Week 2 Of The Apprentice: Lord Sugar Turns Sour

It’s only week two of The Apprentice and already the latest candidates to be Lord Sugar’s partner are irritating the hell out of me, not to mention Lord Sugar. For the first time, there was no winner and he seemed close to firing the lot of them.

Lord Sugar of The Apprentice
Lord Sugar

It’s only week two of The Apprentice and already the latest candidates to be Lord Sugar’s partner are irritating the hell out of me, not to mention Lord Sugar.  For the first time, there was no winner and he seemed close to firing the lot of them.

To be fair, the limited time available to the teams to create a marketing campaign including packaging, a TV commercial and a digital bus shelter ad would test any of us.

The first thing that suffers is research without which, as any marketer worth their weekend cottage in the Cotswolds knows, your campaign is mere guesswork. This has been widely known and accepted since Claude C Hopkins wrote Scientific Advertising over 90 years ago. Consequence in week two was the girls targeted people like themselves but packaged for older people and the boys decided Japanese was a selling point.

Another problem is that Lord Sugar is looking for a leader, so we end up with the classic ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians’. In other words, they all want to run the project and most don’t want to accept someone else being in charge. In the past, winners have usually shown that they can be firm in their offer of advice but will accept the decision of the project manager and do their best to make it succeed.

Two other leadership qualities which so far have not been in evidence are the willingness to listen and the ability to delegate with clear instructions.

Confidence is something rarely lacking in Lord Sugar’s candidates but this week we saw the collapse of the women’s team leader. It was unfortunate that all the women called back into the boardroom reacted emotionally, as it played to the myth that women are unsuited to the cut-and-thrust of higher management. It isn’t wrong to cry or to admit mistakes. In fact, the macho characteristics of concealing emotion and never being wrong make for poor management.

What you do need as a leader is the confidence of your team and for that you need to appear to be confident in your ability. They will respect that you admit mistakes or that you are involved enough in your work to get emotional. But if you seem to have no idea what you are doing and show that by collapsing, you will lose respect.

For us viewers, this year’s The Apprentice is shaping up to a classic of cringe and incredulity. Roll on, week three.

This article is written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience and marketing consultant to, among others, Hampshire Workspace and Theatre Royal Winchester. He was formerly Head of Marketing & Operations at The Mayflower Theatre.

Should You Comment On Your Colleague’s Appearance?

Charlotte Proudman's LinkedIn profile
Charlotte Proudman’s LinkedIn profile

So, is it sexist to describe someone’s photo on a business website as ‘stunning’? That was what barrister Charlotte Proudman thought when solicitor Alexander Carter-Silk made the comment to her on LinkedIn.

Before addressing that question, I should straightaway say that whatever one’s view, it’s wrong to send her abusive and offensive messages and a prominent newspaper shouldn’t inflame the situation by referring to her as a ‘feminazi’. She has an opinion. It should be respected.

And respect seems to me to be the key. Any sensible person will know that commenting on a colleague’s appearance is to step onto dangerous ground. Some men believe women like to be complimented on their appearance. Perhaps this is understandable, given the amount of time and money many women spend on their appearance. In male-female relationships, more men are likely to be familiar with the phrase ‘How do I look?’ than women. But of course that doesn’t apply to all women and even less so in the workplace.

You must respect what your colleagues find acceptable. Just as some people might be intimidated by suggestive jokes, others might enjoy sharing a laugh. My advice is to tread very carefully and err on the side of caution. In the workplace or when you are dealing with someone professionally, a person’s appearance is not relevant to business. Then again, if someone likes to be complimented, it seems almost rude not to say something pleasant. There are no hard and fast rules.

It can work both ways. While I’ve never been described as ‘stunning’, women occasionally compliment me on my appearance (very occasionally). They might say they like my haircut or my new jacket. I am quite pleased when this happens. It’s not saying they find me sexy, which I admit is unlikely at my age. That also opens up the possibility of returning the compliment in a non-sexist way. On the other hand, when I was quite a bit younger, a female colleague once squeezed my bottom. I regarded that as crossing the line. I would suggest one should never touch a colleague or business acquaintance except to shake hands. A reassuring touch on the arm, a hug of congratulations, a reassuring arm round the shoulder might all seem innocent but many find it an invasion of space or patronising.

