Tag Archives: Sir Alan Sugar

Never Have So Few Been Cleaned By So Many

Every Apprentice task has it’s traps, and the first one of this season was no exception. Sir Alan explained it pretty early on in this weeks show when he said that all you needed to do was to get a sponge and a bucket and go and wash cars. However the trap was that the teams were presented with vans packed with toys, and given a maximum amount to spend obtaining some of the contents of the van. Power washer? Yes please! Certainly neither team opted for the simple sponge and bucket option, although the boys at least did seem to take on board the idea that they shouldn’t spend everything they were allowed, whilst the girls team spent right up to their £200 “budget�.

In terms of the best return on investment, half of the boys team seemed to have the right idea by spending an hour shining shoes at St Pancras station unfortunately they only managed an hour before the team leader took the decision to return and bail out the rest of the team struggling to clean a fleet of mini-cabs.

As with so many Apprentice tasks this one wasn’t so much won, in that the losing team lost by virtue of messing up more than the winning team. Both teams struggled with conflict as the big egos jostled for position. As it seems happens in every series, the girls team failed to pull it together in much more spectacular fashion, with, as Nick Hewer put it, the disagreements and disorganisation leading to a “spanking in the boardroom�.

Looking at the winning team, there is already a clear divide in the boys, with four lads centred around one of the biggest egos of the night, estate agent Phil. He was given one simple, clear instruction by his team leader – we don’t do insides of cars. Once the car left, Phil produced a whole load of backchat about the time that had just been wasted, and then waltzed into the mini-cab office and agreed a deal that included insides. He then ended up doing the insides and did a botched job. Note the “it’s not as easy as it looks� comment in this sequence:

Phil described himself at one point as a man of action. From an entertainment point of view it seems he is very much of the act first think later category of action men, that invariably scrape through quite a long way, as they are generally pretty expert at the blame shifting when it comes to the boardroom.

That leads us pretty neatly on to Debra who is very definitely another of the stereotypical candidates who will say anything in the boardroom to survive, ultimately forgetting that there has been a film crew around who can show they’ve been lying. On this occasion she was put in charge of one of the two car cleaning teams on the girls team, and whilst her team didn’t go in with a cloud cuckoo land price to their customers, they did mess up significantly on their deal in that they had to ask the customer how to put together their cleaning equipment and then did such a poor job that the customer didn’t give them a further £100 of work that would have won them the task. Her sub-team then moved on to a supermarket car park where she phoned her team leader and called two of her sub-team members puppets, something she later denied in the boardroom. Unfortunately since Anita who ultimately got the chop had decided to play clean, speak up on her mistakes, and not back-stab, Debra had an easy ride through to the next round. Having said that, she certainly has the general all-round cockiness that might well result in her getting into trouble later in the series, and might well reflect badly on her with the general public.

And So It Begins

In case you haven’t noticed the vast amounts of pre-publicity, tonight another batch of the self-proclaimed “cream of British business talentâ€? lines up to be Sir Alan Sugar’snew Apprentice.

As a precursor to this, we also had another round of Celebrity Apprentice which was notable for having two established business people in the form of Gerald Ratner and Michelle Mone leading the teams, and in doing so proving that, in the case of Michelle Mone even established and experienced business people struggle to keep a team together, and in the case of Gerald Ratner providing someone who didn’t agree with the assessment of the experts.

Anyway, back to the ‘real’ show, and from the clips seen so far it looks like the first task is a car cleaning business, and whether it is selling fish, washing laundry or cleaning cars, the same mistakes are demonstrated. In one preview clip we’ve seen the boys team trying to pressure wash the outside of a car whilst other team members have the doors open and are cleaning the inside, whilst on the girls side we have a classic example of way out pricing with the girls offering the owner of three vehicles the chance to have them cleaned for £300, when the same job would usually cost him £60.

Looks like we’re going to be in for an entertaining few weeks again.

The End of the Road for Michael

After literally begging for another chance, on the Apprentice last night, Michael finally got his marching orders. Once again he had asked for a chance to prove himself, this time being put in charge of the team for a sales task, something that should have been right up his street.

