Tag Archives: Nick Hewer

Never Have So Few Been Cleaned By So Many

Every Apprentice task has it’s traps, and the first one of this season was no exception. Sir Alan explained it pretty early on in this weeks show when he said that all you needed to do was to get a sponge and a bucket and go and wash cars. However the trap was that the teams were presented with vans packed with toys, and given a maximum amount to spend obtaining some of the contents of the van. Power washer? Yes please! Certainly neither team opted for the simple sponge and bucket option, although the boys at least did seem to take on board the idea that they shouldn’t spend everything they were allowed, whilst the girls team spent right up to their £200 “budget�.

In terms of the best return on investment, half of the boys team seemed to have the right idea by spending an hour shining shoes at St Pancras station unfortunately they only managed an hour before the team leader took the decision to return and bail out the rest of the team struggling to clean a fleet of mini-cabs.

As with so many Apprentice tasks this one wasn’t so much won, in that the losing team lost by virtue of messing up more than the winning team. Both teams struggled with conflict as the big egos jostled for position. As it seems happens in every series, the girls team failed to pull it together in much more spectacular fashion, with, as Nick Hewer put it, the disagreements and disorganisation leading to a “spanking in the boardroom�.

Looking at the winning team, there is already a clear divide in the boys, with four lads centred around one of the biggest egos of the night, estate agent Phil. He was given one simple, clear instruction by his team leader – we don’t do insides of cars. Once the car left, Phil produced a whole load of backchat about the time that had just been wasted, and then waltzed into the mini-cab office and agreed a deal that included insides. He then ended up doing the insides and did a botched job. Note the “it’s not as easy as it looks� comment in this sequence:

Phil described himself at one point as a man of action. From an entertainment point of view it seems he is very much of the act first think later category of action men, that invariably scrape through quite a long way, as they are generally pretty expert at the blame shifting when it comes to the boardroom.

That leads us pretty neatly on to Debra who is very definitely another of the stereotypical candidates who will say anything in the boardroom to survive, ultimately forgetting that there has been a film crew around who can show they’ve been lying. On this occasion she was put in charge of one of the two car cleaning teams on the girls team, and whilst her team didn’t go in with a cloud cuckoo land price to their customers, they did mess up significantly on their deal in that they had to ask the customer how to put together their cleaning equipment and then did such a poor job that the customer didn’t give them a further £100 of work that would have won them the task. Her sub-team then moved on to a supermarket car park where she phoned her team leader and called two of her sub-team members puppets, something she later denied in the boardroom. Unfortunately since Anita who ultimately got the chop had decided to play clean, speak up on her mistakes, and not back-stab, Debra had an easy ride through to the next round. Having said that, she certainly has the general all-round cockiness that might well result in her getting into trouble later in the series, and might well reflect badly on her with the general public.

Apprentice Tactics

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One of the difficult things to balance for participants in the Apprentice is the conflict between the fact that the tasks are performed as teams, but the competition is for a single winner. On the one hand you are expected to work as a team, whilst on the other you want to ensure that strong rival candidates are removed if you get the opportunity. However being seen to act against the best interests of the team can sometimes land you in hot water when it gets to the boardroom.

We’ve seen just those sorts of tactics already this season, with Lucinda being put in roles that she says she does not have the skills to do, and then later being blamed. It happened again this week when Kevin realised late on that he was rather out of his depth on the presentations that he had decided he would give, and looked to Claire and Jenny who basically left him to fail, when perhaps them taking over the presentation would have saved the team.

It was one of those episodes though when the groups seemed to be competing on how badly they could do. The task was to produce a greetings card for an event that didn’t currently have a card. One team opted for producing an “It’s Great to be Singleâ€? day, however the choice of February 13th as the day – a day when most card retailers are focused on Valentines Day proved to be a poor choice. The other team were very much steamrollered by Jenny who was keen to put forward an environmental theme. The flaw of course was that she was proposing to save the planet by wasting trees in the production of unnecessary cards. Ironically she even torpedoed one of her own groups presentations by saying in front of the buyer that she herself had reduced the number of greetings cards she was buying for environmental reasons.

When her team ended up in the boardroom she admitted it was her idea, and it was pretty clear that Sir Alan laid the blame at her door – Margaret even said at one point that the idea had been rail-roaded through (Margaret also produced one of the funniest moments of the series so far by her reaction to the victory cheers from the other team – not a very seemly display for the boardroom). However, despite the strong pointers from the other side of the table, Kevin decided not to bring Jenny into the boardroom.

