The Great Escape

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Watching The Apprentice this week, you sort of felt that Michael should be walking out of the boardroom to the strains of The Great Escape. Thanks to a classic demonstration of boardroom suicide from Sara, where as often happens to someone at this point in the series, she had just had enough and didn’t properly defend herself – and with the bullying she has been receiving in previous weeks I’m not surprised. After she put herself forward as the person who hadn’t sold anything (neither had Michael) Sir Alan ended up focusing in on her rather than picking up on the more obvious mistakes from Michael and Helene the group leader, both of whom were much more deserving of the chop than Sara.

Much as had occurred last week, Alpha put on a good demonstration of how it should be done. Lucinda took the project management reins and again produced a well organised and well executed result. It is interesting that despite her earlier difficulties she does seem to be able to manage even other candidates with which she has crossed swords without too much of a problem, and unlike some who can’t seem to put personal differences aside, manages to get good results from everybody. That’s not to say that they played it safe. The task was selling wedding dresses and accessories, and was this years task where the two teams were competing to sign up suppliers from a shared pool. Alpha took a big gamble by going for a recommendation from Raef that they go with the well known, but ultimately expensive designer. This had benefits in that when both teams went for the same wedding accessory supplier, the supplier chose them because of their choice of designer, however part way through the day it was looking increasingly like it was a gamble gone bad, as whilst Renaissance had sold several of their cheaper dresses, despite a lot of interest Alpha still hadn’t sold any. It turned out though that it was all a question of faith, as in the last hour or two many of the people who had expressed an interest earlier on came back to the stall having looked at the other options, ultimately deciding to put the money down on the expensive dress. Thanks to the high ticket prices they then easily surpassed Renaissance who although they sold a larger volume of dresses, were left thousands of pounds behind. Considering what Helene has said about how useless Lucinda is in previous tasks, it was poetic justice really.

Then came the boardroom. Looking back at the task, there had been a number of poor decisions. Over on Alpha, the team had split into two with one pair seeing all the dresses and making the dress choice, and the other seeing all the accessory suppliers and choosing those. Renaissance operated differently. Michael suggested and Helene accepted the idea that the groups should split geographically, so one group saw companies in south London, the other in central and North London. This meant that nobody saw all the dresses. Michael schmoozed his way through the meeting with the well known designer that Alpha chose, but ultimately said in the car that he didn’t like the dresses and didn’t push them as a good choice – as a result Helene went for the middle of the road supplier that she had seen. In the boardroom Michael changed his tune and said what a good choice the now winning dresses would have been, and saying that perhaps he should have pushed them more. Their accompanying product was wedding cakes, the sale of which fell to Michael and Sara, however as something whose purchase is not the sole preserve of the bride, they proved to be impossible to sell, resulting in both Michael and Sara resorting to a pretty hard sell by the end of the day, although Alex was heard to comment pretty early on that Michael was using his telesales techniques on face-to-face sales from pretty early on.

Bearing in mind that he was already on a warning from last week after the kosher Chicken debacle, it seemed that the boardroom choice was really between Michael for his hard sell and the geographical division of the team idea, or Helene, who as team leader hadn’t seemed overly in control. Once Sara had been despatched, hopes were raised that Michael might be following, but sadly not. He again, much to the surprise of the audience, and even of Sir Alan himself, managed to talk himself into having another crack at project management next week.

Is he going next week? He does seem to be another of this seasons Houdini candidates, thankfully they do often get weeded out at the interview stage which is coming up in a fortnight. Amongst the remaining candidates, there aren’t any clear front runners. Alex has lost his sparkle somewhat after being stuck on Renaissance as they have lost six out of the eight tasks. Lee seems to have started to come into his own, but the way he treated Sara earlier in the series still is a strong negative. Claire actually received praise this week, but has perhaps had rather too many visits to the boardroom to win. To my mind Lucinda is the definite left-field choice – although she had a lot of problems early on, where again she was bullied and set up for failure by other candidates, she has proved herself to be very good at managing a team, and putting people into roles that fit their skills. So if, as he often does, Sir Alan is after a good all rounder rather than a gold star salesperson, she may turn out to be the idea choice.

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