The task was to sell rental packages for super-cars. The teams had a chance to choose their models – Michael and Alpha going for a mid-price tactic, whilst Lee, in charge of Renaissance went for the much more high risk strategy of taking on the top of the range Pagani Zonda S, which could only be sold in packages of a day or above, starting at £2750 for the day. The other cars could be sold in slots as short as an hour, starting at £65.

As was stated several times, to the right customer – city traders with bonuses basically – the packages would sell themselves, certainly this was the experience for the latter part of the task where the teams went head-to-head in the middle of Docklands, however it was also important to make sales early on, and this is where Michael lost it. Whilst Claire and Helene were selling hours on the Spyker in the city, for some inexplicable reason Michael seemed to think he’d be able to sell firstly in a side street in Knightsbridge, and then in the Portobello Road market. Having said that, looking at how things were going on the other team, it looked like he might be in with a chance anyway. Alex and Lee again tried to drop Lucinda in it by sending her off solo despite the fact that she had no sales experience. First off she was sent off on a pointless task to make raffle tickets that were never used, and then she was left on a street corner trying to sell the Aston Martin, but thinking it was the Zonda. She had about as much luck as Michael. But Alex and Lee weren’t doing much better, and by the afternoon with lots of interest but no sales were starting to wonder if the gamble had been worth it. Docklands was the key though, and with bottles of bubbly to ply the punters, they shifted and impressive £11,815 worth of sales, with even Lucinda managing a sale (of £65).

The situation in Renaissance is probably one of the more intriguing aspects of the past couple of weeks. Prior to Alex being swapped over from the other team, Lee and Lucinda had seemed to be working well together. They had operated successfully both as leader and team member. Alex seems to have upset the balance though. Lee and Alex seem to get on really well, but they also gang up on Lucinda. Last night it was claiming the idea of the raffle as their own, last week it was arguments over design. After the problems earlier on in the series Lucinda is obviously keen to gain credit for her contributions, so has been getting decidedly annoyed when she feels she is being pushed into a corner, and has definitely learned to spot when she is being set up to fail. However, having been the only candidate not to be swapped at any time, remaining on Renaissance for the whole ten weeks, her team has only lost twice (although she was in the boardroom on both occasions).

When it became clear that Alpha had lost again, Michael seemed a sure bet to go, but that’s not how things panned out in the boardroom. Sir Alan was really keen to hear from Helene, someone who has tended to keep a low profile, his thought was that she really wasn’t worth keeping, and as she initially didn’t really respond in the boardroom, whilst Michael was in his full scale begging routine once again, it looked like maybe Sir Alan was right. But faced with the challenge, Helene seemed to wake up and fight her corner – something that is a key skill for the task next week, the interviews – and Michael was finally shown the exit. Whilst I’m pleased he’s finally gone, he has produced some great moments, some of which you can see on his highlight reel – worth it just for the expression on the face of Margaret Mountford part way through…

Next week is usually a week of real surprises. Certainly in previous years candidates I’ve thought were sure fire finalists have fallen, unable to handle the tough interviews. Candidates who have performed fantastically on the tasks have crumpled as their credentials are picked to pieces. We have an interesting mix. Lucinda I’d never expected to see get this far, Lee and Alex are no surprise though. Claire has had a bumpy road, but seems to be learning from past mistakes, and is also a good salesperson. Finally we have Helene who has kept her head down, but might yet prove to be able to talk her way through to the final. I doubt we’ll get anything quite as dramatic as the walkout last year, but I’m sure the Apprentice still has a surprise or two to come.

Apprentice Tactics

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One of the difficult things to balance for participants in the Apprentice is the conflict between the fact that the tasks are performed as teams, but the competition is for a single winner. On the one hand you are expected to work as a team, whilst on the other you want to ensure that strong rival candidates are removed if you get the opportunity. However being seen to act against the best interests of the team can sometimes land you in hot water when it gets to the boardroom.

