The Apprentice S10 Ep6: Rolling the dice

This week the teams were asked to create and sell their own board games. Summit got away with some Ludo-crous exclusivity offers while Tenacity didn’t really have a Cluedo as they took a Risk too far with their relationship-based game, costing project manager Pamela Uddin her place.

Thank God we didn’t call this Relationship Guru … (Image: BBC)

Pamela and James show who’s boss

Roll the dice, devise board games

One team loses – who’s to blame?

A flawed concept that was backed

By Pamela, who Sugar sacked

The candidates are summoned to HMS Belfast, where Lord Sugar tells them to produce a new board game and sell 150 units to the trade with the aim of making as much money as possible.

After continuing to wind Daniel Fassman up over his failings as project manager in last week’s coach tours task, Aussie Mark Wright leads the way in the weekly game of No-After-You-I-Insist as he and Lauren Riley are happy to support Pamela when she volunteers to lead Tenacity. They agree on a relationship-based game which they brand The Relationship Guru.

Pamela stepped up to the plate when Mark and Lauren both backed away (Image: BBC)

James Hill leads Summit in an attempt to prove that he can be a serious candidate after five weeks of demonstrating that he clearly isn’t. They target fun for the family and eventually alight on Roisin Hogan‘s educational geography-themed game, GeoKnow.

For Tenacity, Lauren, Mark and Felipe Alviar-Baquero conduct market research with a group of board gamers. They think their game might be a bit sleazy.

Pamela and Daniel agree that ‘funnily’ is definitely not a word. (It definitely is.) Whoever is writing on the team’s whiteboard thinks that ‘sleazy’ is spelled ‘slezy’. It’s a shame whiteboards don’t come with an automatic spell-check, isn’t it?

Pamela makes an executive decision to ignore the focus group and run with the concept anyway. She tasks Daniel with coming up with a set of multiple-choice questions based on absolutely no guru-ness whatsoever. Karren Brady is unimpressed. Still, at least they’re not having a singalong, eh?

Their sub-team’s photo shoot for their box cover quickly produces an image they’re delighted with. Pamela isn’t pleased because it’s not comedic enough – but it appears she never actually briefed that to the sub-team, so what was she expecting? As Mark notes:

It’s hard to fly like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys.

Boom-tish!

Mark – he’s so modest and supportive of struggling teammates, isn’t he? (Image: BBC)

Summit are more impressive – or certainly less unimpressive. Roisin provides their game designer with a clear brief, while James and Bianca Miller conduct their photo-shoot. Bianca continually attempts to offer helpful advice, which James perceives as her trying to muscle in. This leads to what might be termed a ‘full and frank discussion’ between the two where she calls him a dictator and he thinks she’s too big for her boots. They both have a point. A frustrated Bianca tells the camera:

A wise man speaks because he has something to say. A fool speaks because he has to say something. I’m not saying he’s a fool but he likes speaking a lot.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read that in a Christmas cracker somewhere.

Exclusively stupid

With 150 units of each of their games manufactured, the teams set off the following day in search of sales via a combination of cold calls and arranged appointments with Waterstones and Toys R Us.

The teams also have an opportunity to test their finished product with some of their target customers. At a primary school, GeoKnow goes down well but The Relationship Guru is panned by a group of gamers. When the sub-team feeds back to Pamela, she accuses them of covering their arses. Which is a bit rich from a candidate who has never been backwards in coming forwards to criticise her project managers and teammates on every task.

As far as selling goes, both teams slide down as many snakes as they climb ladders, but there’s an underlying sense that Summit are consistently on top. James uses Toys R Us to test the temperature of the market. They like the product, and although James is a bit harsh in cutting off Roisin’s attempt to contribute, he talks the retailer up to an order of 30 units at £10 each. At an independent toy shop, Sanjay Sood-Smith achieves 15 sales at £17, which prompts James to move his price up.

In Hampstead, 15 more units net £300 with the sweetener of having exclusivity for NW3. Bianca runs with this idea, giving up exclusivity to the entire borough of Westminster (basically, most of central London), the first-born of her entire team and £100 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers in exchange for … £96 of sales. Nick Hewer‘s mind boggles:

Exclusivity to one shop in return for an order of six boxes? That’s silly business.

