From the top · 8 November 2018

“Insulting to women”: Real entrepreneurs left stunned by The Apprentice Episode 6

Neither team impressed our panel in episode 6 | Credit: BBC

When Lord Sugar assigns his candidates weekly tasks on The Apprentice, real-life business owners are usually left seething in front of television screens at the show’s failure to capture the true tests of entrepreneurship in 2018.

As the series passed the halfway point in episode 6, Lord Sugar tasked teams Typhoon and Collaborative with creating and marketing a brand new budget airline.

Following some woeful branding efforts with Jetpop, Collaborative’s project manager, Kurran Pooi received his marching orders by Lord Sugar in the boardroom.

Business Advice asked a panel of entrepreneurs and a former winner where the teams went wrong, and if the show can still offer lessons for those in the real business world.

Daniel Scott, founder CoinCorner

  1. What the winning team did well

Typhoon did well by default as Kurran wasn’t their Project Manager! Aside from this, their overall campaign was better (using that loosely!) than what the losing team executed. They still missed many marks and made a lot of mistakes though so they aren’t worthy of any high praise this week.

  1. What the losing team did badly

Where do I begin? With Kurran in the role of PM, the rest of the team didn’t have a lot of hope.

Initially, he was easily swayed by the rest of his team to take the party airline route rather than business traveller. If he had stuck to his guns and picked the theme he was more comfortable with, perhaps the outcome would have been less of a complete disaster.

Despite Kurran’s leadership, the sub-team of Camilla and Jackie turned out to be unpredictable and lacking in any commercial sense. They got completely carried away with the party theme and made a poor choice with the brand name “Jetpop” (come on ladies!), created a terrible logo and committed a cardinal sin with the uniform design. It makes anyone wonder if either of them has ever taken a flight?

  1. Which candidate stood out in a good way?

None really stood out in a good way, but despite her failings in the losing sub-team, Jackie generally stood out as a person with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. She threw herself into the task in hand (maybe a bit too much though!) and was trying her best to engage the audience during Collaborative’s speech.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

Despite trying hard to show she has good business acumen, Jasmine’s efforts to impress left her standing out as a bad candidate. She didn’t follow her PM’s decisions, argued against her team and took over many situations to do things her way. She simply didn’t act professionally and possibly compromised the team’s video campaign from being more successful.

  1. What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Allow more time than you think when planning to do video advertising. From our business experience, video production and editing takes considerable time and is a lengthy process from start to finish. All things considered with the video advert element of the task, perhaps the candidates didn’t do as badly given that they aren’t production specialists and only had a short amount of time to complete the video.

Secondly, research and learn about the industry you’re operating in – and do it in-depth. Team Collaborative were totally insensitive to what is going on in the aviation industry at the moment as they didn’t stop to consider the implications of their uniform or brand name. Knowing your external environment inside out is crucial when operating a business.

the apprentice
Credit: BBC

Samantha Caine, managing director of Business Linked Teams

This week’s challenge saw the teams tasked with creating and marketing a brand new budget airline. Kurran was finally ready to show Lord Sugar what he was capable of, although this had been at Lord Sugar’s request and ultimately put the final nail in the coffin.

As Lord Sugar had pointed out during the runway briefing, two and half million flights took to the sky from British soil last year. That’s a vast and wide-ranging target market comprising of people of all backgrounds, ages and professions, so limiting your target market to a specific niche such as business people or young partygoers doesn’t make a lot of commercial sense. You’re effectively restricting your potential sales.

Team Collaborative’s branding showed little awareness of what people expect from an airline – namely comfort and safety for start. Even those who might be attracted by the idea of a party airline would likely be put off by the ‘O’ in Jetpop resembling an explosion. They also showed little consideration for the people the airline would potentially employ, expecting air hostesses to do their job in revealing, impractical uniforms. If you want your business to succeed, you need to ensure your staff are able to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. I can’t imagine any air hostess comfortably or confidently stowing luggage in an overhead locker wearing that uniform.

In my opinion, the right person left the show this week. With Kurran the aspiring actor finally placed in the spotlight, he failed to make the best of this opportunity. We had waited for six episodes to witness his leadership abilities but the advert task showed a real lack of emotional intelligence when it came to managing his team and taking their thoughts on board. Kurran’s tenure on the show has been a classic tale of someone trying to run before they can walk. You can’t expect to be a great leader without the right experience, skills and behaviours in place, and anyone that says they are going to ‘deal with’ a member of their staff in a boardroom environment certainly isn’t cut out for the job.

