Losing It in the Boardroom

Last night was perhaps the first time watching The Apprentice that I’ve thought Sir Alan has got it really wrong – and I wasn’t alone. The audience of The Apprentice: You’re Fired were almost unanimous with almost everybody disagreeing with Sir Alan’s decision, everybody at work thought it was the wrong decision. Having said that, the new series clearly has found it’s new villain…

So lets roll back to what actually happened. Adrian Chiles said on The Apprentice: You’re Fired that the boys and girls team had swapped in terms of their handling of the task, however I disagree, in actual fact the girls were really not that much worse than they were last week, it was really just that the boys last week messed up a lot more. This week they seemed to find their form, and in what seems to be usual for The Apprentice the boys team appeared to put aside their differences and work together, whilst the girls were fighting. Perhaps it says something about men and women and their attitudes in business, but the number of times early in the series where the girls team has degenerated into arguments is really quite telling.

Anyway, the task this week was to run an overnight laundry service. The boys had an ace in their hand thanks to Simon Smith who in a previous life in the army happened to run a laundry. Under the leadership of Raef the team seemed to work well and to be thinking – for example they priced their service by phoning laundry companies in the phone book. They also grabbed the irons in the contestants house in case they needed them later. The split was still apparent to some extent, but the team worked well in spite of it.

The girls were a different matter. Jenny Celerier put herself forward as project manager and quite quickly rubbed some of the team up the wrong way with her very direct and forceful style of management. That style obviously works in some environments – she wouldn’t have got as far as she has in the real world if it didn’t – but the test of being a project manager in The Apprentice is managing a pretty diverse bunch of people. Looking at my own work life the management style for a sales team is very different from if you’re managing a technical team of software developers. Ultimately it was in the management where it went wrong, however the sales aspect was pretty jaw droppingly bad as well. Whereas the boys team researched their prices, the girls just seemed to pluck a number out of thin air – £4.99 an item. They then took that price into a sales pitch with a hotel, who would usually expect to pay about £200 to have a batch of 1000 items, including sheets, pillowcases and so on – the girls pitched at nearly £5000 for the same job, and just looked blank when the amazed hotel manager queried the price.

As a result, the girls team had to go for door-to-door sales. One of the key important things when dealing with the door-to-door jobs at the laundry though was making sure things didn’t get mixed up. Shazia took responsibility for this coming up with a system that kept track. However when team leader Jenny turned up late on at the laundry with a load of extra jobs, the girls realised that they wouldn’t have time to finish the work before they ran out of time in the industrial unit, so Shazia suggested that they should use the ironing facilities back at the house. Jenny therefore took the decision to send Shazia back to sort out the irons, leaving the rest of the team to finish off the washing – however with Shazia gone, the rest of the girls messed up the system, and got the washing mixed up.

Things then went from bad to worse when back at the house they realised that the boys had all the irons, and then whilst Jenny was continuing her one woman vendetta against fellow team member Lucinda the team proceeded to mix things up even more as they struggled to get the washing all ironed.

Heading back out to return the washing, and realising that they’d stuffed up on pricing, the girls hit on another tactic to boost revenue – asking for tips – however all of that came to naught as their customer discovered that either washing was missing, or they’d been given other peoples items – indeed the team was even fined £50 because one persons shirts had disappeared altogether. Needless to say asking for tips went down like a lead balloon in the boardroom too.

Fundamentally, with so many faults in the management, it seemed obvious that Jenny the project manager would be the one to go. After the girls team again degenerated into arguments in the boardroom after being told they had lost, Jenny brought back in Lucinda and Shazia.

What followed was a classic demonstration as to how the entire show can be won or lost in the boardroom. Shazia had been the person who had managed to organise the system in the laundry, and had also had the idea to use the irons – the system had only gone wrong when team leader Jenny had sent her back and the remaining team members had messed up. However that’s not the picture Jenny painted, and with Shazia in it seemed total shock as to what was happening, and failing to defend herself, Sir Alan took the version that Jenny had told, and fired Shazia for abandoning her role and causing the shirts to be lost. There was no question that Jenny should have gone, of the three people sat in the board room she had the most responsibility, but because she was willing to personally attack her team mates, and they weren’t willing to defend themselves, she survived. Having said that, but surviving in such a dramatic way, Jenny has definitely ensured her position as the villain of this years series.

You can watch the whole sorry debacle again on iPlayer, with more clips and discussion on You’re Fired.

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