Tag Archives: The Apprentice

Would You Pay £1950 for a Picture from an Unknown Artist?

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This is perhaps the question that both the teams should have been asking themselves on tonight’s Apprentice.

This weeks task required the teams to select two photographic artists each from a pool of six, and then mount a one day sale of their chosen artists work. The winner was the team that made the most money. If the teams picked the same artist then the artist would be asked to choose.

From the outset it was pretty apparent that there was nobody on either team that had much of an interest in art. Having said that, because of the fact that it was a one day sale, the usual techniques of selling art wouldn’t really work – the teams had to get art with a good track record that they knew would sell, and then try and sell as much as they could on the night.

However when it came to the choice of artists, realising that they didn’t know the art world, both teams just went for what they liked, and both picked the same two artists. Whilst one, Tim Flach, was well established, and able to provide a client list, the other Elisabeth Hoff had only one collection, of which she admitted she hadn’t sold any, refused to provide her client list, and was charging between £950 and £1950 per print – the highest cost of any of the artists offered.

As is so often the case, Alan Sugar had presented the candidates with a selection of choices in order to spot the shrewd among them. Whilst if a team who had selected work by Elisabeth Hoff had managed to sell any they would have probably won, as Sugar said in the boardroom it was a big gamble – one that didn’t pay off for the team which she ultimately selected. His opinion is clearly that they would have been better going for more established artists with a client base that would be easier prospective purchasers.

Once the decision had been made, and thanks to some major schmoozing from Katie, Hoff had selected Natalie and Eclipse, their fates were largely sealed. Tim Flach was more impressed with Stealth and went with them (Natalie effectively blew it when she took a phone call whilst talking to him, and then comparing the horse in one of his pictures to the highlights in her hair…). Both teams then picked replacement second artists, Vanessa Warren for Eclipse and Linda Lieberman for Stealth – but because Stealth had a much more popular first choice with established customers, they easily walked away with the task, bringing in £4,702 to £1,599.78 from Eclipse who failed at the difficult task of selling unknown work to a brand new audience.

Perhaps they could have brought it back in with a decent selling strategy for the Hoff work – but since the schmoozing from Katie went on to the extent of Hoff dictating the sales strategy, wanting very much of a soft sell, all was lost. Ironically, although both Natalie and Katie continued to cross swords with Adam, regularly telling him that his car sales experience is useless, and pouring scorn on his ideas, he is the one that manages to sell. Relegated to the back room with the cheaper pictures whilst Katie is in full schmooze up the front, he manages to shift a few saving the team from total disaster.

However I’m totally of the opinion that had Hoff gone for Stealth, it would have been them sitting in the boardroom at the end rather than Eclipse. Hoff would have dictated the soft selling technique for them instead, and the pictures wouldn’t have sold for them either. Despite Tre’s distaste at some of the Linda Lieberman work, he managed to sell some of those, and the Tim Flach sold well too, thanks in part to the much harder – “you don’t want to leave empty handed do you?” techniques that were being used.

The final boardroom encounter is interesting as well. The key problem identified by Sugar is that they didn’t make a business decision in their choice of Hoff, and that they allowed her to run the show too much – Katie being chief in his sights for this. One of the issues that Hoff had was with the quality of the labels for the pictures – produced by Lohit, but Sugar regards this as not important. Alongside this there is ongoing antagonism between Adam and Natalie. Also bear in mind that Natalie has been largely relying on Katie through much of the task, and seems to think that they get on well – however as has been apparent in previous episodes Katie tends to keep her opinions for the one-to-one interviews. This week she is cutting about Natalie, and even at one point wishes that Adam would get run over!

It is often apparent that Sugar has access to the tapes of the task, including the interviews alongside the feedback he gets from his two assistants. Occasionally in previous episodes he has been seen to comment on events that occurred outside the view of the assistants, but in front of the film crew. The impression I got this week was that Sugar was clearly gunning very much for Katie when perhaps it was much more of a group decision to go for Hoff and to capitulate to all her demands. Maybe he had seen the interview where she wishes Adam would get run over?

However, when asked to pick, Natalie brings back in Adam and Lohit – and seals her fate. Adam, although he has personality clashes with other team members, sold well on the task, and did what was asked of him. The only thing that Lohit did wrong was the labels, so he is largely safe. If she had brought in Katie, it was pretty obvious that Sugar had a good chance of removing her, but Natalie protects someone she thinks of as a friend, and effectively leaves herself as the only option, and Sugar, “with regretâ€? has to fire her. Maybe she thought that after last week Adam could be in the frame, but in the past Sugar has shown that he will tend to keep people who can sell for a long while, even if they clash with other team members. Ironically, when Natalie is interviewed on the “You’re Firedâ€? show, having seen a number of the interviews that Katie has done, she is less impressed with her and can certainly see the ruthless streak in Katie’s tactics. In fact Natalie sums it up pretty well in her interview in the taxi – she was just too soft and too nice. Whilst that might build a good team on the task, in the boardroom you need to be ruthless, and seeing that Sugar had his sights set on Katie, it should have been clear that it should have been Katie not Lohit in the third chair.

