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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?