The Apprentice: Lesson two - know your numbers

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 29 March 2012

BBC Apprentice - Maria sleeping{{}}It’s the design task — perhaps one of the most excrutiating challenges on The Apprentice.

Traditionally, this task sees the two teams struggling to agree on the product they should develop. It’s not unusual to see team leaders throw out the results of market research to go with their gut instinct instead. There’s usually a multi-functional aspect to at least one of the designs.

And so it comes to pass.

The challenge is to design a new product for the home. The girls (team Sterling) come up with two ideas for the bathroom led by team leader Jane McEvoy. One is a splash screen to prevent children from flooding the bathroom. The other is a Tap Cosy — a concept that opens up all sorts of possibilities for a previous no-go area — the tap end of the bath. Well, two possibilities anyway — you could lie your head on it or rest your feet on it.

The splash screen is the simpler idea —until the girls throw more uses for it into the mix —­ it’s a toy, it’s a drawing board, it’s a storage device for both toys. More is more, right?

But what will sell? To find out, Katie Wright leads a sub-team to meet with a mother and toddler group. The splash screen gets mixed reactions, but they love the Tap Cosy.

But Jane is worried about the design — how do you create a product that fits all taps? It’s a fair point but she doesn’t give it much of a chance. The splash screen — Splish Splash — is born.

Meanwhile on team Pheonix, the boys back Azhar Siddique as team leader. They’ve got two ideas up their sleeves as well — Duane Bryan comes up with a bin that compacts food waste. Meanwhile, Adam Corbally has a brainwave — rubber gloves that have sponge scourers attached to them to make washing up easier — Magic Hands. Ta da!

In the focus group at a catering college, the Magic Hands get the thumbs up. But the other boys are having none of it — the bin is the thing.

So it’s on to the pitches, where both teams will present their ideas to Amazon and Lakeland. And it’s the girls’ pitch to Amazon that can only be described as a total car crash.

We’ve all seen Apprentice candidates stuffing up the numbers. This time, they not only flounder and get them wrong but they propose an outlandish deal to the online retailer. They suggest that they buy one million units. One million! At a cost of nine million quid! Words fail me.

Back at the boardroom, the results are in. The girls have sold 7,500 units to Amazon and none to Lakeland. The boys sold 3,000 to Amazon and 10,000 to Lakeland. Lord Sugar is amazed that the girls got anything from Amazon. “They must have felt sorry for you,” he says.

Jane brings back Maria O’Connor (with the crazy purple eyeshadow) and Jenna Whittingham (numbers girl) into the boardroom for a grilling. Their crimes? Maria under-delivered (she fell asleep in the car) and Jenna messed up the numbers while presenting to a prospective client.

Lord Sugar is furious. “This is diabolical,” he says. “Basic business principles went right down the drain on this task,” he fumes. “And the product sucks. I am disappointed with all of you to be honest.”

The girls fight for their survival with Jane even resorting to mentioning her son crying on the phone. Lord Sugar dismisses her “sob stories” but gives her another chance as he points his finger at Maria.

It just goes to show that the biggest mistake a candidate can make on The Apprentice is to do nothing.

Next week: The teams must make and market a new condiment.

Find out more about the candidates on the BBC Apprentice website:

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