By Jonathan Davies
It's hard to believe that there has only been three episodes of this year's series of BBC's The Apprentice. But three weeks in and we're yet to see an all-round great performance from either team.
This week saw the candidates create their own home fragrance products - candles and diffusers, basically. The teams were mixed up slightly, so there was no more boys vs girls. Team Tenacity won the task by £14, despite not selling out of their products.
Rather than giving advice on how to do business, The Apprentice often provides plenty of advice on how not to do business. That's why I'm taking a look at Team Summit.
There were two complete contrasts between the teams. Summit had a great product, but got their pricing horribly wrong. Team Tenacity's products weren't so great ("custard in a jar" is how Lord Sugar described their candles), but they got the pricing spot on.
If one thing was clear from the usual introduction to the task from Lord Sugar, it was that this task was all about high-end products with big profit margins.
But that completely went over the head of project manager Roisin, who is an accountant by the way, and her right-hand man for the task, James.
The product was brilliant. "Beach Dreams" with a package design that oozed luxury. On price, the team started discussing numbers like £35 per unit. 'Do not go lower than £25...the lowest is £20' one team member soon said.
But project manager Roisin, the accountant remember, was soon letting her team know that she didn't mind them knocking down the price even further. £8 was mentioned quite a few times.
A pitch at a luxury hotel in London ended with a sale of 25 candles and 25 diffusers all-but-done - the diffusers at £15 each. But the team were soon seen selling the diffusers to a small boutique shop for £8.50 each. Cue the managers' unimpressed face when the team returned a day later without the 25 diffusers he'd been promised.
James, the self-proclaimed "Dell Boy", showed signs that he may be closer to his on screen alter-ego than even he realised. £8, £7, £6 he was selling the candles for. "Two for £10" he said to one customer. Off the top of my head, a medium-sized Yankee Candle costs around £13. Although generally more expensive than your average candle, I wouldn't personally describe Yankee Candles as "high-end". But there was James, selling Team Summit's 'high-end, luxury' Beach Dreams candles (roughly the same size as a medium Yankee Candle) for as little as £5.
Need I remind you that this task was all about margins? James was probably convinced that he was being the savvy salesman. But the truth was that he had no awareness of the profit margins he was hammering down with every sale - one of the most basic aspects of business.
James and Roisin were perhaps lucky to have been joined by Lindsay and Nurun, who were both very quiet during the task (and that's putting it politely!). Had Lord Sugar looked at this task in isolation, rather than potential for the rest of the series, perhaps the complete failure on pricing would've trumped the lack of input.
This was the first week that either team came up with a really great product. But they completely failed on some of the most basic principles of business.
Next week sees the team create their own online video channel. That can only go well, right?
You can tweet your reactions to @freshbusiness or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us on