Apprentice Week 08: Eight Bucks for Eight Weeks

In Week 8 of the Apprentice (or episode 2 on 2006-04-10) we get to see an interesting clash of values. The team that lost did so clearly based on the decisions of the Project Manager. Most interesting about the loss, however, was the question of team dynamics. How do you reward risk takers? How do you value those efforts? And, of course, continuing from last week, how well do you know your customers and market?
Gold Rush had their fourth consecutive loss tonight, and Trump fired Project Manager Leslie. She made a crucial, arbitrary pricing error.

Synergy, under Andrea’s leadership, got the pricing right and therefore won. They also did some early promotion work, which helped. Andrea did have a certain amount of luck because her hat promo was a stupid idea.

Table of Contents

  1. Lessons Learned
  2. The Task
  3. Common Failure
  4. Team Synergy
  5. Team Gold Rush
  6. Boardroom
  7. Why Trump Fired Leslie
  8. Final Thoughts

Lessons Learned

  • The right price is critical to success
  • The right price can compensate for a lousy premium
  • Go after big sales when possible. Even if it doesn’t go through, Trump recognizes the effort.
  • Take Trump’s boardroom advice.
  • Qualify and listen to you customer – Do your research

The Task

This week’s partner was 7-11. Apparently, 7-11 has more than 28,000 locations around the world. That’s almost as many as McDonalds has, and roughly 4 times as many locations as Starbucks.

7-11 is rolling out a new sandwich, called the P’EatZZa sandwich. This is a sandwich between two sliced of cold pizza. Another brilliant idea from the people who brought us the Slurpee and the 3:AM robbery. While this sandwich may be tasty, if I want leftovers, I’ll go to my fridge – not the refrigerated cases at 7-11.

Teams were supposed to design a giveaway to go along with the sandwich. They could have a photoshoot with a 7-11 Racing car and driver, as well as graphics assistance to create their campaign.

The team with the biggest increase in store sales wins. What the sales increase is based on is not 100% clear from the information they give us; presumably, they are comparing this year’s sand which sales to last years sandwich sales for the store. For full details, see the dossier.

Common Failure

Neither team did adequate research. Gold Rush failed to research pricing. Synergy failed to research premiums.

Either team could have sent 2 people down to the 7-11 to talk to customer about their shopping and sandwich habits. Neither did.

One team should have taken part of their budget to purchase a prize – maybe a $50 7-11 gift card (if they have those). They could have invited customers to complete a short survey for a chance to win the prize.

They could have asked about pricing, how much people spend on a 7-11 lunch, what makes one sandwich stand out from another, what the most appealing aspect of the P’EatZZa is, what items they would like with their sandwich, and more. In three hours, they could have had enough data to guarantee a win.

Last week’s Gold Rush loss was because they didn’t listen to their customer. This week, no one talked to the customer unless they were trying to make a sale.

Team Synergy

Synergy began their meeting in a pretty open manner. Andrea, the project manager, asked the team to brainstorm ideas for the premium and to discuss them. Someone mentioned hats, and Andrea decided she liked that idea and quickly moved to cut off debate. The team wasn’t please with hats and tossed out a few more ideas until Andrea announce, “I’m telling you it’s hats.”

That was a potentially bad move. Hats have nothing to do with the P’EatZZa. During the task and the boardroom, Carolyn said it was a stupid idea. People are not going to be interested in the product for a hat. “Try my sandwich. I’ll give you a hat,” doesn’t work.

Synergy did a couple things right. First, they set a good price point -- $4. It seems like a good buy, and you can add a beverage and get out for less that $5. Second, they did some advance promotion work. They went to the store the night before and passed out flyers promoting the event the following day. They built some buzz, and a lot of people came back based on the flyer.

The team worked hard. I’m not sure how much influence Andrea’s leadership had on the victory, but they did win -- with a 997% increase in sales versus the previous year.

Team Gold Rush

The loss today was about the conflict between Leslie and Lee. For much of the season, Leslie kept a low profile. She was smart enough to speak only when spoken tot in the board room, and did not make the mistakes a lot of other players made. But, 8 weeks into a 13 week process was time for her to lead a team and show what she could do.

During the team’s first major meeting, Lee pointed out that he was the target audience for this product – young, college student, and broke. He emphasized that he was the primary demographic. He is young, but I’m not sure about the other two. He did have a valid point though about the demographic. And, the 7-11 they had was near a university.

Lee emphasized how important it was that the product had to be inexpensive. He argued with Leslie about it. The rest of the team seemed to support Leslie, and Leslie stuck with her price of one for $7.99 or two for $8.99. That expensive price point was completely out of whack.

During the task the next day, Lee reported to Leslie that he overheard store employees complaining that the price was way too high, and that it needed to be under $5, like other sandwiches. When he told Leslie, she blew him off, and complained behind his back that he should have brought it up sooner.

Thus, Leslie screwed up on the price early. When she had the opportunity to correct that error, she passed on that as well. This would be the crucial mistake she makes as project manager.