Having said that, probably the best bit of the whole episode was the brief teaser for next week. The task is about selling ‘British Specialities’ to the French, and from the clips it looks like one of the teams is attempting to sell the French, a country renowned for their love of their many home-grown cheese varieties, British cheese…

“It Looks Like Kids Vomit in Araldite!�

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This week, The Apprentice was all about sweets. The teams had to manufacture and then sell sweets to the visitors to London Zoo, and the team with the most profit at the end of the day won. The result was the closest yet, with the winning margin being £10. Although not intended, it also ended up being a battle between one team with a smaller stock selling at higher prices, and the other with masses of stock selling it cheap – the higher prices winning.

This was one of those weeks when in actual fact I thought the wrong team won. The whole reason that Ghazal and her team had small amounts of stock is because only half the team were involved in manufacturing. Through a crazy piece of organisation (that didn’t seem to affect Adam and his team) the only place to get the sticks for the lollipops was in London, and the sweets were being manufactured on the South Coast. As a result Tre and Kristina waste four hours bringing the box of sticks (which were only available in multiples of 1000) down to the factory, and head back to London to organise props. As a result they are two hours away so whilst the rest of the team are failing to produce more than 100 lollipops, Tre is back at the house playing pool, and Kristina is washing her hair. That’s not the only jaw dropping moment, in trying to reduce the cost of the box of sticks, Tre at one point suggests to the wholesaler that he do a totally illegal VAT fiddle to cut the cost – with Margaret Mountford, Sugar’s lawyer in the room! The next day in the selling, Tre is by his own admission specifically targeting ‘fat people’, and Kristina is handing the lollipops to small children and then demanding money from the parents on the basis that the parents won’t refuse.

The other team weren’t without their fair share of problems either. To start of with, they do market research which comes up with the fact that most parents don’t want to be feeding sugary sweets to their children. Unfortunately that idea gets cold water poured on it by the sweet manufacturer, who instead recommends boiled sweet lollipops, in which they use ‘natural flavours’. As a result the team decide to produce ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’ and Chocolate lollipops similar to those produced by the other team. Natalie then gets sent off with Simon to sort out the printing. Meanwhile the rest of the team head off to Asda, and stock up on all sorts of sugary (and not very natural) sprinkles that they set into their ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’, and when they are told they have to list all the ingredients, phone Natalie with the wording, and to change the name to ‘Tiger Orange Lollipop’ – unfortunately having got the signs and printing part done, Natalie sticks with the ‘Natural Orange Lollipops’ name – landing the team in hot water with the London Zoo staff. Ultimately they have to cross out ‘Natural’ on all the packets on the day. Alongside this, Simon, having been far too interested in looking at the animals has totally messed up on the location for their stall, and they initially end up around the back of a corporate hospitality tent, wasting valuable time as they move.

Their selling doesn’t go much better. Adam as project manager, decides to manage rather than sell, and proceeds to manage from inside a lion costume for about four hours, and just seems to wind up particularly Natalie by trying to coach the team as to the best way to sell. Alongside this you have Sophie who has a bit of an issue (unlike Kristina) with hassling parents endlessly to buy lollipops that to be frank she wouldn’t want any kids of hers to have – interesting Natalie admits at one point to having the same issue. Although they have massively more stock, and are selling at cheaper prices, at the end of the day they are literally giving the stuff away to get rid of it, and loose by £10. Adam brings Sophie and Natalie into the boardroom.

The whole boardroom is interesting. Firstly, Alan Sugar really doesn’t like the Orange Lollipops – whatever they are called – describing them as looking like ‘kid’s vomit in Araldite’ at one point, and ‘sick on a stick’ at another. He is also less than impressed with the time it takes Natalie to admit that the name issue was down to her. In the early stages of the boardroom he has a long talk with Sophie over the realities of business, especially when she admits that she has problems selling a product that she thinks is poor value. However she does then say that she is aware that she is commercially naive, but that she is looking to learn.

Much of the rest of the discussion is three way between Sugar, Natalie and Adam again over the labelling, but also because Sugar believes that Adam is running a vendetta against Natalie, and because he is disappointed that Adam wasted hours in the lion costume. Then after all of that, he sacks Sophie for not being enthusiastic about the selling.

