The second episode of The Apprentice offered some valuable lessons on leadership, delegation and branding, says Alastair Campbell, founder of Company Check
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Last night's episode opened in the cactus room at the Barbican Conservatory where Lord Sugar outlined a nice analogy: only the hardy survive and you’d better have what it takes.
The advertising task, which normally comes later in the series, was brought forward as the candidates were given a cactus-based shampoo and told to create a brand with a matching billboard and video. The best task for egomaniacs to let loose with with their Scorsese talent.
Lord Sugar put the teams back into single sex groups and, for the girls, Charleine was the obvious candidate for project manager (PM) because she owns a hair and beauty salon. However, they ended up choosing Aisha. It’s worth running the stats but I'm sure that a team that ignores skill set in favour of personality loses more than they win. Suffice to say, from that moment on, everything went wrong for the girls. From product name – Desert Secrets sounds like the name of a brothel in Nevada – to crappy packaging, poor pitches and a dictatorial PM, they never looked like winning.
For the boys, Richard easily got the PM role as the director of a marketing agency. Unlike the girls, they selected on skill set, not personality. They also seemed to take Lord Sugar’s intro in the cactus room too literally and created Western shampoo, like the Marlboro man but ever so slightly more metrosexual. They did however come up with packaging that at least looked what you might see it in a hairdresser.
The girls ended up with a problem at the pitch stage: the bottle design was so ugly that it looked more like an fuel additive from Kwik Fit and the pitch itself was flat. The resulting backlash from Elle was overly harsh but Vana did a great job of defending their efforts. It’s easy to sit backstage and criticise but, for those that got up and did it, at least they gave it their best.
On the other hand, the mens' billboard and video were well received. However, Karren Brady stepped in early to make it clear that Richard should take the responsibility whether they won or lost the task because he couldn’t delegate – despite his best efforts – and was something of a control freak. This will come back to bite him if he doesn’t adapt quickly.
Lord Sugar ended up siding with the mens' product with its clear branding and boring but safe video. It hit the brief and looked like it was shop ready. Richard pulled it out the bag and proved that being dictatorial can (sometimes) get results. Lord Sugar even went as far as to say it was the best product he'd ever seen in this particular task.
At the losers' cafe both Charleine and Elle were edited to look like they were gunning for Aisha. However, Natalie and Vana were brought back into the boardroom. It was clear Lord Sugar did not understand how Charleine was not made PM; this put Aisha in a tough place and it was evident that everything was going to fall on her head. Natalie was in trouble with her confession about disliking the product but, as the whole project was a disaster, Aisha had to go. It was out of control from the start.