Lessons from The Apprentice, week 5
How to avoid getting fired
Once upon a time, the Lord Sugar gathered his apprentices and asked them to write a book for all the little children in the land. But it didn't end happily ever after. In week 5 Natalie was the author of her own demise, as she failed to sell Snottydink – the literary ‘baby' of project manager Sam. Sam was lucky to remain in the contest come the end of the episode, very nearly being the one to leave, so what have we learnt this week about…
How to not get fired
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Lesson #1: Never give up
"I put all my passion and energy into that"
So said Sam during his impassioned plea to Lord Sugar to remain in the competition. Returning to the boardroom, he appeared to turn the tables on his earlier indecisiveness, offering clear reasoning for his fellow returnees, thoughtful (if a little naïve) reflection on the task, and an obvious conviction in what he was doing. It seems he survived by the skin of his teeth.
To beat Team Snottydink, Charlene also pulled it around with a heroic last-minute sale of 125 books, turning what would have been an ill-managed loss into triumph. In each case, continuing to believe until the very last saved the candidate in question. Had they not, Natalie may have escaped the fatal words of Lord Sugar. As it was, she needed a similar recovery act, which unfortunately didn't materialise.
Key take-away: be passionate about what you're doing and believe in yourself – sometimes you need to dig deep to win
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Lesson #2: Think before you speak
"We haven't got anything that's currently popular, but we've got Snottydink"
Or as Scott put it more appealingly ‘a limited edition, you're not going to get this anywhere else' salvaging a sale of 10 units. When Natalie asked the bookseller what she looked for, the response was ‘a good seller'. Here, neither Snottydink nor Natalie proved to be so, her ill-thought out approach not making any headway selling the book.
With a similar bit of spin earlier, Scott rephrased Natalie's pre-pitch feedback from the focus group – ‘some of them thought the writing was quite poor … some of the words were too complex for the children' – by suggesting selling it in as a great product for children to learn. In both examples, and later in the boardroom, Natalie's careless approach to her communication betrayed what Lord Sugar deemed to be an underlying immaturity, which was a chief factor in her leaving.
Key take-away: be thoughtful – you shouldn't deliberate to the point of inaction or logistical issues, but do consider your actions as well as how you communicate
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Lesson #3: Own your product and your pitch
"It's simply down to numbers"
It was the numbers that cost Sam's team the task, and it was the numbers that cost Natalie her pitch in front of Karen. There wasn't much evidence of her conviction in the ‘elephant-dragon hybrid' protagonist of her product, and she cracked when questioned on the numbers. Owning your pitch means owning your product, financials and all. In this case, the pitch was cut short abruptly as the team started to chatter over one another – ‘a waste of time' according to Natalie; ‘a disaster' according to Karen.
In the boardroom, Lord Sugar made it apparent that, this being week 5, it had been Natalie's last chance to shine. Likewise, Sam remains on a knife edge. It's becoming clearer to the candidates that The Apprentice is a numbers game through and through, and every performance counts.
Key take-away: know your product inside out, and get to grips with the stuff you're not comfortable with if you want to maximise sales
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It's not all bad…
This week's pitching aside, Natalie brought a keen energy to many situations, and her fast-talking shows she's also a quick thinker. She's straight talking and sees things clearly, and with a bit more consideration and openness will surely be able to capitalise on her strengths.