I have to say that I was surprised at the choice, and it perhaps says as much about Sugar’s philosophy on selling that he sacked Sophie for not being keen on selling the sweets, but selling them anyway, rather than Adam for not selling anything and spending half the day dressed as a lion. Personally I can well understand Sophie’s argument of being unwilling to use sales techniques (such as those being used by Kristina) that she wouldn’t be happy to have used on herself. Certainly I would have thought that if you give Sophie a quality product that she believes in then she’d have no problem, and from my point of view having someone who respects their customer enough not to sell them overpriced rubbish is probably better for long term reputation as having someone who will sell anything. Having said that, the environment of The Apprentice is much more about making as much money as possible in a short time, whereas in the real business world many companies are interested in building a long term relationship of trust with a potential customer – the idea being that a happy customer will come back to buy again.

Apprentice 3 Round 1

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Having lost both Michelle Dewberry and Tim Campbell this year, Alan Sugar is back looking for Apprentice number 3.

This time around, the series is going out on BBC1, and with two additional candidates, but aside from that it is much the same, even down to using parts of the soundtrack from 24 as incidental music during the programme. In fact it was a bit of deja-vu when Sugar did his boardroom introduction speech – although I guess if it works, why bother to change it?

Looking down through the profiles of this years candidates they are a real mixed bunch. There are two car salesmen, an ex-soilder, a couple of entrepreneurs, managers and sales managers from various industries, and a quantum physicist. The initial champagne get-to-know-you reception was as usual a cringe making effort – although the real jaw dropping moment was saved for the ‘You’re Fired’ show that goes out immediately after the main show on BBC2, where we see the public school educated candidates initially comparing their old school ties, and then discussing the quality of this years female candidates – and concluding that they were picked more for their business skills! The attitude of the boys is again highlighted when after initially splitting the teams into men and women, at the last minute swaps the project managers, leaving the boys being managed by one of the women. As a team, the boys seem to have many more problems gelling than the girls, but thanks to a spectacular purchasing disaster worthy of the pizza’s last year, the girls team lose.

The first task is a basic selling task, which as much tests how everybody works as a team. This time around it’s selling coffee on the streets. Each team has a fixed stall, and a mobile stall, and the idea is to make as much profit as possible. Both teams manage to turn a profit, and through the ebb and flow of the day manage to sell about the same amount, however thanks to the previous mentioned purchasing disaster, the overheads on the girls team leave them with a much smaller profit.

Looking at the show, I’m pretty certain that we haven’t seen much of whoever will be the final winner. Although the loud brash characters usually feature pretty highly during the early stages of the series, with Michelle and Tim they were certainly not either brash or loud, but were consistent throughout the series, and only came to the forefront during the later stages of the series. Although I’m sure it takes a certain level of arrogance and self-belief to get onto the programme, it is also clear that keeping your head down in the early stages is by far the best tactic. It is also worth noting that Sugar repeatedly says that he is not looking for a salesman, he wants managerial and organisational skills too – and this often seems to be where the candidates with more of a sales leaning fall down.

As with Paul Torrisi in series 1 and Syed Ahmed in series 2 there is a stand out character in Tre Azam who argues with Jadine his project manager throughout the task. Having said that, he got off to a bad start with Sugar after persuading his team to pick the name of one of his former companies as the name of their team – Sugar forces the team to pick a new name.

To be fair, although she leads in the winning team, Jadine doesn’t get off to a good start either. In the boardroom meeting at the end of the programme, when asked how the project went, she pretty well immediately starts criticising her team members – which earns a swift rebuke from Sugar.

The project manager of the other team, Andy Jackson took the rap for his teams failure, basically because he failed to manage the team properly. He was somewhat forced to take the poison chalice of being the first project leader by the rest of the boys team. After the swap of project managers, his team messed up the purchasing, with Sophie the quantum physicist going and trying to buy ‘only’ 200 litres of milk. Bear in mind their prediction of sales was for 1000 cups of coffee, so it doesn’t take much time to work out that she is proposing to have 200ml of milk per cup – and Andy tells her to get 20 litres instead – she comes back with 65 litres, plus 400 confectionary bars that they decided to buy on the spur of the moment too. It’s worth highlighting at this point that the estimate of 1000 cups was actually based on the maximum number of cups the machine could produce in the time, not any estimate of sales. Another black mark for the project manager. When Gerri suggests taking the mobile stall to a nearby market – filled with coffee shops who are all selling coffee cheaper than the team things start to look even worse, and then Andy just decides to cut his losses and pull the mobile stall altogether, and effectively his fate is sealed. The other team, by having the mobile stall moving around pull in much better sales on the road. Since Andy’s team had a much more lucrative fixed location, if they had managed to make money from the mobile stall in the same way, as a result of their inability to gel, it may well have been one of the boys team in the taxi heading home.

