Weeding Out the Player

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All the way through this series of the Apprentice, Katie has carved herself out a memorable role as the villain of the piece. Efficient and ruthless she gave a number of memorable one-to-one interviews including wishing one other candidate would get run over, before absolutely destroying him in the boardroom. She also managed to insult pretty much the whole of the UK at one time or another too, again with acerbic pieces to camera. Tonight she provided a moment that will make her truly unforgettable – she became the first and only candidate to resign from the Apprentice.

This week was the interview stage, when three trusted business colleagues interview the remaining five candidates and report back to Sir Alan with their impressions. Of the five candidates, the one to come out best was clearly Kristina. All three of the interviewers viewed her as a safe pair of hands, with a good personality – an all round strong candidate. At the other end of the spectrum was Lohit, who I’ve always regarded as quietly efficient, he fell down precisely because he was quiet, lacking the sparkle of the other four, very much a ‘nice guy but…’ response.

With Tre, his attitude again led him in to trouble. With one interviewer the interview never seemed to progress beyond an argument over the assertion by Tre that he was an international businessman. Ultimately Tre was just unemployable.

Simon again provoked a mixed response. The interviewers felt that he had drifted since being made redundant from a career in merchant banking. One of them had talked to a tenant in a property that Simon owned and who absolutely slated him. Another described him as a serial underachiever, saying that with his degree and obvious intelligence (he is a member of MENSA) he should be doing a lot better than he is. After the mauling in last weeks task he seemed visibly crushed under the criticism, and on at least one occasion was told off by an interviewer for not making eye contact. The definite opinion was that on paper he had potential, but that it was a potential unrealised. Having said that, he appeared to appreciate that. With one of the interviewers he said that he would happily only take half of the pay that was being offered for the first year in order to prove himself to Sir Alan.

Finally there was Katie. She of all the candidates was earning the most currently, and is a partner in her own business. All the interviewers latched on to her ruthlessness – at one point she rates the fact that she set out to get another woman’s husband for herself ‘because she wanted him’ as eight out of ten. This ruthless streak seemed to be ringing alarm bells with the interviewers. All thought that she would be capable of heading up one of Sir Alan’s companies, but two were obviously concerned, and even the third when pressed questioned whether, if she won, she would move from her family home in Devon to Brentford, and whether she was only in it to win.

So this left Sir Alan with three possible choices for two places. Kristina who definitely seemed to be a safe pair of hands, Simon who is a significant gamble and has messed up spectacularly, and Katie who could do the job, but who there were question marks over.

The final boardroom, it has to be said was amazing to watch. Essentially Sir Alan had to find out if Katie was only in it to win, and not for the job. He kicked off with talking to Kristina, making generally positive noises, but not giving her a definite yes or no. After that Lohit was despatched fairly swiftly.

Then he moved on to the key person in all of this – Katie. He talked about her ruthlessness (she denied that she had stepped on anybody to get to this stage) and then questioned why she wanted the job and whether she would move from Devon. He’d asked the same question of Kristina, but it was noticeable that he pushed the point a lot more with Katie. He also really reinforced his position that it was about the job and that he wanted someone committed – he didn’t want someone who was only in it for the win, and would exclude someone who wanted the job. He pushed and pushed, until she didn’t really argue back, although she still maintained she wanted the job. For a moment I thought he was going to fire her, but he didn’t, he told her she was definitely in, with three other candidates still left. Considering how Katie has played the game in the boardroom before, at times even flirting with Sir Alan to manipulate events, this was an interesting reversal. This proved to be very much a Sir Alan game – he had questions over her commitment, hammered her down and questioned her motives, until she looked like she thought she was beaten, but all of it sowing the seeds to establish if she really wanted the job.

From Katie he moved on to Tre, picking over his arguments, and highlighting how argumentative he had been throughout the programme before sending him home too. All this time Katie had been left. The other two were tense, Simon especially looked beaten – certain that Kristina would be picked. Katie had said before that she wouldn’t lie to Sir Alan, but in the previous discussion had been pushed to say that she was ready to move, herself and her life to London. She had even claimed that her parents would be happy to move away from Devon. Rather than focusing on the other two Sir Alan focused back on Katie:

“If you don’t mind, I’ll flip back to you Katie. You don’t look like a lady whose just been told she’s entered the final. So it may be that because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself, and because you don’t want to make a fool of me, that you might want to concede that now, and let these other two go forward.â€?

And then she conceded, and then she went.

Sir Alan had backed her into a corner. It is what everybody suspected, but Sir Alan proved it clearly tonight, and ensured that he got two people who wanted the job at the end. She obviously didn’t look like someone who had won, if she hadn’t have stood down, would he have changed his mind and fired her? I don’t know, we never got to find out. The move was executed such that she fell on her own sword rather than be pushed.

As Sir Alan said to the remaining two, he thought that all three were very employable, but that what they had just seen was somebody who wasn’t willing to give him the commitment he wanted. You can see the whole sequence on the Apprentice Web Site.

Interestingly Katie is painting it as a victory. In her interview on the Apprentice site she states both Simon and Kristina are poor choices, stating that she believes that she would have won. In her taxi interview – which wasn’t shown but is online – she describes them as ‘thirsty little muppets’. By resigning as she did she is trying to portray herself as nobly standing aside to let two lesser candidates have a chance. However Sir Alan very firmly established the people who wanted the job, rather than wanted the glory. He weeded out the player.

What is interesting about all of this is that Katie seems very much to be acting as if she has created a good stepping stone to being well known in business through the show, but has she built a good reputation – or notoriety? She has insulted a multitude of people, and the level of ruthlessness she has shown has hardly endeared herself to a large number of people, certainly a number of the business people on the The Apprentice: You’re Fired programme have been quite clear that they wouldn’t hire her ever. Indeed during the programme tonight I thought she was going to come to blows with Michelle Mone, one of her most vehement critics. Thankfully there was a significantly sized table in between the two women. Has she blown her reputation? Only time will tell.

As to the remaining pair, which one is going to get it? Based on his previous comments, I think that Kristina is the one. When he despatched Ghazal he said he was looking for someone well formed to which he can hand over a task rather than someone who he needs to mould, and Kristina fits that bill. Having said that, this is Sir Alan Sugar. He clearly has a soft spot for Simon, despite his goofs and the concerns raised by the interviewers – so I won’t be totally surprised if he takes a gamble and goes for Simon instead…

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