The Apprentice – Episode 3 – Robot Wars | The Chameleon Guide
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The Apprentice – Episode 3 – Robot Wars

This week – not so much Robot Wars as candidate wars as the animosity between the women built to dangerous levels!

It was, on the face of it, a simple enough challenge. Programme and brand a robot to sell to two major retailers and choose a less expensive robot product to sell to independent retailers.

As ever, the team that made the most profit won the task.

Since the men’s team had lost the last two challenges, their numbers were getting low so team jigging was required to balance the team sizes.

In an inspired moment, rather than mix up the two teams, Lord Sugar moved Michaela across, on the basis she has four brothers and therefore could relate to the men.

On principle, I’m not a fan of single sex teams as it generally results in, sadly, stereotypical behavior. But I think another week of the girls tearing each other’s throats out underlines the dangers inherent in having an all female (or male) group.

Michaela did a good job of winning over Vitality (I think the men were partly in awe and partly frightened of her – not always a bad thing).

Over at Graphene Jade wanted to be PM, but Anisa also threw her hat in the ring, with the justification, that she just loves robots. I would have given her the job on the spot – passion gets you a long way.

Graphene nailed their product by deciding to target the children’s market with an educational slant using language and numbers. Quite how the interactive element of karate was going to help with these I’m not quite sure especially as it also required a level of flexibility the robot simply didn’t have. As we shall see at the sales presentations.

Vitality chose the over 60s market. And thus descended into insulting farce. Their theory being, anyone over the age of 60 is senile, sits at home dribbling, completely isolated from society, with their lives only brightened by the arrival of meals on wheels once a week. Seriously??? Maybe it’s my approximate proximity to 60, but I was spitting feathers. As were, I imagine, the entire population of over 60 year olds who may have had the misfortune to be tuned in to the Apprentice this week. Lord Sugar was certainly deeply insulted by their blinkered assumptions about age.

I could rant on about this for some time, but I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say, it’s making my blood boil just typing it!

Having decided on patronising a huge swathe of the population, they then decided they needed help with recipes and remembering to take their medicine. Why would they need help with recipes, surely meals on wheels would deliver? Oh and a spot of yoga to help keep their zimmer framed, arthritic bodies mobile.

As demonstrated so eye wateringly by James:

To commemorate their dearly departed breakdancing colleague of last week, they decided to name the robot Jeffrii – Your helping hand for life. It was as good as any, and better than naming a storm Brian. Though one wag did hope that it danced ‘better than Jeff’. It wouldn’t be difficult.

Graphene rather lazily (in my opinion) called their robot ‘e-Bot’– Your interactive study buddy. This was despite Anisa throwing name after alternative name at them which were all completely ignored. I quite liked the strapline though. All very Ronseal.

Yet again Elizabeth and Siobhan were put into the same subteam to go and choose the other robot – is it a contractual thing that means they always have to be put together? It turns out the first spat between them was merely a warm-up for the fireworks later. Elizabeth simply said ‘We all know what we are doing’ and ‘We should support each other’. To which Siobhan cattily replied ‘Listen to your own advice’. When challenged by Elizabeth she responded with ‘Nothing’ then slightly sotto voce, but still loud enough for us all to hear, ‘you old hot air bag’.  Completely uncalled for and confirmed for me that Siobhan seems not to be a very nice person.

When it came to choosing the product to sell to independent retailers, both teams wanted the balancing robot. Vitality won it due to their enthusiasm for it. Unfortunately, Graphene were less passionate and Elizabeth asked about some functionality it didn’t have. Which of course Siobhan jumped on saying she had ‘underminded’ the product. Not once, but many more times when one of the two Sarahs’ disputed that was what Elizabeth had done. Faffling, underminded – the woman is inventing her own language!

With that, they got the remote controlled flying monster bird instead. Which I actually preferred and goes to show how up with trends I am (see later).

Vitality seriously messed up when getting their pitch board designed. Michaela decided that Jeffrii didn’t look right, so after some intense brainstorming, they came up with Siimon instead. Because that looks better… Unfortunately, they didn’t let the programming sub team know, so the robot thought it was still called Jeffrii. Unfortunately, with all the faffling around, they ran out of time and got a partially written board, full of typos in a colour scheme that made it very difficult to read. It was an unmitigated disaster.

