The Apprentice 2012 – Butterfly emerges to win the prize

The Apprentice 2012 – Butterfly emerges to win the prize

*SPOILER ALERT* Last night’s BBC Apprentice resulted in Lord Sugar choosing a self proclaimed, would-be heir apparent as his business partner. The lucky candidate goes into a business venture with Sugar and receives £250K to get it off the ground. But who won it? You may well have already guessed from the above statement, but the final programme in the series started with 4 candidates remaining; siness Development Manager Jade Nash; Fine Wine Investor Tom Gearing; Recruitment Manager Ricky Martin; Tech Entrepreneur Nick Holzherr.

As usual for the final, each candidate had to present and justify their business plan to a selection panel chosen for their personalities as well as their expertise; Claude Littner, whose intervew style was obviously refined in some police state secret service; former Apprentice-Assistant, Margaret Mountford; Mike Soutar, magazine publishing entrepreneur; Matthew Riley previous winner of Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Really, it’s the interview panel from hell, and all recorded for our enjoyment.

I’m not going to go through what we saw in the programme, but rather, focus on some of the key things to emerge. Each of the four candidates stuck to their areas of expertise with their business proposals; Jade had an ambitious idea for a mega call centre for cold calling the public; Ricky for a new Recruitment Agency focusing on science candidaters; Tom for a hedge fund buildt around finewine investment; Nick for an innovative website which provided the ingredients for published recipes and sourced the ingredients. Each of the candidates was also wanting to take their expertise into either new or bigger arenas. So, in the end it would come down to;

  1. how much Sugar liked the business idea
  2. how sound the plan was
  3. whether Sugar believed in the candidate proposing it.

Jade was the first person to leave the process. Her plan for a mega call-centre involved the incorporation of a powerful database, which she claimed access to, for very targeted cold calling. Sugar believed in Jade, and even paid her the complement of firing her “with regret”, but Sugar was not happy to be associated with the idea (especially on TV) and the interview process showed Jade’s plan to be poorly developed, as there were no real costings. We saw elements of this during the series, when Jade was better at organising than “strategising”. Jade herself agreed with this. She could undoubtedly lead this project, but Sugar would need to be hands-on t oget it off the ground. However, in the end it was the idea itself that did not appeal.

Next out the door was Nick. Really, Sugar did not get the idea that people would use this website, despite the fact that such a thing probably complements his business empire better than any of the other ideas. Sugar wouldn’t use it, so why would anyone else? Secondly, Nick’s profit projections (£25M in 2-3 years) was based on the idea of a Facebook-type sell off. The interview panel thought this “ambitious”. So, Nick also failed on points 1 and 2. It was pointed out that Nick tends to prefer to start-up ideas, make them successful and move on, something Sugar can identify with, but instead here Nick was said to lack “focus”.

That left long-time favourite Tom and Ricky.

Tom’s idea reflected a part of his character that we saw in the series; his willingness to take high risks (remember the “urban art” ). Using fine wines as part of a hedge fund could be described as risky; doing it with someone else’s money doubly so.

Ricky had the more straightforward idea of setting up an agency to recruit scientific personnel. This is something that Ricky has done very successfully for other organisations. Now he wanted the capital to do it for himself.

The choice was clear; high risk or safe(r) bet?

A quick word for Ricky. Firstly, he will henceforth be known as Richard, his given name. Ricky underwent a transformation in the series. Richard is the butterfly that has emerged throuh the series. He entered as pupal-stage Ricky, and for me is the candidate who has grown most in the process. He certainly grew on me. Richard also managed to win over Claude. His business plan was sound, and once Claude started focusing on Ricky’s (not Richard’s) original application with it’s outrageous claims (“I’m the best business partner on the planet”) He became the frontrunner. Everyone else spent more time justifying their plans. Richard admitted that the original letter was a mistake he wouldn’t make now. This also reflected one of his trengthss observed inthe series. Richard really emerged in the boardroom, where his focused, considered answers ensured he survived.

And so it panned out. Sugar acknowledged that Richard had emerged from the process and went with the safer bet. Ricky won and got the contract.

In the end, Tom’s idea was ambitious, creative and just too risky for Lord Sugar. Tom peaked too early in the series and his last few weeks were poor, with the exception of the semi final when he worked with PM Ricky. No doubt he has got a good consolation prize in terms of publicity and his idea will be picked up by an organisation with expertise in hedge funding.

For me, this has been another entertaining series of The Apprentice, and I’m coming round to the idea that this format does eventually work to identify the characteristics needed to convince Sugar to invest in their idea. It certainly worked for Richard. Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how good you are if your business idea is poorly thought out. This year, the right candiate won.

Well Done Richard Martin.

Now known as Richard Martin

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