The Apprentice 2015 Week 1 – Nice Guys Finish First

The Apprentice 2015 Week 1 – Nice Guys Finish First

The Apprentice returned to BBC1 screens this week with 18 scarily enthusiastic and self-believing candidates, just in time for Halloween. Not only that, but we had the even scarier prospect of the ghost of The Apprentice past (Claude Littner) replacing Nick Hewer as one set of Lord Sugar’s “eyes on the task”. I suspect that some of Claude’s frightening reputation will be diminished in his new role. Just like (Bruce) the shark in “Jaws”, the more you see of Claude in this series, the less scary he will become. This is because fear of Claude is based on the way he has cross examined candidates and destroyed their self esteem through pithy put downs. The problem here is that Claude is a silent observer. We, the audience, get the benefit of his opinions, but the teams are protected. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

Courtesy of BBC

Courtesy of BBC

Carrying on the horror movie theme, just like in a slasher movie, I am not inclined to spend too much time examining each of the 18 candidates. Some will be dispatched and fade from our memory minutes after they have been fired and appeared on “You’re Fired” (by the way, Jack Dee is an excellent choice of host to replace Dara O’Briain). The editor of Week 1 agreeed, because only about 9 of the 18 got any significant air time. Unfortunately, some of those we did see were not very impressive.

The task this week was to buy fish from Billingsgate Market and turn it into lunch time snacks to sell. The team with the biggest profit wins.

Lord Sugar made things interesting by mixing up the teams. Rather than starting with the usual gender based teams, 3 boys and 3 girls made the move to mix things up. We ended up with a blue team (they wore blue overalls for the task) called Versatile and a yellow team (you guessed it, yellow overalls) called Connexus (because if you sat it fast it, you know, “connects-us”). I’ll stick to blue and yellow.

In Blue, it was a case of everyone take a step backwards when selecting Project Manager. Selena Waterman-Smith was last to do this and, reluctantly, became PM. The scramble to avoid being PM in both teams will embarrass some candidates as they watched this episode, but over in Yellow, Driving-style April Jackson was decisive, volunteered and was swiftly accepted before she could change her mind. Actually, changing her mind was not something we saw a lot of from April in this episode. Selena on the other hand was indecisive, but even0handed with it.

April decided that fish cakes and Salad Niçoise would be the products Yellow would sell and immediately cut off any other opinions. Over in Blue, the team eventually agreed on Calamari and fish finger sandwich, without much direction from Selena. Claude observed Blue and Karen followed Yellow.

The rest of the task went more or less as expected – April making all of the key decisions for Yellow without any obvious consultation or strategy. For instance, Yellow bought the first tuna they came across; no checking of alternative options, no negotiating. Typical of the Driving-style (from Social Styles) it was all about results and keeping to time. Quick decisions, few facts. Over in Blue there was more delegation but also more indecision. Ex-Royal Navy (but now running her own hair and beauty salon) Blue team member Charleine Wain took control of some of the decisions, but the whole thing was much more democratic. The decision to buy the cheapest squid proved a poor choice, but using coley as a cheaper alternative to cod showed an eye for a profit.

So the scene was set; two different leadership styles (autocratic Yellow, democratic Blue). Which would win out? Fortunately, Blue made the better choices (location, pricing, delegation of tasks) and despite carrying a few Muppets (Mergim Butaja trying to sell fish to a vegan restaurant comes to mind) they managed to turn a profit of £200, despite, the calamari going off and having to be disposed of because it hadn’t been kept below 5 Celsius!

In Blue, the editing focused on three characters; April’s leadership style (her non-negotiable pricing strategy was laughable – £9 for a tuna salad), team leader in the kitchen Brett Butler-Smythe (also ex-navy, but obsessed with following the “specifications” [sic] of the recipe) and hapless Dan Callaghan – who owned up to not being able to sell or cook in the boardroom. It was no surprise when we discovered they made a profit of only £1.87 [sic]! Yellow missed the lunch time rush because Brett (organising and preparing fish cakes) and Dan (in charge of calculations for ingredients) took too long to prepare the fish cakes and didn’t produce enough.

Fired this week - Dan Callaghan

Fired this week – Dan Callaghan

Having lost the task, it was no surprise that April brought Dan and Brett back with her. Brett and April fought their corner, but nice guy Dan as just too honest (and naïve in admitting to his short comings), so it was natural that he was fired. However, Brett and April were both lucky. They were worse than Dan and will have to learn soon or face being fired. Dan at least was a nice guy and seemed intelligent. But, in The Apprentice, nice guy’s get to finish (the series) first.

The Apprentice 2014 – Week 9 – Paper, Scissors, Bone



The Apprentice 2014 – Week 9 – Paper, Scissors, Bone

We saw the return of a favourite task in this week’s Apprentice – sourcing  9 items (one linked to each of the previous 9 series) in a mad dash across London. The team that secured the items for the least amount of money and within the time available would win.