We’ve seen just those sorts of tactics already this season, with Lucinda being put in roles that she says she does not have the skills to do, and then later being blamed. It happened again this week when Kevin realised late on that he was rather out of his depth on the presentations that he had decided he would give, and looked to Claire and Jenny who basically left him to fail, when perhaps them taking over the presentation would have saved the team.

It was one of those episodes though when the groups seemed to be competing on how badly they could do. The task was to produce a greetings card for an event that didn’t currently have a card. One team opted for producing an “It’s Great to be Singleâ€? day, however the choice of February 13th as the day – a day when most card retailers are focused on Valentines Day proved to be a poor choice. The other team were very much steamrollered by Jenny who was keen to put forward an environmental theme. The flaw of course was that she was proposing to save the planet by wasting trees in the production of unnecessary cards. Ironically she even torpedoed one of her own groups presentations by saying in front of the buyer that she herself had reduced the number of greetings cards she was buying for environmental reasons.

When her team ended up in the boardroom she admitted it was her idea, and it was pretty clear that Sir Alan laid the blame at her door – Margaret even said at one point that the idea had been rail-roaded through (Margaret also produced one of the funniest moments of the series so far by her reaction to the victory cheers from the other team – not a very seemly display for the boardroom). However, despite the strong pointers from the other side of the table, Kevin decided not to bring Jenny into the boardroom.

The reason was interesting. More so than in previous series, the candidates this time around are quite blatantly ganging up on the quieter, perhaps weaker team members. There are one or two who take the lead in this, and usually the crowd mentality kicks in and most of the others follow, or remain silent. The tactic has worked before, notably being the week of the laundry task where Shazia was told to go back to the house by Jenny, the team leader, and then sacked because she left the laundry when Jenny blamed her in the boardroom for the failure in the task because she left and the washing got muddled. It’s that name again though – once again it was Jenny leading the attack. This week she proved she is bright enough to realise that she was a prime candidate to go having pushed the environmental idea, so she needed to find someone else. She focused in on Sara for not having contributed. As with previous efforts this was totally wrong – Sara had contributed through several ideas including cards for minority religious festivals which are currently ignored, and also an idea for cards for pet events too – both of which were buried under the march towards an environmental theme. She’d then worked with Kevin on the card designs whilst Jenny and the others took pictures. Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick were wise to this bullying and said so – they’d seen otherwise during the task. However, whilst he could have stuck up for Sara, Kevin instead stuck with the crowd and selected Sara and Claire to come into the boardroom. By failing to stand up to Jenny he effectively guarantees that he would be the one who would go – they weren’t going to fire Sara, and the decision to bring her in compounded with the rest of the task meant that it would have taken a miracle for him to survive.

Quite how long Jenny will last remains to be seen. Certainly if the “You’ve Been Firedâ€? audience is any indication the treatment of Sara – which continued when she returned to the house as Jenny and the other bullies in the group ganged up on her – the audience at home clearly feel she has been treated badly by the others. Only Raef stood up for her, certainly scoring a number of points, especially as some of the other guys showed a different, and decidedly unattractive side to their characters during the exchange. The main downside though of The Apprentice is that unlike other reality shows, the audience has no voice in the firing of candidates, instead we are largely reliant on Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick to spot the bad apples and deal with them. Of course you only need to look to last year to see that they can still be taken in…

Anyway, with Kevin gone, there was one last burst of Matt Lucas jokes, and on to next week, which is the perennial favourite, the shopping list task. The difference this year is that the teams are being sent to Marrakesh to haggle with some of the masters in cutting a deal. The task always provides for a good deal of entertainment, hopefully this year will be no different.

Nicholas Gets an F

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One of the most satisfying aspects of the Apprentice is always watching someone who after all the pre-show bravado falls flat on their face – and every once in a while you get a candidate like Nicholas Brown – sorry, Nicholas de Lacey-Brown (if you read his profile he added the ‘de Lacey’ as he felt it sounded more sophisticated) – who falls so spectacularly that it is almost unmissable.

This time around, the first task was a simple sales job. No issues with buying – each team was given an identical van full of £600 worth of fresh fish, plus a folder containing two sections, one containing pictures of the fish with their names, the other containing a list of the wholesale prices of each of the fish varieties, and told to go make as much money as possible.