Faisal Nasim, founder ExamPapersPlus

What a disappointing week this was. There was no single strong candidate across the whole task.

The weakest, by far, was Kurran, who once again gave a masterclass in indecisiveness and showed absolutely zero enthusiasm during the pitch. He did once again try to wriggle his way out of it in the boardroom, but Lord Sugar had had enough and he was given his marching orders – arguably a few weeks later than he should have had them!

The losing team’s downfall came in two areas. First of all, their message was completely inappropriate for an airline. It promoted boozing and partying, a clear aviation safety issue quickly identified by the experts. It was the wrong message. And their TV commercial didn’t make clear what service they were offering. That was 100% down to Kurran.

In a week when nobody really seemed to do particularly well, Jasmine was just about the strongest. She was serious about the task and was, quite rightly, trying her best to keep the team focused on the airline messaging rather than the poor comedy they were trying to get into their ad.

The winning team really only did one thing better and that was the TV ad that Jasmine really helped to tone down a little bit at least.

What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

Simplify your message and master the elevator pitch. Nobody could make out from Collaborative’s ad was it was even about. They really couldn’t explain their business in a sentence or two and that’s where it went wrong.

Who got fired this week? | Credit: BBC

Bruce Spencer-Knott, managing director Minister Surfacing

This week’s episode was a hard lesson in leadership.

For me, it was clear from the first five minutes which team was going to come out on top, just by the way the project managers spoke to the teams around them.

As for ‘Captain’ Kurran, his team’s choice of a party-focused budget airline with an explosive name was undoubtedly misconceived and well out of date, but his management style made it worse. He was rude to his team, overruling their ideas and expertise, dismissing their concerns and generally alienating them at every opportunity. It was no surprise to see him take the fall for his team’s mistakes, and rightly so.

You see this approach all too often in business – badly managed teams being more preoccupied with internal politics and wrangling than getting on with doing a good job or being able to question when something feels amiss. Despite the unprofessionalism of some in his team, the blame for that mess lies with the leader.

On the other hand, Sabrina was the standout candidate of the week. As leader of Typhoon, she brought her team with her, managing through consensus where possible and then, when needed, making hard-nosed decisions from the top. A good leader lights a fire in their team, not under it. She got the best from her team and even handled Jasmine’s attempts to undermine her in smart and even-handed way. The smart money’s on her to still be there in the final week.

Danny Doughty, Director, Roch Valley

  1. What the winning team did well

The advertising task, one of Lord Sugar’s favourite weeks. We know he likes clear messages and no-nonsense, straight to the point approach to this task. Although the winning team made many mistakes, it was their decision to choose business travel as a theme which proved to be the decisive factor, it enabled them to focus more clearly on creating a clear brand with a well-defined target demographic.

  1. What the losing team did badly

Almost everything was wrong about Team Collaborative’s effort. It was a bad decision to go for a party themed airline in the current climate, the news is awash with stories of bad behaviour and drunkenness in the air, it’s surely irresponsible to create a brand which encourages all the worst aspects of today’s trash culture, and it was bound to go down badly with the industry experts. The air hostess uniforms were not only a terrible design in terms of practicality, but was also insulting to women, a point which Karen was bound to pick up on. The brand name had a very negative connotation and almost unbelievably the logo looked like an explosion! The advert had no clear message and let’s face it – if you have to explain your concept to Lord Sugar you’re in big trouble.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a good way?

It’s really hard to pick an outstanding candidate this week, nobody covered themselves in glory. A few candidates had positive moments, for example, Tom came up with the winning business idea, and Kayode was able to use humour to win over the audience at the pitch despite being unable to satisfactorily answer the questions he was faced with, and I liked Jasmine’s serious approach to the task, even though she was portrayed as a party pooper, she showed determination to make her mark and to do the best job in the interests of her team.

  1. Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

No contest here, Kurran would have had to produce something special to stay in the process and he just didn’t have it in him. He was indecisive as a leader and was unable to stamp any authority on his team, although he suggested a name for the brand, he didn’t insist on it as he later protested, he had also originally suggested business as a brand theme but allowed his team to overrule him. Instead of focusing on a clear strategy, he indulged his directorial fantasies which ultimately led to disaster.

  1. What lessons can small business owners take from this episode?

If you want to be a leader stick to your vision. Always listen to your team but have the and strength of conviction to make the big decisions and follow through with them, that way your message has a much better chance of coming through loud and clear.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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