Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week 2 Task: Sell Ice Cream in NYC.

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 2
Task : Sell Ice cream in NYC.
Judged on: Sales, the team that makes the most profit wins.

*After an interesting first week, the teams get their second task.
Selling Ice cream in NYC.
The hardest thing to do in this economy, is to sell.

As soon as Mr. Trump announces the task, I instinctively figure out that Dave would be a good salesperson for Octane. It is no surprise when he volunteers,I think his telecoms sales background would give him an edge. That said, I still have some reservations about how organized he would be as a PM, especially after his performance in week one, (read my week one blog here). My thoughts are echoed by Clint, and I quote “this could be the kiss of death for us”.
Over at Fortitude’s fortress, Poppy is the new PM. A huge shock since Poppy does not have any sales experience. Hopefully she has better PM skills and can identify the salespeople in her team. I thought maybe Mahsa or Stephanie would be PM.
Initially both PMs seem organized as they identify key duties for their team members. Poppy needs to watch out for Stephanie, it looks like she is going to take over this task. This is a tactic that has been used in the past on both the Apprentice and the Celebrity Apprentice. An Alpha contestant “hijacks” the PM role hoping that if the team ends up in the boardroom, they can use this as a reason NOT to get fired by simply claiming that the PM did not manage the project (no pun intended).
As the episode progresses we are treated to a shouting match, cajoling and begging as both teams try to make a sale. It seems neither team has a sales strategy in place. Huge mistake.
Two important sales strategies (or lack of) highlighted: branding and price.
We see team Fortitude members get angry when Liza mentions two different prices to some of the prospective clients. I guess that was her way of trying to ensure that the team gets “THAT” sale no matter what. However, if I went to a car dealership and was told, “hey we can sell you a car for $10,000 or for $8,000.” I would want to buy it for $8k no doubt. If there are two salespeople that can’t seem to agree on the price, I would probably go somewhere else. Why? They are both probably trying to rip me off, but one is just greedier than the other. The girls should have discussed their price range and have each individual member approach a different client and try to sell. Start at $5, if they are hesitant then offer a discount and drop the price to say $4 or $3.50 if they buy two. You trick the customer to think that its cheaper but they are actually paying you more because now they are buying two instead of one.
Both teams should have also avoided approaching potential clients as a gang. I would get defensive if say 4 or 5 people approached me to try and sell me something.
I am not sure how early the shops open but I would think that the teams would have bought their uniforms before they started selling. Maybe they had to sell a few ice cream Popsicles to get the money to buy the uniforms. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.
As day one draws to a close we see David make a decision that might cost them the victory. We are also introduced to the sales stallions Anand and Steuart. These two have probably done a lot of sales in the course of their careers.
Day two...both companies start playing dirty, a strategy that companies use all the time. Octane took Fortitude’s prime spot, taking advantage of location and geographic distribution. Fortitude also carried out their research to find out what Octane was doing. I liked their tactic of ruining sales for Octane, giving free samples so customers do not buy Octane’s ice-cream. Meanwhile, Octane slashed their prices to $1. This is usually a good move if you are going to sell a lot of merchandise, but was it a good move this time? The price might have been too low.We’ll find out in the boardroom.
I was surprised when Poppy mentioned to Stephanie that she would pick Liza if they lost. I think Liza had a brilliant idea for the uniforms. Also, Stephanie was the one in charge of sales and the task was to be judged on sales.
As always, the boardroom is a good lesson on what I call “101 ways to be unprofessional”.  Mr. Trump is really in a fiesty mood this time and delivers a shocker to Liza. Liza turns out to be the star of this episode. She defends herself with dignity and respect. It is clear that some of her teammates have already aligned themselves against her as evidenced when Poppy tried to make an attempt to apologize back in the suite while watching the men sweat it out in the boardroom. One of them even mentions it that she is isolating herself (Not clear who said this).
Well, Mahsa, “knew” they won even before the results were announced because she "did not have faith in the men". As Mr. Trump said, you can never know you won.
When Mr. Trump did not ask all the men to leave and then have David come back in with James and Alex, it was pretty obvious that he already had an idea who he would fire.
I believe that if Alex fought for himself, David would have been fired because he was the PM. His team had no strategy and they lost. Alex made it very easy not to fire Dave. So I guess my prediction from last week was wrong.
The contestants need to keep in mind that they are not there to make friends.Its WAR!

