It’s been a busy week for us this week with the Facilities Show over in Birmingham, but the Apprentice continues and as always there are lessons to be learned. The task was slightly different this week, with the focus more on marketing, and we also saw a small shuffle of the teams with Nick moving back over to Phoenix. We also saw an inordinate amount of wasted time from members of one team as well as a complete failure to understand the nature of the task from some members of the other team (This seems to be a common theme this series!).
Tom, the wine investor in his real, non-televised life, must have thought all his Christmases had come at once when the candidates gathered in the champagne bar in St Pancras station and were told that this task was all about raising awareness of English sparkling wine through the creation of a brand, a website and a video advert. His experience in this area should prove to be a major advantage, although the same was apparently true last week where ultimately it counted against him.
Tom and Team Phoenix were told to pick one person from Team Sterling to join them, with Nick being the unanimous choice. This made for a veritable powerhouse of a team, with Tom’s wine expertise, Nick’s background in web design and marketing, Adam’s enthusiasm and Jade’s, well, Jade’s help.
Team Sterling, on the other hand, were not as strong (I think any team which includes Steve is at a distinct disadvantage!). However Ricky put himself forward as PM which gave me a degree of confidence, as I do quite rate him (once you get over the fact that he’s a semi professional wrestler called Ricky Martin!).
The first job was to head over to the vineyards and get an understanding of the products that they were tasked with marketing. Ricky didn’t waste any time getting to grips with everything, quickly identifying that the key message to portray was one of quality, to show that English sparkling wine is just as good as the more widely recognised French champagne. Conversely, Tom and Adam wasted a whole day touring the vineyards, obviously having a lot of fun and ending up quite merry but not really achieving anything of note in terms of the task, while the rest of their team spent the day slogging away designing the website.
Lesson One: Use your time productively
So many of the lessons in this series seem so obvious, yet our heroes continuously get them wrong. I’m sure if he were asked, Tom could give a very plausible reason for wanting to spend the whole day at the vineyards, but in reality it is difficult to see what the value of the exercise really was. This is particularly galling when you consider that Nick and Jade were working hard all day designing the website. Ricky, on the other hand, wasted no time at all. He quickly identified the message that was required and was straight back to his team to start moving things forward. Tom seemed far more interested in running wine tasting sessions and showing off his knowledge in front of Adam and the manufacturer – anyone feeling any déjà vu after last week?
In the meantime Steve and Gabi are working on ideas for the image of their campaign. With Ricky wanting to focus on quality, the pair headed off to Tesco to have a look at some of the branding used by sparkling wine manufacturers. Steve spent the whole time running around like a headless chicken, looking for a wine connoisseur amongst the Tesco staff, whilst Gabi did some good work which led to the creation of a great logo and image for their campaign. Unfortunately Steve had to have some input and, amongst a multitude of ridiculous names that he touted for their campaign, eventually settled on the name ‘Grandeur’ – a French word. How Steve is still in the competition I have no idea, I have seen nothing from him except daft ideas dressed up in meaningless business jargon and an uncanny ability to get away with it despite providing little in the way of useful input.
On to day 2, then, and it’s time to film the adverts. This is the part where our candidates often come unstuck and this week was no exception. Both adverts held little in the way of inspiration but team Sterling’s tacky, cheesy advert strayed completely off-track. You could see the disappointment in Ricky’s face when he watched the advert – the message it conveyed was the complete opposite to what he wanted to put across.
Lesson 2: Make sure your communication is consistent
So much importance is (rightly) given to communication in the FM industry but we have to make sure that the messages we are sending out are consistent. This is where the idea of the ‘One Team Approach’ comes in. When implemented properly, it ensures that everyone, from the FM to the individual contractors looking after their own specialisms, is conveying the same message and working to the same ideals. For more on One-Team thinking, have a look at the article by Mitie’s Tom Robinson in the most recent copy of FM World (p35) and for an example of this approach in action, have a look at my report on the FM operation at British American Tobacco.
On to the pitches and it was clear that of the two teams, it was Sterling that had really understood the brief and created the better campaign on the whole, whilst team Phoenix had focused too much on trying to sell the wine rather than simply raise awareness and change the general public opinion of English Sparkling Wine. Unfortunately, despite a great website, a good logo and a slick presentation, the appallingly tacky advert let them down. It would ultimately lose them the task.
As we have already mentioned, Sterling lost the task largely due to their awful video ad and the lack of consistency that this gave their message. I thought this was a shame because Ricky himself had a good handle on the task and his overall performance was far superior to Tom, who spent the first day getting tipsy and provided little direction or guidance to his team (Tom is rapidly falling in my estimation – this is the second week running that he has performed badly. He was lucky to get away with it this time).
Unfortunately Ricky was let down by Jenna and Steve and he brought both of them back into the boardroom with him. Somehow, despite his ineptitude and his irritating boardroom habit of interrupting when everyone else is talking (“specifics please!”), Steve survived and Lord Sugar pointed the finger at the other side of the table.
Jenna, you’re fired.
If you have any comments or observations on this week’s Apprentice and what lessons we can learn for the real world, we’d love to hear them – please leave your comments below. We’d also be interested to hear who you think the potential winner may be. I’ll be back next week with thoughts and lessons from the 10th task
Missed our lessons from the previous episodes? You can check them out here:
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 1
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 2
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 3
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 4
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 5
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 6
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 7
The Facilities Apprentice – Week 8