The pitching

As pitches go, both teams did shamefully at their first ones. The girls kept interrupting each other, talking over the robot and the robot fell face down immediately it tried its first karate move. More ‘lie’ than ‘Hai!’

Elizabeth suggested they may like to think about buying 1,000 of the units which would net them £210k of profit. When asked how they’d arrived at that number by one of the buyers she simply responded with ‘It just seemed like a nice round number’. My love for her bonkeredness (my word not Siobhan’s) continues.

In the meantime, the boys faltered over the Siimon/Jeffrii miscommunication. The pitch board made things worse with Elliott putting the final nail in the coffin by describing Alex’s 87 year old grandma who is left on her own hanging on for that blasted meals on wheels van. For shame Alex’s family! Can I just point out that my dad is heading for 87 and at the weekend we yomped up hill and down dale and as I left he was raking the lawn…I can’t let it go, sorry.

When they suggested a retail price of £735, the buyer rather acerbically rounded on them with a you want us to sell this robot at that price, with an unfinished board that is grammatically incorrect and a robot that doesn’t know if it’s Jeffrii or Siimon? All very good points.

Needless to say Vitality left with tail between legs and the pitch board was promptly ditched into the nearest bin.

At the pitch with Maplins, Jade backed up her pitch with the solid piece of research that it’s well known ‘you are a million times more likely to learn when you practice something’. A million eh? Pretty impressive.

Elizabeth saved the pitch saying the robot could be put into demo mode for when it was out on the shop floor to show potential customers what it was able to do – the retailers looked impressed.

Meanwhile, the sub team at Vitality were doing stonking business with the balancing robot. Michaela is a great sales person, and so it seems is Andrew who we haven’t seen much of so far (though, gossip time – allegedly, him and Anisa had a bit of ‘thing’ going on in the house – my shameful reading of Heat has its uses!).

I wish I could say the same for Graphene who were lumped with the remote controlled turkey! So much for my finger on the technology pulse. At the first pitch they should have left at the point at which the buyers said they ‘avoided selling that kind of thing’ and ‘it’s a high risk market at the moment’ and ‘we’re not interested’. And other pointed comments that made it abundantly clear they weren’t ever going to buy a single unit.

Clearly Siobhan didn’t hear any of this as she came out with guns blazing about how nobody helped her and the whingefest began in earnest. On and on and on until Sarah (one of them) turned round and told her she was ridiculous. Or ‘so unprofessional’ as accurately described by Karren.

They managed to sell some into ‘The Entertainer’ despite, or maybe because of, the dive bombing of Karren with the flying contraption.

The boardroom

By the time they got to the boardroom, I was unable to call which way I thought the task was going to go.

Vitality got off to a good start with £5785 worth of balancing robots sold, but unfortunately (and I guess not terribly surprisingly in retrospect), zero sales of the programmable robots.

Graphene with their less popular flying turkey only sold £1477 worth of product.

However, they managed to sell 15 of the programmable bots into the major retailer and an incredible 100 to Maplin giving them a total profit of £57,827. Which rather blew Vitality out of the water.

Vitality failed because they chose a rubbish target sector, then compounded it with their completely misplaced perception of the over 60s market, confusion over the Siimon/Jeffrii name and terrible branding. Whereas Graphene chose a growing sector, linked to education and had a very clear message (other than the karate thing).

The firing

Michaela brought Elliott and Harrison back in for the final accounting.

Whilst she made some serious mistakes, she at least was honest about it and her strategy was to ‘breeze past my negatives and point out everyone else’s’. I like her, she’s ballsy (if you’ll excuse the male metaphor in a team of men who don’t seem to have one between them!).

Elliott however, tried to squirm his way out of things – he came across as very slippery and with no charisma. Harrison was quite frankly a bit of a non entity and just generally ineffective.

Despite Michaela being firmly in the firing line, Elliott’s weaseling ways did for him and he was rightly sacked. As Michaela said afterwards, back at the house, it was ‘the worst experience of my life – and I’ve given birth’. It’s a bit how I feel about this episode – it was just downright painful.

They really do need to up their game – the men need to pull their collective fingers out and the women need to find a way of not trying to underminded each other at every turn.

Next week – corporate hospitality. Or should that be corporate hostility?



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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.