The Apprentice – The Final (Episode 12)
This year’s series of The Apprentice has treated us to a feast of memorable moments. From Steven’s sales pitch containing the words “It’s not just a potato, it’s an experience”, to James’ bumbling optimism in statements such as “The world is as big as our oyster”. From Felipe’s insistence on describing Felipe’s actions in the most emphatic way Felipe knows how, to Daniel’s questionable Values hidden behind thinly-veiled stubbornness (“I would probably say my CV is under-exaggerated” – doesn’t that just mean you could have embellished it even more than you already had?). Seemingly in the blink of an eye, or in the case of Week 4 the brisk triple-wag of Lord Sugar’s firing digit, twenty candidates became two. Now we come to the summit (pun intended) of all Bianca and Mark’s efforts.
Going forward from the Interview stage, there appeared to be pros and cons to each business plan, making it difficult to predict into which plan Lord Sugar would be most likely to invest his £250,000. Consequently, and as we mentioned in the most recent a&dc Blog entry, the candidate who demonstrates the most Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotions and Drive in this final task will persuade Lord Sugar that she / he has the essential leadership qualities to progress her / his proposal into a profitable and successful business. So, how did the finalists fare in their last chance to impress Lord Sugar?
The conclusive test of The Apprentice typically hinges on the finalists’ abilities to manage a team of previously eliminated candidates. This year was no exception, the project being to launch their businesses to an audience of experts, having designed their brand and created a promotional video. Both finalists faced the pressures of managing multiple tasks, and both dealt with them in very different ways. Let’s take a look at how these approaches to the challenges influenced the ultimate outcome of the series.
Bianca’s presentation was developed based on the concept of a luxury brand priced at the higher end of the market, given that her variety of skin-toned tights provided a USP that addressed something of a gap in the industry. As a result, her initial price for the product was £35; albeit this may have shown a naïve understanding of the market. Having met personally with the MD of Wolford, a veritable expert in the hosiery industry, and having received feedback from her team about the pricing strategy, Bianca did reduce this figure to £24. This however was still not as low as her peers were suggesting, and it was not enough to satisfy the experts at the event, who saw a mismatch between the branding of the product and the investment that consumers would have to make.
Further to this point, Bianca struggled to manage her team in a tactful, diplomatic and motivating way. Stating “I don’t want lots of opinions or voices” when her team travelled all the way back to London with the product and offered to help, Bianca demonstrated her focus was “delivering on my own goals” rather than act as a collective. This left the team reeling on a sour note, and was represented in the Boardroom through their hesitation to immediately praise Bianca to Lord Sugar. Having said this, Bianca consistently demonstrated a composed, measured approach that overcame the issues with Emotions that impacted her performance in the previous week. In many ways, however, she was too controlled and headstrong. She continued to push for the luxury market and only changed her approach at the last minute in the Boardroom when she finally realised that her overdeveloped Drive was hampering her chances of becoming The Apprentice.
Mark’s business, delving into a relatively saturated market by providing a search engine optimisation digital marketing service, emphasised a highly personalised approach to delivering this facility. To some extent, this USP reflects a global megatrend influencing the world of work called ‘glocalisation’, or the adaptation of a product or service to each locality in which it is sold. Mark tapped into this idea with his business plan, offering a ready-to-use service that provides extensive consultation to get any business to exactly where they need to be based on their individual circumstances. Unsurprisingly, his main focus was on developing the brand and marketing into a position that accurately reflected this. Indeed, his rock-climbing promotional video and business name ‘Climb Online’ did exactly that.
While filming his advert, Mark worked hard to sell his corporate message in front of the camera, but struggled to deliver it at times. Echoes of Week 10 and his fear of “fluffing a pitch” showed signs of a man who was stressed with the pressure of “spinning plates” and juggling all responsibilities, but this is simply a reflection of the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) challenges that we live with today in the world of work.
However, Mark managed his team effectively in order to drive through the task. He gave plenty of praise to each individual, as well as proactively listening and taking on board their feedback to mould his proposition towards providing absolute customer satisfaction (“In the first two months customers get two visits, and they get a face-to-face visit with a Consultant once a month every month”). Mark was able to lead from within, balancing directive and collaborative styles when necessary. As a result, his team felt valued and they quickly sang his praises in the Boardroom.
This also demonstrated effective Learning, one of the most vital elements of a successful leader and manager. Mark’s Drive for results in this task has been unquestionable (eg “I will give you 100% of my focus”, “He would work his finger to the bone”), and his professional understanding of his business plan enabled Mark to control his Emotions and show his Intellect when it mattered most, ie when presenting in front of the industry experts and coolly answering their questions.
Between two businesses that both contained clear risks and opportunities, Lord Sugar’s decision was ultimately guided by the personal characteristics described above, the elements that a&dc’s LIVED™ model of complete leadership tell us produce greater business performance. In this way, Mark emerged victorious, secured the £250,000 investment, and won The Apprentice 2014 because he was a stronger LIVED leader.
Make it your New Year’s resolution to ensure you have LIVED leaders driving performance in your organisation. From all of us at a&dc, have a very Merry Christmas and we’ll see you in 2015!
Author: Jordon Jones
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