The Apprentice: Sam Curry pays the price for poor performance

Teamwork took something of a backseat in episode seven as the candidates tried their hand at running a discount store

The Apprentice: Sam Curry pays the price for poor performance

Photo credit: Boundless

Everyone knows that Lord Sugar’s entrepreneurial journey started on a market stall, something he reminded the candidates on last night’s episode of The Apprentice. As he explained, the skill to growing a business quickly is reliant on negotiating a good price for your stock, selling it at a decent margin and constantly replenishing it. So, if the candidates could demonstrate their ability to do this, they’d be onto a winner.

The teams were tasked with choosing stock for a discount store before selling it directly to the public in a pop-up shop. Lord Sugar’s measure of success was the cash taken and value of assets by the end. The key to success in a task like this is to choose the right product and make sure that it sells – unsold stock is an issue for any business. Here’s where I think it wrong, and right, for the candidate’s last night. 

Lead from the front 

Gary won the project manager role for Versatile because of his retail background and the fact that he is known by colleagues as ‘The Postman’ for his ability to ‘deliver’. He was confident but he didn’t seem to have learned from previous tasks where project managers were reprimanded for their lack of assertiveness. Despite his team’s victory, I thought he came across as weak and too easily led by others. One lesson that all of the candidates should have come into the series with was that you need to listen but also be able to make decisions based on what you’ve heard and not be a ditherer. 

Never try to mislead your customers

Brett and Vana made a cardinal error when trying to pass off ‘was’ and ‘now’ prices and were promptly told by Karren to remove the ‘was’ price from their display. Apart from being ethically dubious, it demonstrated a naivety and suggested that they didn’t understand, or share, Lord Sugar’s high standards. It’s never okay to lie to customers in business and the candidates will need to focus on their personal authenticity if they’re to succeed in this process.

Smell what sells 

This is one of Lord Sugar’s favourite phrases and it’s one that the candidates would have done well to keep in mind last night. They should have been focused on testing the products by selling them as cheaply as possible and then marking up the products that had proven to sell well, which might not be the product with the most sales by volume.

Attract and upsell

As Claude noted, Versatile missed the opportunity to generate interest from passing trade by highlighting low-cost products. Once people are through the door, that’s the moment to upsell other products or use ‘product bundling’ to increase sales by offering the consumer perceived extra value. Joseph’s idea for the ‘management special’ was a good one and shows how important product positioning is.

There’s no I in team

Teamwork is obviously important and great managers can unite strong characters and give everyone a common goal, at least for the short- and medium-term. What we saw last night was that when the individuals have an overarching goal that matters to them enough, there can be a complete breakdown in delivery for everyone. Stick together, aim for the goal and everyone will succeed.

In the boardroom, Lord Sugar’s decision to fire Sam was predictable given his poor performance in previous tasks and ineffectiveness this week. For Sam to have survived, he would have needed to abandon some of his values and become more ruthless after his last boardroom visit. He is obviously a decent guy but in this environment he was never going the distance. 

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell

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