To an extent, sexism is in the eye of the beholder but also in the intention of the perpetrator. Or to put it another way, context is everything. I agree with Ms Proudman that LinkedIn is not the place for comments on appearance. As she said, ‘I am on linked-in for business purposes not to be approached about my physical appearance.’ There are plenty of social contexts where such comments would be appropriate but for too many people the line between business and social is blurred.

I think Ms Proudman is also right that ‘the eroticisation of women’s physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women’s professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject’. I have been appalled that the female Labour leadership candidates have been asked so many questions and received so many comments about their clothes, hairstyles and general appearance that the media wouldn’t dream of directing to the male candidates.

Any of us can fall foul of a charge of prejudice. Even Ms Proudman. In responding to Mr Carter-Silk’s comment, she said, ‘Think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message.’ Which some of us might regard as ageist, given the implication that it might have been all right if he had been nearer her age.
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I am aware that this blog may have offended some people. I have generalised about men and women. I have talked only about heterosexuals. None of us can hope to avoid all prejudice in our behaviour but we must try, if we are to get the best out of our professional- and personal- relationships.

This blog is the personal opinion of Paul Lewis of Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn. A version of this blog has appeared on the Hampshire Workspace and Daily Echo websites.


The Don Draper Guide To Marketing

With Mad Men back on our screens, let’s look back at TV’s greatest drama and see what gems of wisdom we can apply to our own marketing.

Mad Men tells the story of some New York advertising people and their partners in the 1960s. Their business is a success but their personal lives are disastrous. Top of the pile is Don Draper, suave, sophisticated, fake- a man who has made his way to the top through a combination of huge natural talent and dogged self interest. Other protagonists include his business partners Roger Sterling and Pete Campbell, both in advertising because of their inherited money and connections.

Much of the tension in their advertising agency is the same as can be found in any office- the war of attrition between the creative entrepreneurial types and those who want to run a steady business. Both Roger and Pete recognise that they need Don’s creativity. “That is a very sensitive piece of horseflesh. He shouldn’t be rattled!” says Pete.

In fact their appreciation of him is in inverse proportion to his contempt for them, even though businesses need people who have the ability to attract and schmooze clients. Don is a loner whose arrogance about his creative work and inability to be a team player mean he could never be a successful leader.

They may recognise his genius but neither Roger nor Pete actually understand what Don does. Roger says to him, “I can never get used to the fact that most of the time it looks like you’re doing nothing.” In Pete’s eyes, advertising is “all about what it looks like” which reflects the common view that marketing is a lie dressed up in tinsel.

Living Like There’s No Tomorrow

When Don reached his inevitable breakdown in Mad Men, the more traditional businesspeople in the company couldn’t wait to take advantage and get rid of him. The sort of mavericks who inspire customers and clients often have to watch their backs when the safety-first bean counters move in. Perhaps the most famous example in the real business world is the time Apple fired Steve Jobs.

What makes Don a success in advertising? He has learnt what makes human beings tick. However the way he learned it- as a child brought up in a brothel- has made him cynical about life. This cynicism seems to be the key to his character. “There is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent,” he proclaims. “You’re born alone and you die alone, and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, ’cause there isn’t one,” he explains on a different occasion. To underline the point, “It’s your life – you don’t know where it’s going but you know it ends badly.”

What makes Don’s character so interesting is that his cynicism is tinged with a sadness that comes from the disappointment of knowing what life could be like in an ideal world, a theme that goes back to Adam and Eve gaining knowledge at the loss of Eden. He remains true to himself and tries to be honourable despite his view of the world.

This existential view of life grew rapidly in the fifties and sixties and is now probably the dominant view, whether conscious or not, of people in Western society. The older Roger Sterling, with his humorous quips in every situation, is even more cynical than Don but more amoral, with no time for Don’s angst ridden philosophy, “Your kind with your gloomy thoughts and your worries, you’re all busy licking some imaginary wound.”

The Greatest Thing You Have Working For You

Regarding advertising, Don may be supremely cynical but his insights are invaluable to anyone wanting to market their business. For Don, exploiting the need for something lost or missing is key. His famous description of the Kodak photo slide carousel hinges on nostalgia, namely the need for “a place where we know we are loved.”

Similarly, he observes that teenagers are “mourning for their childhood more than they’re anticipating their future, because they don’t know it yet, but they don’t want to die.”

