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Team Building Review of Versatile

Versatile have done pretty well so far, winning every week on The Apprentice, except for the DIY Handyman challenge. There's a lot to learn from their teamworking skills: some good and some bad, so I thought it'd be great to pull out 5 lessons from their performance.

Lesson 1: Move fast and break things.

I've taken this quote from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, but it's especially relevant when you look at the fish food challenge in the first episode. While Connexus were stuck in the kitchen trying to decide what fishcakes should contain, and arguing about how much to charge for a salad (£7? Even in London that's bad!), Versatile were quick out the gate with their fish finger sandwiches and calamari. And while that calamari was left in a container that overheated, rendering the fish inedible, the fact they worked at pace meant they delivered and continued to make money in spite of mistakes.

Lesson 2: Always think about ROI.

Next up is Versatile's victory in the Cactus Shampoo challenge, which showed the difference between a team focused on a clear end goal and one that thought and acted vaguely. Richard led Versatile very ably, dividing labour amongst all team members. The team focused on delivering a great overall advertising campaign targeted at their own gender and age range. Connexus, on the other hand, went for a market they didn't understand, and focused too much on very specific items instead of looking at their whole offering.

Lesson 3: Put your people where they will work at their best.

The cross-Channel selling challenge was the first time we saw a real problem in the Versatile's teamwork. The sub team that went to France had only one French speaker, who was a poor negotiator. The other team members couldn't speak the language intelligibly, but they still went over to France to try and work up deals. Luckily, Connexus knocked themselves out of the running with indecisive leadership and spending £250 on a boat (a costly mistake). But this near-failure from Versatile showed us a manager who put the wrong people in the wrong places.

Lesson 4: Know your customer.

Next up was a particularly cute episode – the pet show. Versatile were quick to understand the target audience of this show, and purchased products that hit the mark: family- and pet owner-friendly t-shirts and balloons. Connexus took a different route, specifically targeting cat owners with some high-market products. This lost them the task as they didn't select products that would appeal to all pet owners.

Lesson 5: Don't let friction go unnoticed.

During a challenge in which the teams were tasked with created a bestselling children's book, Versatile's strengths were obvious again. The team worked through their market research methodically and applied creative thinking to deliver a superior product. However, there was some initial friction between Charleine and Richard, who let personalities clash. The rest of the team acted to bring this to a rapid close, which is what should happen in any high-performing unit. Sometimes you won't like everyone you work with; but that shouldn't come in between a professional working relationship.

Feel like your team needs to be put through its paces with an Apprentice-style challenge? Come to our board office and see Lord Sweetener for a great team building day.

Written by Jim Alexander

17th Tuesday November 2015