So we’ve had a good dose of utterly cringe making moments, including the regular pleasure of the meetings to pick the team names – Eclipse and Stealth in case you’re wondering. We’ve also pretty early on had some entertaining screw ups – a quantum physicist who seems to like a lot of milk in her coffee for example. We’ve also had a whole load of pretty predictable sales speak and management rubbish spouted by the contestants, and to round it all off we had the firee grovelling for another chance – and that was just week 1. There are another fourteen people to be fired before we get to the winner – can’t wait for next week.

Having a Laugh with Comic Relief

Yesterday, this years Comic Relief appeal reached it’s climax with eight hours of TV on BBC1 and BBC2. Yet again it pulled in the donations at a fantastic rate, reaching the fantastic total of £40,236,142 by the end of the night (as a comparison, the BBC’s own Children in Need managed £18,300,392 last year).

The show included the conclusion of The Apprentice Does Comic Relief, that I wrote about yesterday. It finished up with Sugar choosing between Campbell and Morgan for the nominal firing – he went for Morgan in the end, which had been hinted at from the start in that in his start of show interview he was the only one seen commenting that he didn’t want to get fired! To be honest the best moments of that can be found in the first part of the show on Thursday – Campbell and Morgan trying to get the other one fired was amusing, but really a postscript to the main programme.

As usual, the show included a mix of hard hitting documentary sequences showing some of the areas the appeal aims to help in both the UK and Africa, and special comedy sketches. The comedy sketches were a bit hit or miss, with the Vicar of Dibley special, whilst having some funny moments, not being the best, and a live Mitchell and Webb sketch that was greeted with pretty well total silence by the live audience. However, Harry Hill provided what was pretty well a TV Burp Greatest Hits, and there were some star studded sequences from the special Little Britain Live. Peter Kay produced a memorable musical number to follow up Amarillo from last time. This time it was the old Proclaimers number, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)â€? along with Matt Lucas. The video includes an unbelievable range of celebrities, including Lord Lucan and Shergar according to the credits. The video and song are available from iTunes and is going for a record in terms of being the fastest selling online song – we’ve been star spotting in the video, and about the only non-dead celeb who is credited that we can’t spot so far is David Beckham.

The sketches that we laughed at most though, were two of the Catherine Tate ones with a variety of famous people. The first includes David Tennant as a new English teacher, which if you watch, you’ll realise quite why Beth likes it…

The second was just amazing, as it includes Tony Blair, who actually gets a number of the funny lines…

All of the Catherine Tate sketches from the night, together with some bonus material will be available on DVD on April 9th, and is available from Amazon amongst others.

Whilst on the subject of fund-raising goodies, check out Shaggy Blog Stories, a book of one hundred funny blog postings pulled together by Mike Atkinson, and including contributions from a real mix of famous and not so famous UK bloggers, including Dave Walker from Cartoon Church.

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Was the Apprentice Comic Relief?

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Tonight we had the first part of Comic Relief Does The Apprentice, a special edition of the UK Apprentice with a mixed bag of ten celebrities taking part, including pop star Cheryl Cole, sacked newspaper editor Piers Morgan, former Downing Street Director of Communications Alistair Campbell, actress and comedienne Maureen Lipman and TV fashion guru Trinny Woodall amongst others. Actor Rupert Everett lasted mere hours into the challenge before he walked off, to be later replaced by Tim Campbell winner of the first series of the real programme.

The celebrities were split into boys and girls teams, and given 48 hours to organise a fund-raising evening based around a fun fair. There was a fixed set of eight attractions, which the two teams had to divide between them, and in addition each team had a food stall, and then could do whatever else they wanted to raise money. A big part of that comes down to who had the most generous celebrity pals – Trinny Woodall managed to sell one ticket to a friend for £150,000 (and yes I have got the right number of 0’s there), much to the amazement of Maureen Lipman and Cheryl Cole. Other tickets go for tens of thousands of pounds.

It has to be said that, in most cases the celebrities seemed to be doing it for a laugh – however as often happens with the fund raising versions of the programmes, others take it really seriously. Campbell and Morgan especially seemed to be having a wail of a time, pretty well right from the start. For example in the opening board room, you got the usual silent round table pause where Alan Sugar is apparently psyching out the candidates. However the moment is broken by Morgan telling Sugar to get on with it, and being met by a swift “Shut up Morganâ€? in return. Piers Morgan also makes a number of Cash for Honours jokes in the direction of Alistair Campbell all the way through – although Sugar gets the first Cash for Honours jibe within the first few minutes of the programme.

