Sir Alan Sugar strolls amongst the Wallace Collection before addressing the assembled throng of candidates. He notes that portraits are a good thing and in the same breath tells his motley crew that their next task is to go to the Blue Water shopping centre and take photographic portraits, using a theme. Oh, and just to raise the stakes he mixes the teams up.
As I noted in the last series I’m the son of two professional photographers. By the way, that doesn’t make me a photographer. However, Simon Smith’s more tenuous relationship with a friend seems to give him boundless confidence in his ability to take photos. So he volunteers to lead the team.
Having been taught the organisation of a photo shoot I understand the importance of making sure photos are identified correctly. Naturally one of the teams is completely at sea with that thought. And unfortunately that team is Simon’s.
So let’s look at what each team did, the resulting boardroom brawl and whether the firing was fair.
“Chopper Smith” Shoots Himself In The Foot
As a project manager it’s important to be involved in everything so that you can make decisions based on knowledge of current and projected activities. If you’re actually running one of the major activities yourself you’re not going to be able to manage properly. So Simon takes the job of photographer which is vital and then sets about alienating his team.
Mind you he didn’t need to alienate Alex. He asked Alex to act as his second, or his linkman to the back office processing team. Alex back-pedaled as quickly as possible making it very clear that he didn’t fancy doing anything that might mean he was in the firing line. In the end Simon was forced to give the link role to Claire.
The theme Simon chose for the portraits was glamour and beauty. Purely because Blue Water was where he came from and he knew the people who went there! So he suggested they make their customers look as though they were somewhere nicer than a shopping centre.
So Simon shoots off to get stuff to make people look glamorous. He fails dismally and gets pieces of clothe that he drapes “artfully” over people, so they look rather like they’re waiting for the tailor to measure them.
You can probably guess that I’m not particularly impressed by the theme Simon has chosen. And as we see later in the boardroom neither are his team!
So having got the props and fussed about their delivery into the shopping centre they’re ready to shoot people.The set they create looks like complete tat – so much for having a glamour and beauty theme. What amazes me is that the team offer a Platinum package at £24.99 which consists of a portrait, a key ring and a jigsaw. Why? Apart from causing lots of work there will be people who don’t want everything.
Agent Orange (Aka Jenny Celerier) bleats about wasting time at the beginning of the photo shoot day. Hmm… Pot and Kettle occurs to me here.
Pretty soon it’s clear that Claire has no confidence in Simon’s management. However, she doesn’t really help him. As a side note, this series does seem to depend a lot on people choosing scapegoats, rather than trying to do the task to the best of their ability.
Part way through the day Simon realises that control of the task has completely eluded him as Claire says that the back office where they’re printing Simon’s luxury package of photos is getting lost as to whose photo to print.
So it’s down the tools and get together with the back office people to try and get things working. Identifying which photos to print is not hard.
And by the way it helps if you have a separate computer, based where the photographer is, to allow people to choose the photo they want before the memory card is sent upstairs for printing. Also I’d have had several memory sticks so that the bottleneck of having to wait to fill a card or for one to come back is avoided.
But I digress…
By the end of the day Simon is despondent, he knows he’s lost money. Claire comes over and says, that they’ve at least broken even!
Lucinda Lamb To The Slaughter
Helene Speight volunteers to be the project manager for the task and the team promptly choose exactly the right theme – get a look-a-like that people can be photographed with. The look-a-likes they interview are either not like who they represent or just not right to photograph with people. Luckily the team’s bacon is saved when a lookie-likee they interview looks very like David Beckham and has pretty much done anything you can think of that a look-alike would do across the world. Nice one Helene’s team!
At the initial project set-up process Lucinda Ledgerwood said she couldn’t operate anything technical, she didn’t even know how to operate her mobile camera. So obviously Helene chooses Lucinda as the main cog in the back office processing plant. That way she’s got an instant, just add hot boardroom lights, scapegoat if the team fails the task.
