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.

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