Gold Rush did a couple things right. First, they had a nice premium. It was a portable cooler, which makes more sense then hats. It’s something they can keep their P’EatZZa in, along with a few beverages.

Second, she sent a team of three on ahead to scout the store. She put Lee in that group, probably to get him away from her. While they were scouting the store, Lee talked the store manager into pulling all the other sandwiches off the shelf the following day so the only think out there would be the P’EatZZa. They didn't talk to many customers, though.

Meanwhile, Leslie and Tarek worked on trivia questions. I don’t know why.

For some reason, they seemed to think that if they shouted pizza and/or sandwich trivia at people on the street, those people would be so intrigued, they would walk into the store and buy a P’EatZZa. For eight bucks. And they thought this was a good idea.

So the next day, Tarek was busy shouting trivia, Leslie was looking for Lee, and the rest of the team was pushing sandwiches. For eight bucks. Leslie was upset she couldn’t find Lee.

As it turns out, Lee was trying to sell 1,000 P’EatZZa to a business man. Had the deal worked, Lee would have saved the team and been the hero. Instead, negotiations broke down over fifty cents. Or $500, depending on how you look at it. After Lee checked with Leslie, the lowest price he could offer was $2.50 per P’EatZZa, and the customer was willing to pay only $2.00 per P’EatZZa.

In the end, Gold Rush increased sales only 608%. It was an impressive number, but not enough to win, sending Gold Rush to the boardroom for the fourth consecutive time.


Gold Rush didn’t do horribly on this task. They increased sales by 608%. That wasn’t as much as Synergy’s 997% increase, but it is still impressive.

Leslie decided the reason they failed was Lee. She felt he didn’t work hard enough, and that she needed him on the sales floor while he was off negotiating the deal that fell through. She argued that Lee completely wasted time with that deal.

After much back and forth, during which she came under heavy criticism, Trump asked her who she wanted to bring into the boardroom. He specifically said she could bring one or two people in with her. He then added that she should probably bring two. She chose only Lee. Trump asked her if she was sure. She assured him she was.

This was a big mistake. When Trump strongly suggests you bring in two people, you bring in two people. We have seen this over and over again this season. When Trump tells the PM who to bring in, or how many people to bring in, the PMs routinely disregard this advice. When they disregard it, they get fired.

People – it’s not that hard. Listen to Trump. Do what he says. That helps your chances. A lot.

So she opts to bring in Lee. Lee, who seemed to do well earlier with Trump, and who Trump praised in the previous episode for his loyalty.

The rest of the board room went quickly. Trump asked why she brought in Lee. Lee was the one who cleared the shelves of competing products. Leslie felt that wasn’t a big deal because she would probably have come up with that the next morning anyway.

Lee was too hard to manage because he argued about price the night before and brought it up again that morning. Of course Lee was right, and Leslie was wrong, but she seemed to disregard that.

Leslie attacked Lee for the failed 1,000 sandwich order, conceding that if it had gone through, they would clearly have won, and Lee would have been a hero. Since it fell through, Lee was just a zero.

Trump wasn’t buying it. He said, “The concept of that deal was the best idea,” the team had.

And he fired Leslie.

Why Trump Fired Leslie

In short, Trump fired Leslie because:

  • She had the pricing completely wrong
  • She attacked Lee over the failed 1,000 unit order
  • She brought only one person into the board room
  • She couldn’t see how any of this was anyone’s fault but Lee’s.

Final Thoughts

Morning Phone Etiquette

When Rhona Graff, Trump’s Executive Assistant calls in the morning to tell them about the next task, the phone rings for a long time. Then a groggy candidate wobbles out of bed, picks up the phone, and croaks out a weak “Hullo?”

People – the phone probably rings at roughly the same time each morning. You know it’s coming. Is it too much trouble for someone to wake up a little before then to be articulate? There must be at least one morning person in the Suite.

Plus, it’s a business call. How about instead of a stray grunt, answer it, “Good Morning, this is Philip in the Suite.”

When interviewing for a job or setting up a meeting, don’t treat admins with the disdain the candidates seem to hold. They do often influence their bosses’ decisions. A good admin is gold and the boss knows it.

Lee and Objectivity

At the beginning of the show, Charmaine had a conversation with Lee about Lenny’s firing. She though Lee was wrong to defend Lenny so strongly. (Of course Trump disagreed, but I’ve beaten that topic into the ground). She told Lee he needed to be more objective in future tasks.

Lee, however, disagreed. He quite honestly told Charmaine that he had no plans to be objective. He believes in sticking up for his friends, and made it quite clear he will continue to do so.

Synergy and Michael

After his win as Project Manager the previous week, Synergy made it quite clear to Michael that it wasn’t his win. His penchant for over analyzing the situation caused a great deal of trouble.

After this conversation, the tone of which was quite negative, who could blame him when Michael jumped at the opportunity to join Gold Rush.

      No comments: