The Apprentice – Week One – Managing Expectations in South Africa
In an Apprentice first, the teams are sent to Cape Town where they’re challenged to set up and sell their own safari and vineyard tours. Unhappy customers will be able to claim a refund on the price of their tickets.
1. Don’t promise more than you can deliver
One of the basic rules of project management is, “don’t promise your customers more than you can deliver”. It’s a rule that both teams ignored from the start. The boys’ sales team offered potential punters a guarantee that they would see the “big five”, despite a warning from the warden that, “this isn’t a zoo, we never know which animals we’re going to see when we go out”. The girls offered a “luxury” wine tour including lunch, although food was very definitely not in the the project manager’s budget.
As it turned out both teams got away with it. The boys went out of their way to keep their customers happy by finding at least three of the big five – rhino, lions and elephants – even though this meant extending the safari by two hours. It cost them sales at the gift shop, but no-one demanded a refund. The girls laid on a hastily assembled “luxury cheese board” which masqueraded as lunch. Some of their customers did ask for their money back, although this might have had more to do with the girl’s inability to find the tasting room at the winery. Despite this, the girls’ team won by a little over £40.
2. Focus on your business case
The real reason for the boys losing was their lack of focus on their business case. If your project is about selling – as well as developing – a product, you’d better make sure you have an effective sales team. Despite some brash promises, the boys only sold 12 tickets while the girls shifted their full compliment of 16. This made all the difference as the boys failed to earn the full discount they were expecting from the safari park. As ever, Karen Brady was there to sum up their downfall in one pithy sentence, “They had a great tour, at a great price… and they still couldn’t sell it”.
3. The result
It’s rare for the losing project manager not to be sacked on the first task. So I was pleased to see Lewis remain in the competition as overall he didn’t do a bad job. Shahin appeared to have his cards marked right from the start of the show. After failing to sell a single ticket he had to go, despite his shrill protestation that, “my skill set is around project management”. It’s a shame he won’t get the chance to show off those skills on national TV. Meanwhile, Lord Sugar’s mainly poo and Brexit-related jokes sank to new depths. His search for a decent script-writer continues…