Their double act gets quite amusing at times, especially when it transpires that neither are actually able to refill a stapler! Campbell admits that he doesn’t know how, whilst Piers tries, only to have to have Tim have to sort it out afterwards when he tries to use the stapler. Tim incidentally, as he did in the original show, just quietly and efficiently gets on with the work without complaining – quite amazing considering that he is about the only one on the boys team with any real business experience, and is largely relegated to being a PA for Campbell and Morgan.

Things however take a rather dark turn though when the hotel in which both teams are based, accidentally tells the boys team that a chef sent by another friend of Trinny Woodall to help the girls out has arrived. Campbell and Morgan basically think it’s quite a laugh to play along, and have the hotel send the chef up to their room, and start discussing menus. Certainly the impression I got was that it was primarily to make mischief as anything else. However Trinny is one of the ones taking it seriously, and really doesn’t see it that way. She is absolutely steaming at the boys having, in her eyes, kidnapped their chef. Bear in mind also, that the boys team had come out much the better in the negotiations over the choice of fairground rides when Campbell had forced the girls team to give up everything else for the dodgems.

What happens next is quite amazing for a show that is going out as part of Comic Relief. After a little bit of listening at the door, Trinny comes steaming in demanding her chef. Campbell and Morgan however, carry on with the mischief making, totally misjudging the state Trinny is in, and say that since the chef arrived in their room, he belongs to them, and try and stop the chef from leaving. She then tries to drag the chef out of the room, with Campbell and Morgan blocking the way. There is then a good deal of shoving, and she then proceeds to attack the back of Campbell’s shirt with a marker pen. At one point Campbell and Morgan even manage to get the chef locked in the bathroom! At this point Trinny then threatens the chef saying that she will get him the sack if he doesn’t fight his way past Campbell and Morgan!

Things don’t get much better later on with Trinny either as when working with an increasingly amazed Cheryl Cole she seems at times hyperactive, for example demonstrating a detox routine taught to her by a Russian who lives in Austria, and then almost obsessive as she makes an absolute mountain out of a molehill in a phone call with Maureen Lipman about Maureen’s guests. Trinny is meticulously checking off people against tickets, whilst Lipman is part way through the very messy process of making 400 portions of Chicken Satay. Lipman gets more and more annoyed with Trinny obsessing, and her refusal to wait and discuss it when Lipman has finished the Chicken. Eventually Lipman just hangs up the phone, and Cole is left trying to sort out Trinny.

Ultimately on the night the boys seem to make the best of their attractions, but it is the big spending celebrity pals of the girls that swing it. We are left to wait until tomorrow to find out which one of the boys gets fired, but from the clips, it looks like Campbell and Morgan get quite heated in the board room, so I’m betting it will be one of them who gets it. However, the endearing impressions I got from the whole programme were firstly quite how on edge and unpredictable Trinny is throughout the programme. I’m guessing that she is probably someone who is fiercely competitive, however when faced with Campbell and Morgan – who were basically playing it like a game, it definitely produced some fireworks. Campbell and Morgan probably didn’t do that much for their reputations – or maybe they just confirmed what everybody thought anyway – especially considering how much a simple stapler foxed the two of them. Having said that, it was all worthwhile in terms of the purpose of the exercise – between them the teams managed to raise over £1 million for Comic Relief.

Learning from Other Peoples Mistakes

Whilst I’m sure I’m not the kind of person who would do well on the show, I have to admit to being quite an avid viewer of the Apprentice on BBC2.

Quite often it is a case of learning how not to do things by seeing where the participants go wrong, a classic example of learning from other peoples mistakes. However, whilst there were some interesting moments in the first series, the first two episodes of the new series have certainly upped the level of truly spectacularly cringe making moments.

Last nights episode was really spectacular. The teams were set a challenge to produce a charity calendar for Great Ormond Street. There was tension in the girls team, thanks to the majority of the group deciding that a cat theme was best for a calendar for a Children’s Hospital – a decision that seemed crazy to most other people, including Alan Sugar. There was also real tension in the boys team, with a definite clash of egos. However the most toe curling moment was the sales pitches to the buyers. Both were bad, but I have to say that if I had been a buyer faced with the girls team, I would have chucked them out as the woman doing the presentation – who was ultimately the one Sugar sacked – was just plain rude. At one point she even told a buyer to shut up until she had finished talking!

Certainly from the current crop there are none that really stand out for the right reasons as yet, however last year it took a few weeks before the front runners started to show too…