The Apprentice Week Two: Business or Personal?

The boys, led by Azhar, had two ideas. The first was essentially a composter to place on your kitchen counter and the second to revive the traditional rubber glove by adding scourers and sponges. The girls, led by Jane, sat in silence for quite a while before coming up with the idea of a bath screen to stop children splashing water everywhere and a tap cosy to cover bath taps and rest your feet or head on.

Both teams immediately set about researching the viability of their products by pitching them to focus groups. In time old Apprentice tradition, both teams went against public opinion by opting for the less popular inventions. This happens in every series and it drives me crazy! The whole aim of a focus group is to establish if there is a market for your idea. What’s the point in setting one up, explaining and pitching your product to simply ignore all feedback and carry on regardless?

The boys settle on the composter and the girls go for the bath screen. Now let’s just take a second to think about how much we would use either of these products. The composter is essentially nothing more than a bin full of rotting waste sitting up on your food preparation area and the splash screen could either be considered as a safety hazard, restricting parents access to their child, or just another faddy toy that’s used a couple of times before being discarded to the back of the bathroom cabinet. In my opinion, both of these products were completely useless.

The boys won the task with sales of 13,000 units against the girls 7,500 units and they were sent away for this weeks treat. This is where the fun really begins.

With all of the girls still in the boardroom the bitching begins. With every series of the Apprentice, the female candidates seem intent on proving to the male population of viewers that women in business are nothing short of a pack of banshees. I’m amazed Lord Sugar hasn’t yet gone deaf with the amount of shouting and arguing that takes place in that boardroom.

When questioned on her decision process for choosing the Splish Splash, Jane really struggled to explain herself in any logical way. Her reply was that she thought it was the best product and that her sub team agreed with her decision. At this point you must realise that her sub team consisted of Laura, the inventor of the product, Jenna, who couldn’t get her figures right and Maria who was partaking in forty winks at the time of the discussion.

Jane initially decides to bring Maria and Katie back into the boardroom based on the fact that, in her opinion, they contributed least, at which point Katie finally found her voice (hooray!) and disputed her decision. Jane seemed happy with her choice until Lord Sugar asked if that was her final decision and sensing that he was questioning her reasoning she quickly changed her mind giving Katie a reprieve and returning with Maria and Jenna.

Personally, I think Lord Sugar loses respect for any candidate who changes their mind at this point. This act does not show confidence in your own decision making, it simply demonstrates that you are eager to please regardless of your own opinion. Who would want to go into business with someone like that?

The thing that really strikes me about the final three in the boardroom is the difference in the way the sexes deal with the situation. In all past series of the show the men have tended to be more to the point and very focussed on task related issues. The women, and these three are no exception, make it a much more personal experience and not in a good way.

Yet again the claws come out and the girls start arguing. It came as no surprise to me to hear Nick Hewer refer to Maria as ‘shouty and noisy’. She had valid points to get across but the way in which she tried to do so showed her immaturity, which, is a shame as I’m a huge supporter of young women in enterprise.

The failure of the task was down to many different aspects, the product was awful, the pitches were dull and trying to get Amazon to purchase a million products with their initial order was just down right ridiculous but all of this stems from one person. The project manager is ultimately responsible for the performance of each team member. Managing other people can be difficult but in a situation like that you have to be able to not only manage others but also listen and take on board their input. Jane failed miserably when it came to each of these points. She ignored market research, suggestions from her fellow team members and more importantly her common sense when it came to making decisions.

It was a tough one to call this week as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if all three women had been fired, and to be perfectly honest I think it probably should have happened but in the end it was Maria who was fired based on the fact that Lord Sugar was unable to establish just how much she had contributed to the task.

When leaving the boardroom, the candidates usually say farewell to their unlucky team mate but yet again proving the personal level at which some women take business, neither of the remaining candidates said goodbye, shook her hand or even offered a cursory hug.

And we wonder why we aren’t always taken seriously in business. If these are the examples the viewing public are seeing then I’m not surprised.

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