Another week, another bad error by Bianca (Image: BBC)

It also snookers James, who had other appointments in Westminster lined up. They try to work around it by restricting retailers to online sales. That’s an awkward enough conversation without then going into Waterstones and telling them they can’t sell their game in their flagship Piccadilly store. Nonetheless Solomon Akhtar convinces them to take 29 units totalling £319 – remarkable. James then shifts their final 31 games for £350.

When Summit pitch to Waterstones, Daniel, Felipe and Lauren strike out after their game is criticised for being offensive and playing to gender stereotypes. Pamela is displeased and Mark is, as ever, not slow to weigh in with his thoughts.

He does at least go on to back up his high opinion himself by going on a hot streak, selling 60 games to Toys R Us, albeit at just £8 each, then another £120 to a small gift shop – despite claiming that the problem with many other games is that “you’ve got to be a rocket surgeon”. Whatever one of those is. Nonetheless, he’s clearly Tenacity’s star salesperson as we watch Daniel bomb out again – in total his sub-team manages just £255 in sales, less than half what Mark achieved on his own.

Uh oh.

Boardroom Brouhaha

This week’s task debrief is a swift one. Bianca gets in one swing at James for running a dictatorship but she doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on as Sugar takes her to task for giving up exclusivity in Westminster:

In board game terms you have sold Mayfair and Park Lane for a fiver.

Bianca’s claim that she mixed up her postcodes and her boroughs is pretty feeble, not least because she’s a Londoner herself.

Sugar focusses on Tenacity more, questioning Mark and Lauren for ducking team leadership again and laughing at Daniel’s game questions – not in a good way. Daniel and Mark can’t resist having a pop at each other.

Lauren didn’t make herself popular with Lord Sugar by ducking the PM role yet again (Image: BBC)

On to the results, and there’s no disputing who’s won. Tenacity sold only 128 of their games for £1,101.25, while Summit shifted all 150 for £2,080 – almost twice as much.

As a reward, Summit are sent to Oxford’s Kassam Stadium – a ground known for only having stands on three sides – where they take comically bad penalties against former England goalkeeper David Seaman.

In the Cafe of Broken Dreams, Pamela says a lot of her team sat on the fence while Daniel claims she lost her way. Back in the boardroom, Sugar seems to agree with this, giving her a major dressing-down for ignoring their focus group, accusing their game of being in bad taste and questioning what value she added to the task.

Daniel makes the mistake of getting involved in another slanging match with Mark but he simply isn’t as articulate and doesn’t have the sales performance to back up his inflated assessment of himself. As Sugar himself says:

I’m not accusing you of being a liar, I’m accusing you of being a fantasist.

Unsurprisingly, Pamela brings back Daniel and Lauren, the two people she felt were most negative about the product. Nick draws out the contrast between Daniel, a trier with fire in his belly, and Lauren, who is recognised as intelligent but potentially lacks a spark. Both of them think Pamela should be fired because she made the call on their flawed concept and Sugar agrees, firing her.

Daniel survived despite poor sales and a running snark-fest with Mark (Image: BBC)

It was an obvious decision, really. Although neither of the others shone on this task, Pamela’s reasons for bringing them in lacked any real weight. Sugar pointed out that she only had one year of real business experience post-university, but for me it wasn’t so much her lack of experience that was a problem but (like Ella Jade before her) her lack of maturity. She was regularly quick to shift blame on to other people while accusing them of being negative and unsupportive if they didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear. And while she was articulate, she had little positive to offer herself. All the accusations she levelled at Lauren applied even more so to her.

In the Taxi to Obscurity, Pamela picked up on Sugar’s concerns that Lauren might be playing a game:

I’m feeling gutted but I’m so proud that I’ve made it this far. Lauren and Daniel have played the game from day one and unfortunately they’re still playing it.

That was somewhat disingenuous as Pamela spent much of her time playing the blame game.

I’m not sure Lauren has actually been playing a game, though – aside from the excellent memory she showed in conducting a tour last week, I’ve seen little tangible contribution. As for Daniel, Sugar told him in no uncertain terms this was his very last chance. I’ll be amazed if one of these two isn’t fired the next time Tenacity lose.