Kevin (“I eat Italian I do”) Shaw volunteers to be at the sharp end selling. Very clever because he’s realised the two areas that are going to go wrong are the back office processing and the taking of the photos. Selling is going to depend entirely on whether the photos and the theme are any good – which are out of his hands.
The photo shoot with the David Beckham look-alike gets off to a great start, they have a nice backdrop of a football crowd to take photos against and business appears brisk. Portraits are being offered at £15.99.
In the back office Lucinda is extremely unhappy that although she’s been trained she hasn’t a clue as to what to do to start getting the photos printed out. If she wasn’t so entertaining I’d have asked Sir Alan to sack her before the series started.
As business builds up people are not getting what they want – Lucinda is completely unable to print anything out. So the selling is stopped, much to Kevin’s relief I’m sure as he’s now off the hook.
Helene has had the same training that Lucinda had. When Lucinda suggests that Helene step in and make it work for the good of the task Helene pretty much points out that she’d given her scapegoat the task and there was no way she was going to do it for her.
Finally they decide to print the photos on to normal paper (so they’ll fade fairly quickly and soon be blank pieces of paper). Business restarts and the crowds collect their flimsy pieces of paper put inside a brown manilla envelope-looking folder. The price they appear willing to pay for the complete rubbish they’re given is a few pence short of £20. I would be severely embarrassed at asking anyone to pay more than £1.50 for any of the prints they did – after all the customers will be holding blank sheets of paper soon.
Alex Has A Conversion In The Boardroom
When Sir Alan asks Helene’s team (Alpha) how they did Kevin (“I eat Italian I do”) is quick to pop up and say that they were let down by the manufacture of the products in the back office. Obviously a cue for Helene to immediately say that Lucinda is incompetent and lazy. After some back and forth Nick Hewitt gets right to the point and says Helene should have shuffled the team so they could still complete the task.
Then when Simon starts explaining what theme Renaissance was using Claire breaks into to say that she disagrees – a little late after the event isn’t it Claire?
Nick and Margaret report the figures for the teams:
Renaissance costs = £577.23, sales = £503.42, loss = £73.81
Alpha costs = £592.93, sales = £738.03, profit = £145.10
When Renaissance’s loss is announced Simon turns and looks at Claire who glances back with a slight smile on her face!
Notice that when Alpha were released as winners to go on their cruise that Raef went round congratulating the sales people on the team – that man is building himself a network of people who like him…
As Renaissance wait to go back to the boardroom after Sir Alan’s lunch with prime minister Michael manages yet again to make a fatuous comment: “it was a communication problem…that’s all it boils down to.” Yes Michael it was a communication problem. One that should have been nipped in the bud extremely quickly by Claire. However, Claire had other fish to fry – Simon. I don’t think I’d like Claire on my team she strikes me as the sort of person who says, “don’t take offence but…” And people who say that are basically aiming to give offence.
Sir Alan asked why Claire hadn’t told the back office that something was going wrong. Alex then was struck by a bolt of lightning which converted him from thinking Simon was the culprit to now saying that Claire was! Claire was gobsmacked by Alex’s knife in the back.
After more drivel from Claire Sir Alan tells her to go back to the house and she’ll be the next team leader. Simon is then quickly and compassionately fired.
Was Chopper Smith’s Firing Fair?
Funnily enough Raef and others in the house discussing the boardroom reckon that Claire will go. And at that moment Claire walks back in. Michael’s face drops in disbelief.
In the end Simon did deserve to go because:
- his theme was unimaginative
- he should not have been the camera man
- he should not have let Claire be the link between shopfloor and back office
- he delayed resolving the back office identification issue
- the prices seemed a bit “plucked out of the air”
Sorry to see you go Simon but Claire rang rings round you and I think was the reason that you didn’t make money. However, you didn’t pull her up about it soon enough or make enough fuss in the presence of Margaret to make sure it came to view in the boardroom. But the most heinous crime was simply working at the sharp end and ending up with no time to manage.
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