However there were a couple of tasks to do before it got to selling the fish. First off the teams had to decide on their team names, there was then the thorny problem of picking a project manager. Team names seemed to go okay this year, but being the first project manager is always very much of a poisoned chalice, so invariably nobody wants to do it. This time around though on both teams people volunteered, or at least on the boys team Raef who had been pretty vocal up to then was nominated and spent ages trying to back out, at which point Alex put himself forward.

Then it was off to a street market to sell the fish. As seems to be traditional in the programme, the girls team quickly degenerated into chaos. Although they made it quickly to the market, getting the better available pitch (apparently it sells five times as much as the pitch the boys team got later on) the stall was besieged by shoppers and some of the team started selling before any of the fish had been identified or priced. From what we saw of the girls, they quite often had to be pulled back into line, and it wasn’t exactly easy to manage them for Claire.

Having said that, we didn’t see much of them, thanks to the brewing class war in the boys team. At the beginning Alex seemed to have things under control, he allocated out roles, amongst others allocating Raef the job of identifying the fish and Nicholas the job of pricing it.

Both screwed up.

Raef managed to identify a crate of potentially lucrative Monkfish as much less valuable Turbot, and Nicholas priced up fresh lobster at £4.50 each – by way of comparison the girls were selling the same thing at £23. Both, when the mistakes were noted, started trying to shift the blame, and causing the beginnings of the split. Then, just to round things off both were also part of a group that at the end of the day sold £135 worth of fish to a firm of solicitors for £50 – they had been sent off, almost as a chance to redeem themselves – so when they made it to the boardroom, the boys team was really ready for a fight with each other.

With this task, the boardroom was therefore very much the main event. Despite their problems the girls made a reasonable profit – the boys scraped through with a profit of about £30. It was really no surprise therefore when Alex brought back Raef and Nicholas.

What was amazing though was quite how badly both of them crashed and burned. Their problem was that both of them tried to argue to Sir Alan that they were both there because Alex had an issue with their class – bear in mind here that Alex had a regional accent, and both of the others spoke with received-pronunciation accents – also bear in mind that Sir Alan left school at sixteen, and regularly says that he assesses people on who they are rather than the school they went to.

Nicholas came in with the first classic line:

“I feel that the barrier that has been drawn is kind of, you know, like maybe, kind of, educated against, you know, more kind of gritty salesmen.”

Alex nearly exploded at this point exclaiming that he was educated. Nicholas further dug a hole for himself by saying he liked art and had difficulty having conversations about football – provoking an amusing expression from football loving Sir Alan. Then Raef chimes in saying that he can talk to prince or pauper – “Which one are you?” says Sir Alan “The Prince?”

After that Sir Alan picked through Nicholas’ CV – Nicholas said that he was disappointed to have got a B in his French GCSE. Raef had said on his CV that he had faced death many times.

Ultimately though it was Nicholas that got the boot, with Sir Alan saying that if he was disappointed with his B, he’d hate the F he was getting, Nicholas was sent on his way.

Watching the taxi interview and the post-mortem show, Nicholas was blaming everybody but himself – and he came on to the stage, as he had at other points in the episode sporting a pair of oversized, Top Gun style sunglasses. It then turned out that alongside his law degree, he was a budding artist – check out his website for details – and the self-penned bio is worth a read too. However, in probably one of the most unanimous decisions I’ve seen on the programme, almost the entire audience, aside of course from his friends and family, said that it was right he should be fired.

So what’s coming next week? A laundry service… can’t wait.

If you missed it, the programme is available on iPlayer, along with the companion post-mortem.

Alternatively, enjoy probably the best bit of the programme on YouTube:

New Lambs to the Slaughter

Tonight it’s back, a new selection of the cream of British business talent – probably with a few more Big Brother rejects thrown into the mix – are taking on the challenge of the Apprentice. BBC Breakfast gave us a bit of a preview, with Sir Alan saying that he’s not totally happy with the editing, and snippets of some of this years contestants. The two that stood out were someone who got a first class law degree, a distinction in his masters, and says he’s always a winner, and a woman who proclaims herself the best saleswoman in Europe – at least one of them will discover that they’re wrong. Sugar thinks this is the best year ever, so we have an enjoyable series of Wednesday nights to look forward to it seems.