There was a bit of a scramble to be PM in Tenacity, but Daniel Lassman eventually persuaded lawyer Felipe Alviar-Baquero and digital marketing sales manager Mark Wright to support him over fitness entrepreneur Katie Bulmer-Cooke. For Summit, banker  Sanjay Sood-Smith put himself forward, citing his organisational skills as the reason to vote for him. Roisin Hogan, Bianca Miller and Solomon Akhtar bought it, in a move that spookily presaged their judgement in the task ahead. Organisational skills? Really?

Of course, this task was about Negotiation, and one of the keys to good negotiation is leverage. The principle of bartering or haggling is well known, but to do this successfully depends on who has the power. In this way the task worked against the teams, as time was not in their favour. This meant that when they sourced an item, the teams usually had only one supplier, so the power and therefore the leverage sat with the vendor. To negotiate, they really needed to play one vendor off against another. Neither team adopted this strategy, so the “negotiations” we saw were not real life – they were a product of the programme, the cameras and the opportunity for some free promotion on TV. This was illustrated perfectly when Roisin negotiated a ludicrous discount for a diamond. Only on The Apprentice.

Back to the task.

In a real turn up for the books, Daniel made a good job of showing that apparently a leopard can change its spots, and for most of the task was the perfect PM – something that even arch rival Mark admitted by the end of the day. Daniel realised that time was a vital resource for the task, and divided the team into 2 sub-teams and they took roughly half of the list each and went off to source them. The evidence suggested that he genuinely delegated responsibility to each sub-team.

For Summit, the team might have suspected they had been sold a pup as Sanjay wasted time in discussion. Organisational skills? Really?

There was a lot of fun for the viewer as we see Tenacity acquire their items without fuss or histrionics and everything points to a knock-out win as they secured all of their items within the allotted time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Summit, where Sanjay and co failed to get all of the items and did not finish on time. Both of these failures would result in fines, and Summit should have lost the task, and even in the boardroom the figure backed this up. Organisational skills? Really? Then (Senior Judge) Lord Sugar ruled that 2 of the items sourced by Tenacity were invalid, they were fined and ended up losing the task.

Lets be honest, if Summit had lost the task, Sanjay would have been fired, something that is long overdue. However, they won on a technicality. To carry the metaphor further, their opponent was disqualified (for cheating?) as the fines imposed cost them the task.

But who was to blame? In our house there was a split decision, but the finger of doom was pointed more at Sugar for his interpretation of the list, than to the candidates. It’s a moot point, but it made for great TV. There was a point of contention around one item sourced by each sub-team; the “old rope” secured for free by Katie & Mark was not the exact length specified and the skeleton secured by Daniel and, especially lawyer Felipe, for £14, was paper rather than “true” 3D full sized anatomical model. This meant that all 4 team members were vulnerable. In the end, Daniel brought back Felipe (an obvious choice for his part in the skeleton affair) and a furious Katie, on the grounds that she was more responsible for the rope mistake because she was sub-team leader. Another surprise from Daniel, in not brining back Mark, but it was the lesser of two evils. Reformed character, or tactical thinking?

It was no surprise when Felipe as fired,  for he has been another of those lightweight candidates with little evidence of commercial acumen. A really nice guy, but he made a mistake with his (lawyer’s) interpretation that the paper skeleton was OK and he paid the ultimate price. In Sugar’s eyes, he was too clever by half and he had to go.

Felipe Alviar-Baquero was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Felipe Alviar-Baquero was fired this week. Courtesy of BBC

Katie was never likely to be fired, but her inclusion in the final three means that every candidate has now faced the possibility of being fired. We saw a fiery side to her character, and this has probably enhanced her credentials.



The Apprentice 2014 Week 3 – Summit has a mountain to climb

images-2The Apprentice 2014 Week 3 – Summit has a mountain to climb

There were suspicions before this week that in expanding the number of candidates in the Apprentice to 20, a few extra duds had been recruited. This was confirmed this week, when swimming entrepreneur Lindsay Booth was fired seconds before she was about to resign. This would have been something of a first for the series, but not one it should be proud of. Lindsay’s body language throughout reflected something we see a lot in Industry; a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes people persuade us that they are right for a job, but both sides agree after a short time that it’s not working. This is why we have probation periods. And so it was with Lindsay.

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

Lindsay Booth: fired before resigning. Courtesy of BBC

Anyway, back to this week’s task. Lord Sugar mixed up the teams with Steven, Daniel and Felipe joining Tenacity (formerly the girls’ team) and Lindsay (the same) Roisin and Sarah joining Summit (formerly the boys’ team and still without a win).

