The Apprentice Week 6: Katie Wright gets it wrong

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This series of the Apprentice is turning into the series of thinking errors. We have seen a lack of creative thinking across the teams (need I mention the tap-cosy in episode 2?). Last week we were witness to a range of decision-making errors and this week a clutch of strategic errors were the downfall of Team Phoenix in the gourmet fast-food task.  


In the UK, just one in three UK firms report achieving “strategic success”, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Team Phoenix fell foul of this problem. We saw the team make four strategic errors. Firstly, the pricing strategy – it’s a very rare product indeed that can return a profit margin of more than 1200%.  


Secondly, the marketing strategy. Failing to capitalise on the name of an award-winning local chef who’s willing to lend his brand to your product, for free, is clearly a mistake.  


Thirdly, location. Matching product to customer, in this instance matching the gourmet food to the right footfall, is key. A £6 fast-food van lunch at a football match, with just 30 minutes of peak trade time, is not a high-risk strategy, it’s a crazy strategy. 


Fourthly, quality. Although it didn’t directly lead to the failure of Team Phoenix in this week’s task, it’s noteworthy that Adam’s keep-it-cheap strategy was in direct contradiction to the briefing for high-quality food. The only reason this strategic error didn’t contribute directly to their failure was because once again this week’s task was all about getting one-off sales rather than establishing repeat business.  


Critically, no one in the team spotted these errors or challenged the decisions, at least not until they got into the boardroom. A typical group-think situation.


These types of strategic error occur in teams for a range of reasons, including, as we saw in Team Phoenix, a lack of breadth in their thinking (for example by failing to consider different options), compounded by the lack of depth (such as failing to identify the implications of their decisions). Katie was definitely the right person to go this week as she typified this type of thinking error.  


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“Star of the show” – OK that might be overstating it – “glimmer of hope in the show” this week goes to Ricky. I must admit I enjoyed his mental agility with stats and the fact that he knew to the penny what the team had spent on products. This was complemented by his practical skills in selling and simple touches, like getting the bagpipe player to come over to the vending station to play. Although you could argue that the sound of bagpipes might suppress appetite rather than stimulate it.   


In contrast, the gift of the gab that Stephen has relied on throughout the series is starting to wear a little thin. He’s going to have to demonstrate something of substance soon if he’s to avoid the pointy finger. Also, this week was Jenna’s great chance to shine, given her role as PM. Alas she missed her opportunity and it is only a matter of time before she disappears from the competition. 


Nic Hammarling is the Head of Diversity at Pearn Kandola.




The Apprentice League week 6
Duane (fired week 5) 15
Gabrielle 10
Katie (fired week 6) 9
Nick 8
Laura 8
Ricky 8
Tom 7
Azhar 5
Jane (fired week 4) 5
Stephen 5
Adam 5
Jade 3
Bilyana (fired week 1) 2
Jenna 1
Michael (fired week 3) 0
Maria (fired week 2) 0

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