Friday, June 24, 2011

Business Acu(wo)men [1 of 2]

WARNING! Spoilers be ahead - or at least, they are if you aren't up-to-date with BBC One series THE APPRENTICE. I accept no responsibility if you choose to read on.

The Apprentice - or should I say the BBC's annual parade for the megalomaniacal - is back on our screens, bringing us another bunch of bright young entrepreneurs to goggle at on a weekly basis (and a few so fresh-faced they look like they've been dropped into the boardroom straight from the womb).

Now, I'm aware that saying "I think there's going to be a few bigheads in this series" is akin to saying "I think the Pope might be of the Catholic faith", but I guess the sort of characters that would apply for a high-profile position under the wing of a massive household name such as S'rAlan Sug sorry, Lord Sugar are bound to be confident, prepossessing, enthusiastic...and of course there are bound to be those to which the prefix "over-" applies to all of those adjectives. Let's have a look at some of these quotes, taken from the 'talking heads' section of Series Seven:

"To be honest, I am pretty great." (this candidate was fired early on)
"I'm like a really, really fine-tuned switch; if I need to tone it down, then I tone it down. If I need to tone it up, then I tone it up."
"I'm a Leon-trepreneur."
"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon."

And that last quote can be attributed to this young lady: Melody Hossaini. Now, before I go any further with her, I'd like to state why I am bringing her to your attention.

Anyone remember this chap from last year? Yes, "The Brand" was young and very foolish, but after his Baptism of Fire in the interviews stage during which he was eaten alive by Margaret Mountford and co., he went on to gain redemption after his appearance on You're Fired and a subsequent column in Heat magazine. He has become a caricature of himself and, love him or hate him, you have to admit that he has earned himself a bit of a break.

So what did Stuart do that was so terrible? Well, he lied his way out of (and eventually into) trouble, he twisted information around to suit his views before presenting it to his colleagues, he tried to muscle in and take over tasks assigned to others. He did all of this over the course of the series, while Melody did all of that and more during the latest episode.

This week, the teams were sent to sell British products in France. A sub-team from each was sent off to do some brand research in order to pitch to French retailers, one of which was La Redoute. While the sub-team did this, the rest of the team had a look at a range of British homeware and technology products which would be brand new to the French market. Instead of doing the research project manager Tom asked Melody to do concerning La Redoute, she decided to conduct a street survey to garner opinion on one of the products, a children's car seat that folded away into a backpack. Despite not having seen the product, she took a dislike to it and decided that she didn't want it to make the shortlist.

What we, the viewers saw were a group of French people expressing an interest in the product - several people told Melody and team member Leon that it was a good idea, despite explaining that a lot of families use the Metro system. Melody took this to mean that the product wouldn't be well received, and used this information along with her initial dislike of the product to convince Tom to go for another item; a kitsch-y teapot-shaped hanging light. Quite rightly, Tom explained "Well I'd be an idiot to push three people to sell something they really didn't want to."

Melody almost redeemed herself with her sales - almost. While Leon tagged along like a moth hanging around a lightbulb, whining that he couldn't speak French (or in fact speak at all), Melody made some great sales. She set up meetings with companies, and then she decided that she was the only one entitled to pitch to them. Her reluctance to back the backpack/car seat bit her on the arse in the boardroom, where it turned out Helen, who had done her research on La Redoute, had done an amazing stonking pitch to them and got them to place an order of 214,000 Euros (a boardroom record). Melody, Tom and Leon were brought back into the boardroom: Tom because he was PM (and didn't make any sales, which serious jeopardised his position), Melody because of her lack of team-play and Leon because...well, he did nothing this time.

And Lord Sugar loved her. Of course he did, despite Nick pointing out her fibbing and lack of motivation to do what her team wanted over what she wanted to do. Now, Lord S admittedly would have loved her if she had been a bloke, but how would everyone else have reacted to her?

Let's look at 'Jedi' Jim Eastwood shall we? A few weeks back he ripped into youngest candidate Susan Ma, calling her "a mouse" and accusing her of only speaking up when it suited her. Quite rightly, he was told to shut up in no uncertain terms by Lord Sugar and Susan was given a chance to speak. Jim has also garnered to perfection a technique I like to call "The Symbiote" - he sticks to another male candidate, coaxes them into doing what is beneficial to him and then drops all confederacy in the boardroom.

Melody isn't doing exactly what Jim did to the letter: she's not a bully, though she did nearly go into spiteful hysterics in the boardroom. She doesn't form alliances; in fact quite the opposite, but you can still use the same words to describe them both: manipulative, self-serving, untruthful.

Why does Melody get away with it? As a viewer, she made me very angry; even angrier than Jim did when he shouted Susan down. Jim and Melody both have Lord Sugar's respect, but Jim is tarred with a black brush. Melody gets off scot-free in the boardroom (admittedly, according to many social networks she is not very popular). She doesn't need to redeem herself, a la The Brand. She is a "tiger", not a "liar".

And now the big question: is it because she is a woman?

Please let me know what your comments are on this - I will be using them in a follow-up post to this one.


Mini Nomi said...

Is it because she is a woman: No I don't think so. Is it because she is a very beautiful woman: yes, it just might be. I was actually surprised by S'rAlan's reaction to her in all honesty, I was fully expecting a major grilling but this didn't come. I can understand why not, he is looking for a business partner this time, not a worker bee and she can command, be authoritative and seemingly get her own way just by her nature.

However, personally I can't stand her. She made me very angry and I wanted Tom to go for the backpack/carseat combo and thought it was exceedingly arrogant and dishonest of her to use her dislike to sway the "market research" in that manner. As for the lack of research on La Redoute... unforgivable.

I know I'm veering away from your question but I think it is all linked. I don't think a man would have got away with behavior like that but perhaps neither would she, had her two male team mates not been the sweetest most unassuming men in the process this year. Faced with Jim as a team leader or a partner in Paris I just don't think it would have happened. I think she gets away with being so ruthlessley unpleasant because of her looks and I think it's wrong. I can't imagine what she'd be like as a boss! Is she a tiger? Perhaps but I wouldn't want to leave her running a business and have all the employees unhappy and downtrodden.

Ash said...

I'd like to add to this my other half's perfect summing up of Melody every time she appears on the screen: "She's a twat."

What also annoyed me was afterwards when they returned to the house, she said "And Lord Sugar reeled off all my awards, one by one", as if he was praising her. When infact he did do that, then asked her what the hell they were! She is simply a liar and a cheat. Does she get away with it because she is a woman? I don't think so, but it may well be a part of it, rolled in with a number of other factors. She's very good at glossing things over and twisting things to make her sound like she is better. I wonder how much of what goes on in the tasks Lord Sugar gets to SEE, not just hear about from his aides.

I very nearly thought she was going to be fired this week over the biscuits due to her behaviour, and thought it was despicable of her not to even say goodbye to the woman who was fired, unalike Jim who did go and speak to her.