The task involved manufacturing, branding and marketing (high end) fragrance candles and re-diffusers to (high end) businesses and the public. Both teams got confident volunteer PMs, something of a departure from last week.

For Tenacity, Katie declares she has a nose for fragrances as she buys them all the time, and for Summit, accountant Roisin says she can do the numbers to maximise profits. PROFITS, for this is what Lord Sugar reminds the teams they will be judged on.

The two PMs adopt different strategies, with Katie going for Sugar’s tried and tested “make it cheap, maximize the margins by selling high”. Rosin prefers to go for a better product, but the margins are smaller so you have to sell more.

We could focus on many aspects of this task that are worthy of discussion; from Katie ignoring the feedback from Market Research to individuals given roles they are not suited for (Lindsay & Nurun selling), but the task was lost by poor project management by Roisin. Summit had the superior product and customers wanted it, especially the high-end businesses (hotel, gentleman’s club) but problems of supply and a poorly managed discount strategy cost them the task.

  • For instance, Summit sold re-diffusers to a gift shop at a ludicrous price when they promised another customer 25 units at a higher price and then couldn’t supply them. Bad business practice on 2 counts
  • James, leading the sub team selling to the public had a “slash and burn” approach to selling, taking any price to get rid of stock.

As business guru Peter Thompson reminds us;

“Turnover is vanity, profits are sanity”

 James was living proof of this and it cost the task, but Roisin was also culpable of poor project management.

Tenacity won by £14, the cost of one of Summit’s candles. And they had stock left over, but as Lord Sugar pointed out, in the real world they would have been able to move that stock on another day. Tenacity completed the task the Amstrad way – and won – with an inferior, but cheaper product.

Summit is still without a win.

In the boardroom, Lindsay was fired before the Final Three, as discussed above, so Roisin brought back non- seller Nurun and loose cannon, motor mouth James, who cunningly positioned himself as “just like you, Lord Sugar”. Sugar railed against this, but he has been shown to have a blind spot for people like him (remember Baggs-the-Brand?). Anyway, it worked and James survived, but his card is marked. Nurun was fired and again it was hard to argue against based on the first 3 tasks. Roisin survived based on here initial project management, but will need to learn from this experience.

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

Fired for not being ale to sell. Courtesy of BBC

Expect more culls as we look to get rid of more deadwood (Sarah stands out here, but a few are still hiding) before we get to the serious competition.



Young Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

business planYoung Apprentice 2012 – Final Thoughts… or why its time that Young Apprentice should be fired

And the winner is…unexpected. Young Apprentice limped across the finish line as the third series came to a conclusion last night. I have commented several times that this bunch of would-be entrepreneurs has been disappointing and nothing that I saw last night changed my mind. In the end the result was academic (literally) with neither member of the winning team, Lucy or Ashleigh, having a clear idea of how they would invest Lord Sugar’s £25K. In their ongoing education…probably. That Sugar chose Ashleigh over Lucy, therefore, doesn’t really matter. In the end he went for Ashleigh, but I’m really not sure why.

The final task was to design a range of clothing for a defined market along with a marketing campaign incorporating a viral video and then pitch it to industry experts. Sugar wisely split up the two loudmouths (Ashleigh and Maria) and paired each with one of the timid toads (Lucy and Patrick respectively).

The majority of the programme followed how the more refelctive toads gradually got heard and the loudmouths were gagged! Although Patrick did assert himself, he did it behind Maria’s back, rather than confront her. This resulted in an ill-chosen idea of using a mixed age choir for their young urban cyclist themed brand, Cyc. This, added to Maria’s poor choice of colours (too close to the Wimbledon brand), cost their team the task. Of course, this perfectly reflects the modus operandi for these 2 candidates; Patrick apparently creative, but often with poor ideas; Maria opinionated and not listening, with a strong inner belief. Her idea of market research was to ask one middle aged cycle shop owner what he thought!

Lucy allowed Ashleigh full control in the early part of the task, then used her creativity to design a decent logo (Release) and ensure consistency in the brand. Her pitch was also excellent, and having on the team task, I expected Lucy, rather than Ashleigh to go on and win. In truth, of the final 4, only Patrick had a clear vision of how he would use the prize money (Clothes Design). But Lucy was the more rounded candidate and should have won.

I’m still not sure what criteria Sugar used to decide on Ashleigh. In truth neither Lucy or Ashleigh made a good clear case for how they would invest Sugar’s money, so perhaps Sugar sees Ashleigh’s drive  as more likely to produce a return. Who knows?

So, a generally poor series ends in a consistent but disappointing manner. If the BBC are going to commission a new series I think they need to recruit real entrepreneurs rather than “aspiring lawyers” or “future accountants”. A far more interesting series, given the BBC’s recent troubles would be a competition to see which BBC Executives should get to keep their jobs as they overcome a different corporate disaster each week.

