny and whose will prove to be nothing more than hot air?
Paul Rowlett, CEO/Founder – EverythingBranded.co.uk
Week 10 saw a dream task and a nightmare result.
Faced with the challenge of creating a bespoke selection of chocolates to pitch to a national supermarket and an online retailer, Team Collaborative (Sabrina, Sian and Khadija) decided that high-end was the only way to go.
Sabrina as PM was her usual over-enthusiastic self yet made good decisions and her instruction to Khadija to create “two safe flavours and one ‘out-there’ for a luxury product was a reasonable call to make.
However, she was not specific about what might constitute ‘out-there’ and having heard Khadija’s declaration: ‘What could be more classy than a chestnut?’, It was easy to see that a little more in the way of instruction would have been helpful.
Khadija was abandoned in the lab and to be fair worked hard and methodically, carefully measuring her chosen ingredients.
Sadly, the finished collection was far from ‘luxury’ in terms of flavour or ‘out there’ but this was no surprise given the inadequate brief.
“Lesson 1, take the time to explain a task with clarity, it saves so much wasted effort later on.”
Despite the uninspired packaging, Santa’s trousers falling down and the even blander product, Remoir Chocolat was a hit and Team Collaborative sold 7,000 units.
This was a deserved win for Sabrina who is emerging as competent and dedicated if a little exuberant at times.
Team Typhoon, (Daniel, Camilla and Sarah Anne), went to the opposite extreme and opted for cheap and tacky.
“Camilla put herself forward as PM and immediately adopted the same approach that we saw in the JetPop debacle, dragging any concept into the depths of tackiness.”
What started out as a very marketable idea, ie: a ‘Naughty but Nice’ stocking filler rapidly evolved into what looked like a packet of Christmas condoms.
Camilla’s contribution as PM was to add a cartoon dolly bird to the ‘Seduction’ box and invent suggestive names for the chocs. (One hesitates to speculate how she intends to market her ‘nut milk’.)
“Lesson 2, research your market. How is a family supermarket expected to incorporate, as Lord Sugar said, a product that appears to be a chocolate Willy Wonka, in the children’s ‘stocking filler’ section?”
Let’s not even discuss the pitches. Enough to say it’s probably better not to force a professional panel whom you have never previously met to join in an elf dance.
Karren summed up the situation perfectly, calling the car crash product ‘tasteless’ in every respect.
“This week’s victim, Sarah Anne, was a justified culling, not just in the sense of investment potential but very much for her performance in the lab.”
A manufacturer will need accurate weights and measures to reproduce a recipe and it’s therefore best practice not to drink yourself legless whilst creating.
Sarah Anne did fall apart, although it was Camilla’s call to be in charge of chocolate and she should never have delegated this task.
‘Branding Experts’ Daniel and Camilla were hardly better applied to the sleazy packaging design, not least because there was no clear way to show what the box contents were.
“Lesson 3, put the best-qualified people to the task, and that may mean you – even if you’re enjoying yourself dressing up.”
Finally – the importance of demeanour. The Apprentice candidates often confuse being dynamic with being pushy and rude.
As Daniel told us ‘I don’t care about the other two, this is all about me’. We all know the bottom line but it’s probably more important to leave bridges intact in a business environment – as you never know….
Stacey MacNaught, Content Marketing ConsultantI really enjoyed watching this task. And from the outset, it had been set up to give them opportunities to sell either with a fun or with a luxury brand (hence pitching to both Moonpig and Co-Op). Collaborative did a solid job this week. While the idea was perhaps a tad less than original, they produced an on brief product that looked appealing and tasted good. This was reflected in that huge order they received.
“The standout candidate was Sian.”She was assertive in a controlled way and played a significant role in producing a product that looked the part. I also thought she was brilliant in how she handled the unwarranted criticism Khadija received for her overly ?safe? recipes, simply overriding Sabrina?s comments and boldly stating that she thought they tasted great. On Typhoon, it was a disaster from start to finish. Lord Sugar said he found it difficult to ?level blame,? to a single one of them for the task (given they all messed up royally along the way). And so his decision about who to fire was made based on the potential he felt they had as his future business partner. Was it the right decision? Personally, I think both Camilla and Sarah should have gone. Daniel?s previous performance was probably enough to justify his progression. But Camilla was a poor leader who made some appalling decisions like sending Sarah Ann off to the kitchen (where she proceeded to get tipsy and fail to measure anything) and the result was a sleazy and offensive brand with tasteless chocolates.
“Everything about Typhoon?s performance was poor.”As for the business lessons we can take from it? Don?t get carried away with ideas. There?s a difference between cheeky and sleazy and a difference between quirky and offensive. It went too far because Daniel and Camilla were egging one another on. Always keep your ideas in check.
Martin Talbot, Group Director – Total Jobs
“Not all feedback and results will have a positive outcome, but by taking these experiences in your stride and learning from mistakes made, this will be much more productive for your future. This could have made a difference in the outcome of this task.”What lessons and takeaways can budding entrepreneurs and small business owners take from this episode? If you?re looking for a new job or work opportunity around the Christmas period, make sure to stand out in the right way by simply being honest about your abilities and what you can offer. Hiring is a two-way street, but you need to make sure you?re going for the right job to fit you. Learn from Sarah Ann?s mistakes, by ensuring you communicate your expectations and past achievements clearly so that the lines of communication always remain open. Finally, be careful not to overpromise and under-deliver. This is a common mistake to make when trying to impress during the recruitment process, so be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses to help you continue surpassing the expectations of your future boss or business partner.
Linda Davies Carr, Business Turnaround Coach ? TheMasterFixer.comThe team shuffle worked well, in so much that there was a landslide of a victory for Collaborative, who chose the language of luxury and went for the crowded market of luxury chocolate. However what worked exceptionally well for them this week was their teamwork.
“It was a great decision to put Khadija in charge of the chocolates, she has a tendency to be argumentative, so working solo was a great decision and delivered a great result.”She was meticulous and organised. The flavours were not the most innovative but they were consistent and well thought through – she executed well. Camilla did well, evoked a team spirit and led her team to success Their combination produced a solid performance. Both Khadija and Sian have been in the winning teams for 6 out of ten challenges. Their pitch was solid in its delivery, my only concern is that Sian over promises when under pressure and made up random offers and numbers without thinking through the viability.
“Although solid in their collective delivery, Sian did appear desperate in her approach.”The success of Collaborative was the polar opposite to the shambolic performance of Typhoon. They definitely had fun! Maybe Sarah Ann?s slugging from the bottle affected her decision-making ability as her fundamental flaw was creating the sample batch without weighing the ingredients, leaving guess working to a disaster. Not weighing the ingredients was a schoolgirl error. They did, however, meet the brief – it was well matched, but Camilla and Daniel got carried away and they to get lost in the brief, as cheeky turned into sexy and sleazy. Santa’s Choc Seduction evolved into an inappropriate and offensive product. The branding was outdated and offensive, the brand and chocolates were tasteless. They got carried away with the fun and lost focus on the task. Don?t start me on the cringe-worthy pitch! Their inappropriate sexualised design and presentation to a high street retailer, represented by three women had us cringing in our seats. Essentially they had a great start, but got carried away with the ?Super sexy x 1000? and ?Energy x 1000? and the execution plan was poor. It was more Love Island and less Apprentice! The learnings and takeaways from this week are that teamwork wins hands down every single time; be aware of your environment and current affairs and never ever mislead your clients.
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