The Apprentice – Week Ten: Fashion Show

Dec 19, 2017 | projects in plain english

Lord Sugar gathers the candidates at Somerset House where he reveals that they are to become fashion agents, selling garments for designers. They must select a designer, plan and organise a catwalk show and put together a magazine cover to supplement their sales campaign.

Taking a risk

Anything that is uncertain is a risk to a project. Projects tend to involve more uncertainty than everyday business activities so every project manager needs to take a proactive approach to managing risk. You can’t just cross your fingers and hope that it won’t happen.

In this week’s task one of the project managers took a big risk that led to her being fired.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Fashion Show Projects in Plain English

Jade reflects on the perils of not managing risk effectively…

Threat or opportunity?

Risks can include threats that could have a negative effect on a project, and opportunities that could have a favourable effect on the project’s objectives. The team’s first task was to choose a designer whose clothes they thought they could sell at their fashion show. Jade went for Helluvagirl, the winner of 2016’s designer of the year award. Helluvagirl’s creator, Helen Woolams, designs high-end clothes that she described as “post-apocalyptic, regal rock and roll”. Lord Sugar put it more bluntly, “Is bacofoil the new black?” Thankfully he’s probably not the target audience that Ms. Woolams has in mind. By selecting Helluvagirl Jade recognised that there was a great opportunity to outsell her rivals. Team Graphene had selected an “ethical contemporary menswear designer” with prices that meant they had to sell ten times as many clothes.

Risk responses

Jade had no difficulty in recognizing that she was taking a big risk that had the potential to make a big impact on the project’s main objective, making a profit. But she completely failed to consider the options that were available to her to manage the risk. There are four classic responses to an opportunity:

  • Exploit: take action to ensure that the opportunity will succeed
  • Enhance: do something that will increase the chances of it succeeding
  • Share: share the financial impact of the risk with a third party
  • Accept: make a conscious decision to accept the risk if you can’t exploit, enhance or share it.

Exploit or enhance?

Exploiting an opportunity – making absolutely sure that it will work – is extremely difficult and it wasn’t an option that was open to Jade. But there was plenty that she could have done to enhance the likelihood that it would work. Winning the support of the magazine that agreed to feature one of Helluva Girl’s creations on the cover was a good start. But it didn’t help that she got the name of the label wrong misleading everyone including the editor of the magazine and her team. “Is the designer’s brand Helen Woollams?’ the confused editor asked. “Her brand is Helen Woollams, absolutely,” confirmed Jade.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Fashion Show Projects in Plain English “Really annoying because this is not what we wanted …”

Sharing a risk

Having chosen an expensive cutting-edge label Jade could have shared the risk that it might be difficult to sell with the designer. Instead she failed to even ask if they could offer retailers a discount for buying the whole collection. “I don’t think it will be a problem,” Jade insisted. “People will be going there and buying these pieces anyway.” How wrong can you be? Over on Team Graphene, Joanne not only negotiated a bulk discount but a healthy commission. The bottom line was that Graphene made £25,063. 50p in sales (taking £4,362.80p with the 17% commission she had negotiated) compared to Vitality’s £11, 015 (£1,001.50p – 10% commission). This was despite using James as a catwalk model. “Was you praying or just constipated?” enquired Lord Sugar.

Credit: BBC

The Apprentice Fashion Show Projects in Plain English “Really annoying because this is not what we wanted …”

The result

If Jade didn’t win this task she was always going to be favourite to be fired. And so it turned out. Her fate was sealed when she gave yet another terrible pitch during the catwalk show. She tried to save herself by turning the spotlight on Harrison, “I’ve done all these things which is better than Harrison being able to put out some chairs…” This was true, but it didn’t save her from being fired – or him. Harrison’s attitude throughout the task had been that, as a bloke, there was nothing he could do to sell women’s clothes. Lord Sugar was not impressed. “You were about as useful as a fur coat in a Sauna” he summarised, and Harrison was on his way.

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