Bye Bye, Young Apprentice – You’re Fired!

Young Apprentice Week 7 – Double Jeopardy

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

Lord Sugar. Courtesy of

Young Apprentice week 7 – Double Jeopardy

It’s the semi final of this year’s Young Apprentice, and in a twist the task started almost immediately after last week’s boardroom. Both teams are informed that in the losing team this week, 2 candidates will be fired.

Six candidates remain; in Odyssey there are Steven, Andrew and Lucy and in Platinum Patrick, Ashleigh, and Maria. After a bit of wrangling, Lucy and Patrick assume the roles of PM. The task; each team has £1500 to spend on  2 items from a list and sell them at the WOMAD (World Music) Festival. The team with the largest sales (plus remaining assets) wins.

The trick here is to choose the best items (i.e. those likely to sell), get them at the best discount to maximise profit and then sell them. In terms of choosing the best items, the fact that only Steven appeared to have any experience of festivals was always going to make it difficult to choose the best items. So both teams dispatched members to do some market research; Andrew for Odyssey went to a shopping mall, where the shoppers didn’t seem to match the likely profile of WOMAD revellers ( older, more affluent, eco-conscious, possibly with young children). He found out nothing. Ashleigh went to Camden Town, a more likely location and found out some useful information. Unfortunately, what she did find out was ignored by her pm, Patrick, who had already decided on the items he wanted!

Lesson: If you don’t know your market, do some focused research and pay attention to what you learn.

Both teams decided they liked the portable disposable loos. Patrick wanted the umbrella that can also be used as a seat (or bum rest at least). Both good choices you would think, given English summer weather. Odyssey were interested in the portable washing machine (really? at a festival??) and the Onesies – one piece animal costumes. Platinum got the nod for the portable loo despite having offered a lower price. This was due to heavy handed negotiation and a lack of enthusiasm for the product from Odyssey’s Steven.

Lesson: When you are competing to get rights to a product, negotiating the price needs to be coupled with clearly demonstrated enthusiasm for the product. Steven got this wrong.

The last part of the strategy is to sell the product. The portable loos eventually became a seller for Platinum, but only once they had reduced the asking price (even at this reduced price the profit was a handy 50%). The umbrella seats proved more difficult to move due to the sunny weather on the day.

For Odyssey, the washing machine was a non-starter. As Andrew himself realised, this would be perfect for the “Glamping” (glamorous camping) market. Festival goers usually bring enough clothes to see them through  and don’t want to spend time washing! The Onsies did sell, and became the focus of Odyssey’s campaign.

In the boardroom it was revealed that Platinum had won, but only by about £30. They had the better products, especially the loo versus the washing machine, and product selection proved to be important. However, Odyssey did well with the Onesies. A better second product (such as the face paints which everyone, especially the children, were wearing, as was pointed out by Sugar) would have won the task for Odyssey.

Of the 3 candidates in losing team Odyssey it was no surprise that Lucy survived, though Sugar dragged it out. She had not previously been in the bottom 3. Andrew was a perpetual loser (6/7) and only just survived last week and Steven’s aggressive approach to negotiation cost the team the portable loos, and probably the task, so both had to go too.

So 4 remain; The Fish Wife (as we say in the North East) Maria; The Ghost (Patrick), The One-Trick Pony (Patrick) and the All-Rounder, and my favourite to win, Lucy.

Next week’s it’s the final, but who will be sainted and who will be scrooged?

Young Apprentice Week 3 – Stage Fright

Young Apprentice Week 3 – Stage Fright

The teams were sent on a quest to locate 10 items (including a candelabrum, pictured) needed for a stage production. The aim: get all items on time and for the best price. There would be penalites for any items not found, and for not geting back on time.

Sugar decided to mix the teams up once again, presumably in the hope of ensuring there wouldn’t be a third successive boy fired. David went to Platinum on the back of 2 previous losses. His only success so far has been getting into the final three each week. Navdeep and Alice went in the opposite direction.

Both Steven and David wanted to lead Platinum. Steven won, but appeased David by making him leader of a sub team with Amy and Lucy. For Odyssey, Andrew was PM.

Essentially, success in this task depends on 4 things;

  • have a process or system
  • be clear about your role
  • choose locations carefully
  • if you want to negotiate, you have to identify at least 2 outlets selling the item

Therefore the role of the PM is to implement these. Once again, there was a contrast in styles between the 2 PMs. Both teams divided the items between the 2 sub-teams, but Steven (Platinum) had his team phoning from cars and researching on the go; whereas Andrew had Odyssey do some research and phoning from the Coliseum. It wasn’t long before he and Ashleigh were out tracking down items. These approaches showed that neither PM was clear on their process – what is the best way to win this task? In turn, this led to a lack of role clarity because the 2 are closely linked. The key part of the process they missed, was that if you are going to negotiate you need to have leverage in the form of competition between sellers. Otherwise, why would they bother (as several retailers, not starstruck by the cameras, pointed out)? You also need to choose locations carefully. Patrick in team Odyssey was the only individual to even identify where they were starting from in Central London. At one point, Platinum PM Steven was heading off to Croydon (12 miles and several hours) to buy a car. To maximise time, you have to choose locations that can be reached, and returned from, in the available time.  Neither team demonstrated an understanding of these points.