Conversely, he opines, “The most important idea in advertising is ‘new’. It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion.” The link between these apparently contradictory needs is in Don’s comment, “We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

“What is happiness?” he asks rhetorically. “It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” He makes people seem pretty desperate in their existential world. It’s a matter of opinion whether, as Don believes, “People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”

Taking the polar opposite view to Pete’s on the nature of advertising, Don says, “The greatest thing you have working for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint: it’s the imagination of the consumer. They have no budget, they have no time limit, and if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.” This could be the mantra of any of us in marketing.

How does Don get into that space? He tells a story. His ex-wife Betty calls him a “gifted storyteller.” Anyone who wants to succeed in business needs to tell a compelling story that engages the customer. Don uses his skill just as much when pitching to clients. And of course he uses it as a weapon when seducing women, where he adds to his armoury good looks and sharp suits.

Being With A Client Is Like Being In A Marriage

Don’s cynicism extends to his love life in Mad Men. “What you call love was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons.” Other characters disagree. Joan Holloway says, “I want love, and I’d rather die hoping that happens than make some arrangement.” Then again, she’s a manager, not a creative.

Having said that, it is clear that Don needs love and even realises it, it’s just that his cynicism prevents him giving of himself in the way that’s necessary in order to receive it. Anna Draper makes an insightful comment on Don’s character, “The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone.”

Instead he either manipulates the women he seduces or indulges in shallow sexual encounters. Although his relationships end because of his constant yearning for something different, he always feels the guilt and regret of someone with human feelings.

His inability to sacrifice himself, even in his own self interest, makes him liable to betray his women and his colleagues. Despite his need for connection, he is neither a team player nor a good husband. One of Don’s qualities as a hero is his unwillingness to compromise but this is not a good trait in relationships, whether business or personal. At one stage in Mad Men, he loses the agency an account worth $1 million by telling the truth.

The inevitable failure of Don Draper’s personal relationships in Mad Men reflects a view expressed more than once about clients. Roger observes wryly, “Being with a client is like being in a marriage. Sometimes you get into it for the wrong reasons, and eventually they hit you in the face.” Don himself comments, “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing him.” An experience with which all businesspeople will be familiar.

Don has one relationship that endures despite some rocky moments- Peggy Olson, his workplace colleague and protégé. He says to her, “The way that [people] saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that’s very valuable.”

How many times have businesspeople felt they have more in common with a work colleague than their spouse? Of course, in Don’s case, he marries his secretary and that works out as badly for him, as does pretty much everything else this flawed genius touches in his personal life.

Don Draper’s complexity makes him one of the most interesting characters ever to appear in a TV drama. He is both admirable and disgusting, honest and deceitful, honourable and disloyal. Ultimately he is a flawed hero, which may be the best we can aspire to be in the modern business world.

I hope he finds peace but I fear that it will ‘end badly’ for him.

Mad Men can be seen on Sky Atlantic on Thursdays at 10pm.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn

7 Criteria For Attracting Business Investors

Lord Sugar of The ApprenticeNeither of the two finalists in The Apprentice would have attracted business investment in the real world. Here’s what investors with £250,000 really look for in a start up.

1. You need a unique product– not just unique in the sense of filling a gap in the market but also something that others will not be able to imitate. This means you need intellectual property, patents or an exclusive commercial arrangement in place.

That’s where poor Roisin went wrong. Her idea for a diet product to fill a gap as well as stomachs might have been a good one that could have been patented except there was no gap- an identical product already existed. Which leads me to a second point.

2. Don’t launch your idea too early. Research and test. Oh, and asking six friends doesn’t constitute research. Testing means making sure your product is ready to go to market. Investors don’t want to put their precious money into further R&D.

3. Take a good look at the market for your product or service. Investors prefer a growing market, that’s why they love software and technology, especially medical technology. They are also looking for scalability, in other words a product or service that will work at a bigger even global level. So a business that relies on you carving wooden Topsy dolls is not scalable whereas an app inspired by Topsy could just grow and grow.

4. And fast. There’s no such thing as long term investment and slow growth for investors. They want to get their money back and a profit within three or at worse five years. They would like to see that you have a plan for launching an IPO (Initial Public Offering) or maybe a buy out.

5. Keep it simple. You need one idea that can you can explain to non-experts. Don’t complicate it with two products. That can come later. Bianca almost messed up by talking about to distinct product offerings.