Task analysis: the trouble with James

There’s not much to say about the mechanics of this week’s task. Despite Bianca’s monumental cock-up over exclusivity – had Summit lost, her position was indefensible – this was the most one-sided result so far this season. Summit had a superior idea with a broader appeal that was better executed. They set a high pricing base and successfully moved upwards, achieving an average unit price 61% higher than Tenacity (£13.87 versus £8.60) while also being the only team to sell all their stock. (Tenacity still had 22 of 150 units left.) They dominated this task.

Why did they succeed? Against all expectation, it largely comes down to project manager James.

A big win for James’s team, as he finally had a good week (Image: BBC)

James’ continued presence in the process is a cause of consternation and disbelief to many viewers. Over the previous five weeks, he’s proven to be disruptive, aggressive, argumentative, a poor team player, focussed too much on sales rather than profit – the list goes on. But here’s the thing: for all his faults, I think he’s still worth his place, and this week’s performance goes some way to explaining why.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no doubt that James is a grade-A buffoon but it’s no coincidence that his best performance came in a sales-oriented task where he was finally able to lead. Bianca was correct in accusing him of being dictatorial, but his leadership produced results, with sales nearly double that of Tenacity. His sales strategy was sound as he made the right adjustments to pricing to maximise value and he showed signs of both having a plan and being able to improvise effectively on his feet (an area where Bianca has tripped up two weeks running).

James is a guy who can be an effective (if abrasive) leader but a terrible follower, who doesn’t cope well with being challenged (I don’t need to list all the examples, do I?) and lacks the patience to learn the detail, which we saw both on this task (his reluctance to get his head around the rules of the game) and in his attempts as a tour guide last week. In some respects this is not necessarily a bad thing – as a leader in business you focus on the big picture rather than the detail – but as a team member, you have to muck in and do the dull stuff when required, and it’s in this respect where he falls down. I wouldn’t be surprised if his business plan similarly lacks attention to detail.

He strikes me as a man who has achieved a degree of success through his drive, wits and charm, but who may lack either the acumen or patience to convert one into a bigger enterprise. He’s also one for not meekly following instructions – this can be a good thing if you’re a visionary leader, less so if you’re an employee or a business partner.

Sugar sees something in him but are his attitude and his weaknesses more trouble than they are worth? I suspect so. But he’s a more credible candidate than Daniel, who consistently talks big and delivers small, and he’s one of the few winning project managers who can demonstrate a tangible influence on a task leading to a convincing victory.

At the halfway point of this year’s process, we’re down to half our original 20 candidates. But we’re still some way from clearing out all the dead wood. And the candidates who have been sitting back and dodging PM responsibility – Mark, Lauren and Bianca are the only remaining candidates yet to step up – can do so no longer.

Next time: The teams head to the Big Apple for the advertising task. But who will get the order – and who will receive their marching orders?

The Apprentice season 10 reviews

Ten years of selling

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19 Comments on The Apprentice S10 Ep6: Rolling the dice

  1. Thanks, Tim. I totally agree about the one sided nature of this week’s task. I think even the programme editors gave up on hiding this fact from the viewer! I also agree with your evaluation of James. He is showing signs of learning, but he would be high maintenance for Sugar.

    Once again, Sugar demonstrates his achilles heel – giving extra chances to candidates that reflect his own development and background – with both Daniel this week, who demonstrated some humility on returning to the house, and James in previous weeks.

    In my review, I’ve focused on the relationship between Mark & Daniel, which was the most interesting aspect for me this week.

    You can read my thoughts here: http://markdecosemo.com/2014/11/13/the-apprentice-2014-week-6-relationship-woes/

    • Yep, James did well in a task that allowed him to showcase his strengths and didn’t highlight his flaws too much. He’s set a low bar so far but this was his best performance of the season.

      Daniel has certainly been given the benefit of the doubt at least once, arguably two or three times. It’s hard to see him as anything other than a dead man walking and the other candidates know it, which makes life doubly difficult for him.