The task itself became enjoyable enough TV, as nobody could work out what a candelabrum is, in yet another indictment of  the candidate’s knowledge / education. Do people become entrepreneurs because they find the traditional approach to success (University, Profession) beyond them? You might think so if you watch this lot. Eventually Odyssey worked it out and found one.

Based on the results this week, the more measured apporach of team Odyssey paid dividends and they won the task, despite their sub-team not leaving the Coliseum until nearly 6 hours into the task! They got 6/10 items, whereas the more “active” approach of Platinum, got 5 items. Negotiation was poor on both teams, as they generally went to the first seller they found. No competition, no negotiation. There was little evidence of the 2 PMs being effective leaders, and the fact that the sub-teams never worked together allowed for plenty of bitching, especially from the girls, though Patrick was happy to join in. Doesn’t he remember what a mess he made of being PM?

In the boardroom it became clear that penalites for being late and missed items would be crucial. Both teams spent about the same on the items they found, but Odyssey won because they had lower penalties for missed items. In truth, neither team was good; it’s just that Platinum was poorest (by about £170). So, one of last week’s final 3, Maria, who spent the whole episode bitching again, avoided the boardroom. I can’t see her lasting the course. She does not come across well.

For Platinum, Steven brought back 2 members of his sub-team. David (3 appearences in the final 3 out of 3) and steel-jawed Amy. These 2 fought the whole time and were prime candidates. The only thing likely to save David was his gender. I couldn’t see Sugar firing 3 boys in a row, and so it proved. Any of the 3 could have gone, especially Steven for his poor leadership, and at some point there will be a multiple firing. This should have been the week. In the end Amy was fired, but David surely can’t survive another final 3. He seems to be going backwards. He still has the same 1970s attitude to women and leadership, but his spirit has been broken like a castrated bull.

Who has impressed? Not many, in truth. Andrew has confidence and fight, but was a poor leader. Lucy spent most of this episode separating David and Amy. Navdeep has been shown to contribute little, but has looked good when she has (though she got caught up in the bitching with Maria and Patrick). Ashleigh is quiet, but exudes Yorkshire common sense. Alice hasn’t shown much but a nice personality. Steven was also a poor PM.

So, all still to play for.

The Apprentice 2012 Week 10 – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

This week was a tale of two Spa-Hotels

The Apprentice 2012 Week – Magnificent Seven becomes Final Five

The numbers just didn’t add up in this week’s BBC Apprentice. And I’m not just talking about Jade’s negotiation with a top restaurant at St Pancras station. No, with 3 episodes to go, seven candidates is just too many and a double firing seemed inevitable. And so it proved.

Lord Sugar described the task as replicating a start-up business. What it actually involved was identifying high quality products or services and negotiating the best possible discount (up to 50%)  for an upmarket Groupon-like daily deal. They were clearly briefed to go for “high quality” products. The team with the biggest profit would win.

We already knew that Stephen -entering the last chance saloon- was assigned as PM for Sterling. This was his escape clause in avoiding getting fired last week. Lose this one and he would be out. Stephen was leading Ricky, and Gabrielle (or Gabriella as Stephen insisted on callling her; they’ve shared a house for 10 weeks and he still can’t get her name right?).

Over in Phoenix, Adam, Tom and Nick were happy to allow Jade to be PM when she informed them that she worked “with company’s like this” in her previous role as a Business Development Manager.

There was a clear difference in approach between the teams. Jade got Phoenix involved in some detailed and time consuming planning with the strategy of identifying a few top notch targets “quality not quantity”. Stephen went for quantity, looking for 5 or 6 “premium”deals. The only problem was they were out chasing opportunities without any apparent planning. Stephen’s background is as a National Sales Manager, a role that should include more than just impementation of a tactical sales plan. The programme editing made sure that we were aware of the differences in approach.

We didn’t really get to see much of the planning ( it does not makesas good television as people runnning around ) so it was hard to judge how good the Phoenix strategy was, though they did have a precise list of targets they went for. Yet, even amongst the scatter-gun approach of Sterling, there was some evidence of planning. At one point, Ricky, working on his own, was scheduled to go to a leading Spa Hotel in Tring. Ricky was worried about the journey time to and from Tring and that this would stop him calling on more leads. After initially telling Ricky to  stick to the plan, in the end Stephen had a major wobble and agreed with Ricky. No trip to Tring, then. This was the pivotal part of the task for Sterling, and would cost them the task and Stephen his future in the programme.