Send in the Dancing Girls

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In a choice which I’m sure surprised a lot of people, Sir Alan Sugar has named Simon Ambrose as the winner of series 3 of The Apprentice. Having described him two weeks ago as Teflon Simon, it was a result I was half expecting – from the fact that Sir Alan let him off back then strongly implied that he was one of the favoured candidates.

Even as he was making the decision it was clear he could see the relative merits of each candidate. He clearly recognised that Kristina was experienced, in fact pretty well what Sir Alan said he was looking for four weeks ago when he fired Ghazal. He even commented in the final boardroom that he was wondering whether he wanted to be the headmaster again. He disagreed with Simon’s assertion that he was a good leader, and yet in the end he decided to take the risk.

To be frank, even during the final task, Simon didn’t look like a winner. As in previous years the two finalists got a selection of the fired candidates to choose from. He ended up with a mixed bag with some volatile combinations. Alongside Tre he got Roryfired in week 2 after spending the bulk of the task fighting with Tre, and Jadine who also proved to be volatile at times, rounding the group off was Lohit. Kristina’s team also had problems on paper in that alongside Naomi and Natalie had Paul with whom she had had a run in back in week 6, and Adam who went in week 7 and seemed to have issues with various of the other candidates.

The difference in what happened was marked. Whilst Tre and Rory were kicking off, and Rory was giving people no doubt that he was there to prove that he shouldn’t have been fired in week 2, over with Kristina although Adam was getting grumpy, Kristina kept him under control. Paul was being pragmatic and professional about the whole thing too. Kristina divided the team and allocated out tasks, whilst Simon and Tre went off leaving the rest of the team at a loss for what to do.

The main point of the task was to come up with a conceptual design for a building to replace the IBM Building on the South Bank in London. Both teams were given a firm of architects to work with their ideas, and both produced eye catching and radical designs. Both teams then had to present their concepts to an audience of property experts, and put on a presentation. This proved to be the biggest source of arguments between Rory and Tre as for some bizarre reason Rory decided that dancing girls would be a good addition. Quite why I don’t know, and I think the reason escaped the rest of the team too, but dancing girls they had. I have to say that when he came up with that I was rather disappointed that Rory got the push so early, as this particular wacky idea added to the entertainment tonight.

By the end of the task, having seen the presentations, Kristina seemed to have managed her team best, delivered a professional presentation and held it all together, whilst Simon’s team had come up with a presentation almost in spite of themselves. Based on the editing of the programme, even the directors thought Kristina had it all sewn up. Then he gives it to Simon

On You’re Fired Kristina looked visibly upset, as did her son in the audience. Indeed some in the audience gave her a standing ovation when she came on, and the Telegraph and Mail report that some of the other candidates wanted to walk out in protest at the decision. Despite being shown the selection of Katie snipes from the series she declined to retaliate with any comments back, rising above the backbiting as she had throughout the entire series. Sir Alan was asked directly about Katie on the programme, and fell very much into line with what Michelle Mone had said, saying that having seen what she had said over the series he wouldn’t employ her, nor would anybody else. He then said that Katie had the skills to do the job and that she didn’t need to do what she had done for the attention – but then it was all about Project Katie for her.

Anyway, Simon as winner still looked shocked to have won. Of all the candidates, he was probably the ultimate Sir Alan fan – and this is most definitely living his dream.

Perhaps on reflection this was the best resolution for both of them. In terms of the on screen action, Simon will probably be best remembered for the infamous trampoline scene – perhaps not the best thing to take to a potential employer. On the other hand look at Kristina who has consistently proved that she is a safe pair of hands to take on a task – I’d be surprised if there aren’t even now a queue of top companies eager to snap up her up. Even if Sir Alan decided that he wanted Simon for the final job, for us like many of the viewers, Kristina was the one who truly won the competition, and proved herself to be the best of the candidates.