      The ‘relationship’ between Mark and Daniel is an interesting one. Daniel is very much on the back foot due to his poor performances whereas Mark has become something of the golden boy, and you can see several others aligning behind him. But it will be interesting to see how the dynamic shifts if Mark falters – as we’ve seen in the past, it’s easy to go from hero to zero.

      • Indeed it will be. I love how this programme tests emotional intelligence – the ability to work as a team but stand out within that team. Daniel seems to have limited EQ and doesn’t try to hide it. Mark has good EQ, or at least has when things are going well. However, I detected a couple of revealing looks on his face when Daniel started to fight back. Maybe he’s not as sure as he appears.

        Whatever, its proving to be compelling viewing

  2. I am going to disagree with you about James! He was lucky in that Roisin came up with a first rate game and despite the fiasco over the candles he has not yet learnt the importance of price or margin. There were only 150 units. This was not a take orders from Waterstones and Toys R Us but both teams had the same number to sell so therefore price was a vital component. Or at least it would have been if Tenacity had had a decent product. The one stroke of almost genius was to give exclusivity by postcode but then London areas are defined by postcode, although he is not a Londoner, it would seem a reasonable approach. He also just about got away with being part of the wrong sub-team: the PM should always be involved in the design and if I had been the professional photographer I would have rammed the camera…. I dislike James’s aggression and would love to see him moved into Summit with Daniel and Mark as that would surely make for great tv.

    Pamela came across very well on Dara’s show and we became aware of some of the struggles that she will have faced in the process. I am not convinced she was playing a game as blame shifting is not so much a strategy as a natural response. If she had been game playing then she made two strategic errors: she should have bounced back the PM role to Mark and brought him into the boardroom. His sales would have kept him safe but simply pitting him against Daniel in the boardroom would quickly have shifted Lord Sugar’s focus to the questions and to Daniel’s sales record over the two tasks and in the brouhaha Pamela would have crept under the radar. I doubt that Mark could have sold to Waterstones, though I am astonished that he sold to Toys R Us, or that they managed to sell 128 units so maybe I am doing him a disservice. But the game was dreadful. Pamela’s comments on You’re Fired about Daniel being isolated within the group were edited down. There is a rift and whilst Dara talked about Team Mark and Team Daniel I get the impression that Team Daniel is a little short of members.

    Bianca is so lucky to have been on the winning team again with two massive sales based mistakes in two weeks. Though whilst it is easy to suggest that this puts her in the firing line next time she is on the losing team, it is highly likely that there will be a decision that will deflect from these errors in the next task. As I said above, James has not redeemed himself in my mind. The game was not his and all he did was sell: is he a one trick pony or a field of my little ponies? I think that Roisin came out of the task with a lot of credit and is now among the front runners. I also think that Solomon and Filipe are looking good. Sanjay has slipped out of the limelight a bit and maybe that is a good thing but of course as always it is in the editing. We should see a rush to PM the next task and that might be interesting…then we can really assess Mark and Lauren.

    • I’m not sure we’re that far apart, John. I think this was by far James’s best week – he’s set a low bar! – and this was a task where all he had to focus on (once he had Roisin’s workable idea) was selling. With profit not a factor this week, I thought he was at least aware that he had headroom to push prices up after his first sale – and the fact that he had the confidence of knowing he had a good product meant he was able to achieve that magic combination of high volume and high price. (By contrast, Tenacity’s low pricing was a clear consequence of them knowing they had a bad product to start with.)

      James is undoubtedly aggressive, although I also suspect Bianca was more at fault than we were shown for constantly chipping away at him. Whether that was because James marginalised her from the outset or that her pushiness caused her to be marginalised is a grey area. I still think she’s a decent candidate, but she too can be quite abrasive and having made a complete hash of sales negotiations for the second week in a row she would surely have been fired had Summit lost. You could see from her face in the subsequent negotiations that she realised just how deep a hole she had dug for her teammates. That Solomon still closed a big order with Waterstones (even allowing for the fact it wasn’t a real sale) was nothing short of miraculous.

      Still, a good week for James. But he’s still not even close to being a finalist, let alone a winner.