6. An authoritative, fully costed business plan is essential. Six pages with three pages of pretty pictures won’t cut it, Solomon. The plan must show how the business is going to make money. Claude wasn’t happy that Roisin’s business plan showed she was going to run out of money in the second year.

7. It’s about you. Investors need to have confidence in you. Your experience, your confidence, the sense that you know what you’re talking about, these are all important factors. If you put in some of your own money, that helps too. Also, if you are early in your business career, bring on board at least one experienced businessperson because even a really good idea will fail if investors have no confidence in the management team. They are attracted to a project that involves someone with experience of launching and selling companies.

One other point. Think about offering Liquidation Preferential Multiples. This means investors will get more of their money back than other shareholders if things go wrong. This could make a difference to the attraction of your proposal but be careful not to go too high.

So what about the finalists? Mark may well be the best salesperson in the country at selling Search Engine Optimisation and therefore his business could be successful on a small scale. However it is a crowded market so the service is not unique and it is not scalable because it relies on his talent. So a sensible investor would be highly unlikely to have anything to do with it.

Bianca does have a good track record- her current company is a top 100 start up- and her idea is a good one. However, as far as I can see, there is nothing to stop other bigger companies from imitating the idea of manufacturing hosiery to match the colour of people with darker or lighter skin than the most common types.

I don’t see a genuine investor choosing either of these startups. Fortunately this is only TV entertainment. Difficult decision, Lord Sugar.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn

Follow The Crowd

Thousands of entrepreneurs with good ideas are now looking to the great mass of small investors rather than one big venture capitalist to help them launch or expand a product. Many musicians, writers, filmmakers and artists are looking to fans to help them get their work made. For the entrepreneurs and artists, it’s a way to get around an establishment that can be risk averse and limited in vision. For you and me, it can be a fun way to put a small amount of spare cash into supporting something we like.

Photo of Chateau de Peyrepertuse

Last week I found myself in the middle of a huge conspiracy. Visiting the Languedoc part of France, now renamed Cathar Country by clever tourism people, I climbed a hazardous mountain path to the ruined castle of Peyrepertuse and found myself in the setting for Kate Mosse’s bestseller Labyrinth.

I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about the Holy Grail. I tend to think such a big story wouldn’t really have been kept secret for two thousand years. Even if true, I’m not that interested. Nevertheless Mosse writes a gripping narrative and brings alive a dramatic period in medieval French history.

I first came across Ms Mosse as the writer of the book accompanying the BBC TV documentary series which went behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House. I found that a gripping read too. Where the book generated light, the TV series preferred the heat of conflict and confrontation including a memorable occasion when a frustrated marketing person broke his phone which, as I recall, was not even worthy of a mention in the book.

I actually helped publish Ms Mosse’s most recent non-fiction work- a history of 50 years of Chichester Festival Theatre. The book was crowdfunded by the publisher Unbound and I was one of the crowd. Given it’s probably my favourite producing theatre, I decided to put up £20. There was no risk. The funds were raised so I got a copy of the book with my name in it, but if there hadn’t been enough subscribers, I would have kept my £20.

This is nothing new. I have a set of leather bound works of Shakespeare from the mid nineteenth century which were published by subscription periodically as and when sufficient money was raised. Clearly it wasn’t an entire success as there are no Roman Plays!

This year, for the first time I think, a West End musical was partly crowdfunded. Through the Seedrs website, The Pajama Game, which I saw and loved at Chichester, raised £200,000. Theatre is a risky investment. I once asked a well known and successful West End producer whether I should put money into one his productions. ‘Only if you are prepared to lose it,’ was his candid reply. However, unlike the usual situation where the smallest amount you can put in might be £3000, you could have been an investor in The Pajama Game for as little as £10. A better bet than the Lottery, I suspect, and a lot more exciting.

Thousands of entrepreneurs with good ideas are now looking to the great mass of small investors rather than one big venture capitalist to help them launch or expand a product. Many musicians, writers, filmmakers and artists are looking to fans to help them get their work made. For the entrepreneurs and artists, it’s a way to get around an establishment that can be risk averse and limited in vision. For you and me, it can be a fun way to put a small amount of spare cash into supporting something we like.

We can all be dragons now.

This blog originally appeared on the Daily Echo website. It was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.