Although much more focused, the 2 sub teams in Phoenix did not have everything their own way. Jade and Nick  did secure a good deal with a Spa (over 50% discount) but were woefully under prepared (despite all of that planning) for a meeting with restauranteur Marcus Wareing at St Pancras station. In real life this would have cost them the opportunity, but the power of TV cameras meant they eventually got a 30% discount. We also saw Tom and Adam (The Jeeves and Wooster of this week’s task) apparently complementing each other very well. Tom has an eye for fine things, and Adam will beat any customer into reducing their prices in a negotiation.

For Sterling, Ricky specialised in restaurants also, managing to consume scallops in 3 of them across the day! He did manage to secure a useful double deal with one quality restaurant, but made the fatal negotiation error of limiting the number of meals for lunch and dinner to 190. In negotiation, always try to get the other side to put the first offer on the table. Again, this was a crucial mistake that cost Sterling the task.

In the end, There was much running around the streets of London trying to sign up anything. For all of their different approaches, Phoenix signed 6 deals and Sterling 9. Both teams had one or two to make up the numbers (scented candles for Phoenix and fish pedicure for Sterling).

In the boardroom, it was revealed that Phoenix had 2/6 deals accepted by the daily-deal company and sold £14563. Adam and Tom had no deals accepted. Sterling had 3/9 accepted but sold only £6440, £6090 of which was down to Ricky’s restaurant double deal. Sterling lose again.

So, we know that Stephen must be fired. Ricky is praised for the double deal but criticised for limiting the number of meals available at the restaurant, though it is unlikely that it would have turned the task. No, Stephen has to take the blame for poor leadership and, along with Gabrielle(a), poor sales (£350), despite having had more deals accepted. Sugar pointed the finger at the missed opportunity at the Tring Spa as crucial to Sterling losing, hammering another nail in Stephen’s coffin. But, at this point the producers and Lord Sugar throw a curve ball. Gabrielle’s lack of contribution in the task (I have barely mentioned her this week) has highlighed what a number of us have suspected for weeks – she is very creative but has poor business acumen. Gabrielle is fired first. Ricky just survives and replaces Stephen in the last chance saloon as Stephen finally gets fired.

So, its all change this week. One of the earlier favourites has gone. Of those left, Jade showed promise this week, but Tom’s star is falling. Adam continues to hang on in there, but surely would have gone if Phoenix had lost the task. Nick is probably the most rounded candidate of those left, but I’m left with the image of ice-cold Ricky slowly stabbing Stephen in the back in the boardroom. Et tu, Ricky?

The Apprentice 2012 Week 4 – Antique No-Show spells the end for Jane

The Apprentice 2012 Week 4 – Antique No-Show spells the end for Jane

Quote of the Week: Duane –  “Don’t look a gift horse in the eye”

This week’s task in The Apprentice involved trying to unearth something that has maybe seen better days and sell it to a gullible punter. Unfortunately for Jane, Lord Sugar wasn’t to be fooled and she became the fourth person this series to be fired.

Sugar mixed up the teams again, with Jade (her of the amazingly annoying voice) going to Phoenix and Ricky going the opposite way. Duane made a bid to be PM of Sterling for the second week running, and got no votes. Laura got the job. For Phoenix, Fine Wine Investor, Tom was voted in.

The task involved sourcing antiques and then re-selling them from a swanky shop in Brick Lane. Each team had £1000 to spend.

Once again it was a case of contrasting strategies, with contrasting results. Laura had Sterling trying to convert “Trash into Cash”, but Tom followed his “fine wine” instincts, looking for “Quality over Quantity”.

Each strategy had its merits, but ultimately Sterling apparently lost when they failed to keep on top of costs. This was not the cost of the “antiques” but rather the materials to convert them to “Urban Chic”. Laura gave Gabrielle the lead in the conversion process, and it was this subteam that allowed enthusiasm to get in the way of profit. Actually, it was not this that cost the team. Sterling sold slightly more than Phoenix, but they bought over 200 items at almost twice the amount(including conversion) Phoenix spent on far fewer items. No, it could be argued that either the stratregy was flawed, or they got their pricing wrong. They were left with a lot of stuff at the end.

Despite some regularly voiced doubts from Adam, Tom’s Phoenix produced a sparsely populated shop, arranged in an attractive manner.  He kept control of costs, only giving the subteam of Stephen, Katie and Adam £200 to buy from an auction house. Across the episode, his instinct seemed correct as the subteam showed no ability to pick a winner. His team did need to buy in some more items on Day 2, but ultimately, Tom’s clear vision, calm leadership and self confidence saw Phoenix through. Even Nick Hewer had to admit he underestimated the approach.

By way of contrast, the Sterling shop, complete with dead leaves to add ambience, had a confused bag of urban-chic and traditional items. Converting suitcases to tables, painting Union flags (NOT Jacks) on chairs created a lack of identity. Laura was pleasant enough, and there was a lot of focus on Jane’s aggressive, pushy sales “technique”. However, once again, this episode was notable for who we didn’t see, with several individuals making so little contribution on camera that they could have been away on holiday.

In the boardroom it was revealed that Phoenix had won, so we were denied the sight of Adam going for Tom. Rather bravely, or confidently, Tom said (before finding they had won) that he had no issues with anyone in his team. For Sterling, Laura focused on the spiraling costs of the “urban-chic” conversion process and brought back Gabrielle, and on poor sales and brought back Jane, possibly picking up on Karen Brady’s comments about Jane’s approach.

Ultimately, Sugar praised Gabrielle for her contribution, and blamed Laura for not being on top of the costs in her role of PM. Jane was on his radar having lost 3/4 tasks and, acting on his “gut-feel” or more likely Karen’s observations,  she was fired. Sugar said that despite her success with her own business, he had not seen enough. Nick Hewer confirmed on “You’re Fired” that Karen’s comments probably swayed Sugar.

This was an interesting episode, less for the task than for the way Sugar decided who to fire. I’ve no doubt this will prove to be a popular decision, but Jane has shown an instinct for business, and excellent knowledge of the manufacturing process. She was also obsessive in some tasks about costs and profit. You would have thought that this would make her stand out. Ultimately, her abrasive nature made her hard to work with and Sugar decided that he would not be able to.

There are several individuals who have managed to keep low profile’s as this series has progressed (Azhar, Jenna and Jade this week). It will ve interesting to see which of these might be the stalking horse.

Tom now stands out as an early favourite.

Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”?

Young Apprentice Week 6 – Time’s up for Hayley. Is Harry M “The Chosen One”?

In the inferior Star Wars prequels, a thinly disguised Emperor-in-waiting identifies a future Sith Lord (Anakin Skywalker) and manoeuvers players and situations to ensure this outcome occurs. We know this is going to be successful, because we’ve seen he original trilogy and know Anakin is destined to become Darth Vader. This series of Young Apprentice is beginning to have the same feeling. The only difference is that we don’t actually know the outcome, it just feels like we do. Iif you substitute Alan Sugar for the Emperor and Harry M for Anakin, you can see what I mean.

Harry M survived again this week, despite being the only candidate to have lost EVERY task. His situation was captured beautifully by 2 quotes;

Lizzie in the boardroom, as losing PM “Harry, you do seem to sit there quiet all day doing nothing and then spring one idea out and save yourself”

Later, back in the house after Hayley became the latest person to be fired, there was this from Harry H; “I would have brought you back, you’re probably the weakest person there”

Both of these quotes reflect a dawning realisation that Harry M is teflon-coated – nothing sticks to him. Maybe they think he is The Chosen One. Cetainly, the gloves were off this week, as candidates start to fight their corner.

So why does it appear that Harry M is special? Firstly, last week, Sugar showed clear favouratism to Harry. This week, Sugar re-organised the teams again, for no obvious reason. Atomic was led by Lizzie, with Haya and Hayley. Three strong personalities and a mouse (Hayley). Lizzie later confessed that she chose to be PM to keep Harry M in check. Kinetic were led by Haya after she and Harry H briefly slipped into the wrong programme, doing a Quickstep that would have graced Young Strictly Come Dancing. Eventually it fell to Haya to lead the th dance, sorry task. The task? oh, yes, to find 10 items for Madame Tussauds at the best price available. The team that spent the least would win, with fines imposed for failing to get any items.

Once again, we had a contrast in approach to the task; Lizzie was all delegation, phone calls to find suitable locations, and clear rsponsibility for certain items. Haya preferred no planning, get “likely” places (i.e. those she knew) in London and keep your eyes open for likely retail outlets (I kid you not). With a split like this, it immediately became obvious that Lizzie and Atomic, with great planning and structure would lose. And they did.

So, where did Lizzie’s plan start to unravel? Back in the boardroom, Sugar pointed out that Lizzie made 2 terrible mistakes – not getting all of the items, and not negotiating well enough. This neatly describes the premise of this task, so no great entreprenurial insights here. In truth the task was Atomic’s to lose, and they did, geting only 6/10 items (to Kinetic’s 7/10) despite taking a textbook approach to the task. Actually, the biggest error was probably Lizzie’s, in not knowing either where Croydon is in relation to Central London (about 2 hours by car) or that her sub-team (Hayley and Zara) were heading there. Lizzie did keep Harry close, so when Atomic lost the task, she was obliged to reprieve Harry and bring Zara and Hayley back into the boardroom.

So, would Lizzie be fired for leading the task astray, or would it be the sub-team who showed appaling understanding of the task? Zara and Hayley bought a pocket watch for £145 (9 carat gold, though!) whereas Kinetic got one for about £40. They also spent above the odds for a guitar. Lizzie pointed the finger at the subteam. Hayely-the-mouse showed (only a little) backbone against bossy Zara – “I am overly domineering” – but not enough to save herself. Zara , with refreshing honesty, pointed out that in the boardroom they are not a team, but individuals fighting for survival. Hayley was fired.

They say good guys (and gals) finish last. It’s certainly looking that way. Even in defeat, Hayley couldn’t overcome her inherent politeness. She was too nice (and ineffective) to stay, and clearly not what Sugar is looking for (ruthless, happy to murder children, oh sorry, that’s a Sith Lord) . She will need to toughen up if she want to make it as an entrepreneur in the real world. She could make it, if she develops the assertiveness of Harry H or Lizzie.

So, 6 remain and all have shown character. Noticably, Harry M (The Chosen One), Zara, Haya and James are strong personalities, with Lizzie and Harry H more like the young adult most parents would like their children to grow up to be. Except if you are the Emperor that is…

Next week looks like a real bun fight, with the 6 candidates reduced to 2. Just like Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

Young Apprentice – Britain’s Future Entrepreneurs Revealed

Apprentice – Britain’s Future Entrepreneurs Revealed.

If the motley crew revealed in part one of BBC’s Young Apprentice represents the cream of the UK’s future Entrepreneurs, it may be time to emigrate. Over the next 8 weeks we will get to know these individuals a bit better, but on last night’s showing I thought I was watching the wrong show; more Big Brother than The Apprentice. The title’s changed from the last series (Junior Apprentice), and in my mind at least Young Apprentice has connotations of Star Wars. It was the Emperor (Lord Sugar?) who used the term when trying to persuage ambitious Jedis to The Dark Side. Maybe the change is deliberate…

The editing may have been cruel, but the personalities on show last night were, for the most part, not attractive (hence the Big Brother reference);  James, Northern Irish, economist. Gbemi, gobby fashion designer; Zara, film mogul; Ben – Richard Branson fan; Harry Maxwell, pushy and Harry Hitchens, nice guy; Mahamed, small but with a great line in sharp suits; Lizzie and Lewis, scousers; Hannah, nice girl; and Hayley and Haya, mostly anonymous.

And so to the first task, which involved making ice cream and selling it. The teams were set up along gender lines, but who would stand up to be the first Project Manager (PM). It is interesting to hear all the aggressive sound bites from each candidate; you could reasonably expect everyone to want to be the leader. But no, it fell to “nice guys” Hannah and Harry H to step forward in the absence of any other volunteers.

Both PMs attempted to be democratic and good listeners, but it was like herding cats. The real personalities immediately started to emerge amongst the teams. James made an immediate impact – as highly opinionated and annoying to everyone else. Having agreed on team names (Kinetic for the girls; Atomic for the boys) they set about making frozen products. The girls came to a consensus quite quickly, but the boys descended to bickering. Harry did a good job of remaining calm, especially as James disagreed with everything! James came up with a pirate theme, with a contribution from Mahamed. Harry M was good with the numbers and came up with profit targets and aiming to make 60 litres of ice cream. Meanwhile, the girls demonstrated an inability to do basic maths (“Three fours are twenty eight”) and guessed at an amount to make. They then instructed the other half of the team to buy specific amounts of the fresh fruit (through dubious negotiation). Suffice to say, the girls got the wrong amount of fruit (didn’t listen) and the team had to write off 3o litres of product. Gbemi refused to go back to get more fruit and Hannah was unable to assert her authority.

The boys chose Southend to sell their product, but economist James suggested selling well below the market prices. The price they chose was still too low, and this was to prove to be a crucial mistake. The girls went to Chessington World of Adventures, and were forced to mark the prices up, and include some built-in upselling (sprinkles, cones), to compensate for the material they had to throw away.

In the board room, it was revealed that the girls had made the better profit and won the challenge. Harry was forced into deciding who to bring back. It did not prove to be a difficult decision, with Mahamed and James competing to take full credit for the failed task. It was tough for Lord Sugar to decide which of these prats should go. In the end it was sharp dressed man Mahamed who was fired, but it was a close thing. in fact,  James was warned by Lord Sugar that he was on the radar. I can’t see him lasting long.

So, who are the early favourites? Both PMs did well under trying conditions, and Harry M, despite some horrendous sound bites, showed good business sense. He also managed to avoid any obvious mistakes and is my early favourite. He certainly impressed Lord Sugar