      I agree Pamela came across much better on YF. I think that, like Ella Jade, her immaturity and lack of experience came out on the tasks, and although there was every justification for firing Daniel on the basis that he’s consistently useless, her position was pretty much indefensible. She made poor decisions that escalated, she didn’t sell much, she alienated her sub-team and she tactically allowed herself to be boxed into a position where everyone could blame her for pretty much everything.

      Interesting idea about bringing Mark in. I see what you’re saying, but I suspect it might well have backfired, with Sugar firing her anyway on the basis that it would have been madness to bring in her best seller just to gain a tactical advantage.

      I’m unsure about both Lauren and Felipe. Both smart, articulate and well organised. But where have they been when it comes to making the big commercial decisions? Have they demonstrated that they are more than just lawyers? Not yet, by my count. They’ve shown they’re not poor candidates – but they need to demonstrate that they’re good potential business partners.

  3. Just a quick reply: Pamela could have brought Mark in based on his lack of leadership and dumping on her? Would have been a little tenuous but I think that much would have been missed as WW3 raged in the boardroom. It should help the PM when the other two cite each other with the inevitable “who should be fired” question!

    • Would have been interesting to see how it might have played out. Mark might well have trained his sights on Daniel, but it’s hard to see how Daniel could ever have blamed anyone other than Pamela (as he did in the real boardroom). And, while you’re right that her tenuous reason for bringing Mark back might have got lost in the shuffle, the transparency of that decision would still have worked against her, I think. Ah well, we’ll never know!

  4. A good review, though I think you really undestimated Roisin’s work in creating a workable game (and from what we saw she did the lion’s share there.) That said I noticed Sugar didn’t bother to give her any praise either. Don’t get me wrong James did well this week but Roisin was unfairly marginalised despite being absolutely key to victory.

    As a board game player (though to be honest more of a roleplayer – give me D&D any day) I thought no one on Pamela’s team had much of clue. Mark in particular reeked high school jock disdain (or Aussie equivalent) in the focus group and no one made the slightest attempt to figure out that their group was quite clearly a fantasy niche group rather than representing ‘boardgamers’ as a whole. ‘The Relationship Guru’ was a mess but the idea itself might have had merit in an adult party game sort of way.

    On a final note I had no idea Pamela stuttered. Poor girl. Introducing the Brits to Irish slang was fun though.

    • Hi Ross.

      Pamela came across far more sympathetically on YF than she was portrayed on the main show, didn’t she? But then that’s the nature of the beast – with few exceptions, they’re all portrayed as cartoon caricatures/buffoons/both.

      Interestingly, in Mark’s focus group, the guy on the far right of the table was playing Fluxx, which is a distinctly non-fantasy card game. So although they were portrayed as stereotypical RPGers, I suspect they probably had a broader appreciation of games in general.

      As to your main point, I 100% agree that Roisin’s contribution was crucial to this task. It was a good idea that gave the team the confidence to aim for high prices, whereas Tenacity knew they had problems from the outset and accordingly priced low. The points I was making about James shouldn’t be taken as a lack of acknowledgement of her – I was instead trying to focus on the fact that James had a much better week (though still flawed) this week, and looking into the reasons why this occurred. After his track record so far, I think it’s important to recognise that he has a very specific set of skills and behaviours that are well suited to some tasks and work terribly on most others. But every dog has his day.

      • Thanks Tim. I completely missed Fluxx. In that case I guess I owe an apology – my own exposure to board and CCGs as an adult was very much through my university RPG society, so I admit I probably missed that nuance.

        That is very fair about James, who did have a good week and was more on the ball in many ways than I expected – his reaction to Bianca giving exclusivity on a tiny order to a tiny shop wasn’t exactly professional but he did at once spot the scale of the mistake.

        I think I might have forgiven the mistake in someone like Pamela, Roisin or Felipe who are not English and might have less personal knowlege of London (and in the case of the first two still live in Ireland according to their BBC profiles) but Bianca really should have known what she was doing!

        • I think they may well have been a group of primarily RPGers, and the way it was set up – group of blokes in a pub at lunchtime – did nothing to suggest a more balanced view! It was only because I own the game that I recognised the cards – the edit very much set them up as stereotypical fantasy gamers with the close-ups we did see.

          As for Bianca, as a Londoner she simply should have known. But even if she didn’t, why make a concession that you have no idea of the scale of? Check first! She should have made the excuse of needing to confer with her teammates to buy herself some thinking time. Of course, to do that would allow for the cameras representing it as not purely her sale and she would have had to share the glory. I’m sure the presence of the characters accentuates and encourages competitive and selfish behaviour like that.

  5. Agree with you largely – I can’t stand James but he led well and was instrumental in the win. I thought Lauren was treated rather harshly – with 20 people, it takes a while to get the PM role. I think Daniel is soon to go and I’m not sure Sugar rates Mark either, despite his sales ability. Bianca keeps making errors but seems capable too. Good week for Roisin too. Quieter for Soloman, Sanjay, Katy and Felipe. I’m still struggling to see the winner though.

    • I think it’s still a tough call although the picture’s starting to become clearer, with the next few weeks likely to see the end for one or both of James and Daniel, and with one or two of the quieter ones getting found out (Lauren? Felipe? Sanjay?) My money’s still on Katie, but Solomon is looking better every week, as is Roisin.

  6. Louisa Radice // November 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm // Reply

    If I may play a wild card(!) here – does Dara Ó Briain know the outcome of The Process in advance? Felipe has been relatively invisible on the tasks, yet has featured regularly on the You’re Fired! unseen footage. I can’t help but be reminded of Dara’s regular updates on Tom’s wizard inventions.

    • Louisa, Dara doesn’t know. Sugar only makes his final decision a few days before the final is broadcast. When the final task is complete, they even film two endings so that during the months between the final being filmed and it being broadcast even the finalists themselves don’t know.

      Dara and the YF production team like to have a running gag that goes through the series. In Tom P’s case it just so happened that they picked the winner, although I think it was also obvious early on that he would go a long way. (I named him as my favourite to win in week two, I think.) I wouldn’t read anything into Felipe being featured – it’s just a gag to keep one of the quieter candidates in our minds.

  7. Samantha O'Brien // December 28, 2014 at 11:42 pm // Reply

    Pamela had a bad week for sure and didn’t defend her position in the boardroom, but to say she played the blame game is being disingenuous to her. She displayed a good work ethic and voiced her opinion throughout the tasks, made the 1st sale of the series, designed the wearable technology jacket in task 2, sold well in task 3 – £52, indeed if Ella had taken her advice on board on day 1 of task 4, they might have won. Task 5 did a lot of the laborious work organising the tour, route times etc. and the ironing. This young lady deserves a lot more credit than has been given her in this review. A dyslexic stammerer who could not have possibly had the brain space to game play, while concentrating on the fluidity of her words and speech.

    • Louisa Radice // December 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm // Reply

      The independent toy shop where Sanjay flogged 15 units is Fagin’s Toys in Muswell Hill. I was doing some Christmas shopping there earlier this month and I couldn’t resist asking the shopkeeper if they still had GeoKnow. Fat chance, they sold out within a day of the episode. Apparently they had to sign a clause agreeing not to sell any units until the episode was shown on TV.

      • Thanks Louisa. That confidentiality clause you refer to is fairly standard – all part of the behind-the-scenes production logistics we never get to see.

    • I wasn’t aware of her speech problems at the time of writing the review – it’s to her credit that this was never apparent in the episodes. I do still think she was very quick to pin responsbility for things going wrong on to others. It didn’t show her in her best light, but I do recognise that she’s far from alone among Apprentice candidates in being quick to point out others’ failings (whether perceived or real) – both this years’ finalists were adept at doing exactly that.

      Where Pamela fell short was not in her lack of effort but in her evident lack of experience. Her decision to ignore her market research was always going to be a huge risk (or a huge plus if she had won the task), and one that left her in big trouble. And the task as a whole exposed her lack of wider business know-how and her ability to manage a team, both of which were additional contributory factors to her downfall. That’s not to say she won’t go on to be successful, but as someone with no more than a couple of years’ business experience at that time she was clearly a long way from having the skills needed to be Sugar’s business partner. At 23 and with minimal experience under my belt, I was much the same at that age. But at this point in her career, I didn’t see anything to suggest she was more than a grafter (whcih is all most of the candidates are, in truth), so I stand by my opinion – she was certainly never going to make the final.

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