Apprentice Watch

This week’s task is definitely a favourite of mine, it involves planning, time management and negotiating. The candidates were caught by surprise as during the day, they had the call to get ready for the task that same afternoon. We had some instances of some candidates struggling to stay awake through the night, with the Big K falling asleep in the car. I know this was a difficult challenge, but when you have the chance of a lifetime in front of you, how can you fall asleep !!

Safa Arif, Associate Director, NA Consulting Limited


In this episode the candidates were given a list of products, both foreign and British, which could be found in London. Each team then had till 6am the following morning to return with as many items at the lowest possible cost. Each item not bought and returning late would cause the team a fine which would be added onto their cost.


There is still some friction in the air between the teams and this comes out in this episode where some members of the show are not contributing to the team. Trishna and Paul found themselves on the same team and as both know London well, they should have been well placed to win this task. Although I like Trishna a lot, I think she lost some control of the task, maybe she was not strong enough to bring everyone back into line with her original plans.
The task had strict deadlines it was important to have a clear strategy of when and where the products were going to be bought, as well as understand which to buy first. The task was specifically set up to finish at 6:00am, so some things you would expect to be able to buy at 5:00 in the morning, whereas some would need to bought sooner.
When negotiating, its a good idea to have an understanding of what a product is likely to cost, in a lot of cases, the candidates went to a single place and made offers on things, not knowing how much they would normally cost. Also, going somewhere, where someone is not speaking English so well and then finding out they meant Soup instead of Soap is unforgivable, when you have wasted maybe 20% of your available time on that journey. Another small mistake by Rebecca, that led to some big fines and was a main reason why her team lost.
Karthik decided to lead the negotiations for the lengha as he believed this was an item from his culture and so he could negotiate well with store owners. He did the right thing is building a rapport in trying to get a bigger discount, in this instance he should probably have got to the price bit sooner. On the other team, Frances asked straight away, “Where is your cheapest lengha?”, she wasted very little time and also paid half of what the other team did.

Karen was critical of some of the negotiating tactics of some team members, its difficult to judge what the right thing to do is, what is most important is getting the results. Saying “I only have £5 in my pocket” when trying to buy expensive cigars is stupid. But trying to get people to like you by being nice to them is the right thing to do in my opinion.

So here are my lessons from this episode;

  1. As a project manager you must constantly refocus your team to your strategy. The job of the PM should differ from other team members, they need to delegate, organise and lead their team in the direction planned
  2. When negotiating with a seller never suggest a price as this becomes your benchmark. You should let them suggest their lowest price and negotiate below this and it may cost you getting a better deal
  3. I know this is a competition, but the teams need to come together and work together better. The best way to ensure you stay in the process is to make sure you win the task. Instead, it still feels like they are trying to make themselves safe in the process.