Stay tuned for Week 3.

P.S Congratulations to Alex who got his dream job as construction management inspector and materials tester. Way to go Engineer. Wishing you all the best in your new job.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week 1 Task : Design an ultra modern function space.

My two cents on The Apprentice
Week 1
Task : Design an ultra modern function space.
Judged on:
  • Execution
  • Functionality
  • Originality

*On this season’s Apprentice, it's all about getting America back to work. The contestants are either unemployed or struggling entrepreneurs and this is a good platform to get theirs!

The first week is where we get introduced to the contestants and this task brought out the dynamics of the group.
As the show progresses, I like to try and understand the candidates and make my own pick, compare this to my friends and see if the producers pick the same people to be fired week after week and ultimately hire The Apprentice in the end.

The first person to catch my attention is Steuart. While the contestants are in the boardroom for the introduction, he is shown making a comment about how Dave does not look prepared because he looks tired and stressed. Here is someone commenting about a person they have just met, even before the tasks start. Well it later turns out that Dave is on unemployment and has 5 kids. Its no wonder he looks tired. Steuart takes another jab at Alex because he confuses Phoenix and Icarus. Well it might be 5th grade Mythology but how sure is he that everyone did their 5th grade in the US. He needs to be more open minded. Let's see how far he can get.

Wade is an interesting candidate. I am not sure I quite like the way he volunteers Gene to be project manager. The first task is usually the hardest since no one knows their team's talents or weaknesses. He is probably setting Gene up for a fall because “I do not want to stick my head under the lawn mower”. --His own words. I would say he is a schemer. With over 11 years in real estate, he might actually be someone that the producers have their eye on.

Gene does not do too well on day one. His leadership style is military and it seems to strike a bad chord with some of his David.

Dave strikes me as someone that is going to cause trouble for Octane. I kinda have a feeling that should the men lose, either Dave or the PM will be fired. But you never know, this is reality TV and it is sometimes very unpredictable.

Enter Nicole. She strike me as a very intelligent woman. She’s all about beauty and brains but lacks judgement.She practically grabs the opportunity to be project manager. Again, the first task is not something that any of the contestants should jump at, unless they have very good PM skills including delegation, or they have a lot of experience related to the task in question. She has neither of the above. It is very clear at the beginning of the task that if the women lose, Nicole would be fired. Tyana mentions that she has experience. Nicole should at least try to listen to Tyana’s ideas and modify what she does not like. But she is shown saying Tyana's ideas are tacky. She also says Tyana frustrates her which is an obvious bias. Biggest mistake. However, she eventually decides to take Tyana furniture shopping but only because she wants someone to blame in case that turns out to be the reason they lost.

The female contestant to watch is Mahsa who apparently has been bossing people around since she was a child. I liked how she was so direct and open at first. She seems to totally grasp Nicole’s leadership sense. She was quoted as saying that Nicole has a lot of grace on the outside but is lacking in soft sense. That said, she is a bit of a turn off in the boardroom. She has good points but she tries to talk over everyone (maybe this comes from her attorney background). I try to keep an open mind, but Ivanka seems to pick up on that too.

My Verdict:


Enter the boardroom...
The women's space was very boring. The colors were drab and the office had no life. The reception was very inviting, I just wish the rest of the space would have followed the same trend. Mr. Forty threw the final spanner in the works.

The men's space had more life. It actually looked like something I would like to work in. The boardroom was missing a TV,very important in today's business world it was also too small. They did not have defined reception are.

It was no surprise that Nicole was fired, although I thought that they might fire Mahsa because of her lack of professionalism. But this is reality TV and it thrives on such characters.

Project Management Lesson 101:
Find out your teams strengths and weaknesses and manage these. As a PM you are not really managing the project, but managing the human resource to help you accomplish your goals.

Stay tuned...