The reason was interesting. More so than in previous series, the candidates this time around are quite blatantly ganging up on the quieter, perhaps weaker team members. There are one or two who take the lead in this, and usually the crowd mentality kicks in and most of the others follow, or remain silent. The tactic has worked before, notably being the week of the laundry task where Shazia was told to go back to the house by Jenny, the team leader, and then sacked because she left the laundry when Jenny blamed her in the boardroom for the failure in the task because she left and the washing got muddled. It’s that name again though – once again it was Jenny leading the attack. This week she proved she is bright enough to realise that she was a prime candidate to go having pushed the environmental idea, so she needed to find someone else. She focused in on Sara for not having contributed. As with previous efforts this was totally wrong – Sara had contributed through several ideas including cards for minority religious festivals which are currently ignored, and also an idea for cards for pet events too – both of which were buried under the march towards an environmental theme. She’d then worked with Kevin on the card designs whilst Jenny and the others took pictures. Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick were wise to this bullying and said so – they’d seen otherwise during the task. However, whilst he could have stuck up for Sara, Kevin instead stuck with the crowd and selected Sara and Claire to come into the boardroom. By failing to stand up to Jenny he effectively guarantees that he would be the one who would go – they weren’t going to fire Sara, and the decision to bring her in compounded with the rest of the task meant that it would have taken a miracle for him to survive.

Quite how long Jenny will last remains to be seen. Certainly if the “You’ve Been Firedâ€? audience is any indication the treatment of Sara – which continued when she returned to the house as Jenny and the other bullies in the group ganged up on her – the audience at home clearly feel she has been treated badly by the others. Only Raef stood up for her, certainly scoring a number of points, especially as some of the other guys showed a different, and decidedly unattractive side to their characters during the exchange. The main downside though of The Apprentice is that unlike other reality shows, the audience has no voice in the firing of candidates, instead we are largely reliant on Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick to spot the bad apples and deal with them. Of course you only need to look to last year to see that they can still be taken in…

Anyway, with Kevin gone, there was one last burst of Matt Lucas jokes, and on to next week, which is the perennial favourite, the shopping list task. The difference this year is that the teams are being sent to Marrakesh to haggle with some of the masters in cutting a deal. The task always provides for a good deal of entertainment, hopefully this year will be no different.

Finding Out a Bit More about the Apprentice Candidates

The upcoming episode of The Apprentice is the traditional penultimate episode where the remaining candidates are put through a series of interviews by a group of trusted friends and colleagues chosen by Sir Alan. However this time around, the viewers have also been given a chance to find out some background to the final five thanks to a special programme that aired over the weekend that talked to their friends and family, had more extensive interviews with the candidates, and also got a good deal of comment from Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford.

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It certainly gave a good amount of background information about the candidates, and in many cases you understand a lot more about how they have got to where they have. Some come from a strong family business background. For example Simon’s father and grandfather have both achieved much in their business lives – Simon is very much following in the family footsteps and Tre started working in his fathers businesses pretty much from childhood. Tre has also fought back from a horrific car crash where the doctor’s told him he had only a 5% chance to walk again, and a 5% chance to have children. He has done both, and is typically direct about his opinion of the diagnosis!

Kristina is another candidate who has had to fight hard to get where she is today. As a teenager living in rural Ireland she fell pregnant and was despatched to a convent in disgrace to give birth, but from there has worked her way through a variety of jobs, bringing up her son to the point where she is now a regional sales manager.

Katie again came over as very determined and driven. Her parents comments stuck out above the others who appeared as both her parents seemed bemused as to where she gets her drive and determination from. She apparently runs to work on occasion, and even ran the New York Marathon whilst pregnant. Of all the candidates, she is the highest paid, apparently earning £90,000 a year as a partner in her own consultancy.

The quiet efficiency of Lohit that has been apparent throughout the series again came through in his interviews, and those with his boss and partner.

Perhaps the most eye opening part though were the comments from Nick and Margaret. They did make clear that Sir Alan will very much make his own choice, and whilst he will ask for their opinion will have no hesitation in disagreeing.

Both seem to regard Katie with concern, saying that she is very good at playing the game, especially in the boardroom. She was also described as dangerous, the way she utterly destroyed Adam in the boardroom being a particular example. Nick said that he felt he knew the real Katie no better now than he did when they started.

They also both seem to think that Sir Alan has a false impression of Lohit, and feel that he doesn’t do himself justice in the boardroom encounters with Sir Alan. Both certainly seemed to regard him as a good candidate, much better than Sir Alan has given him credit for.

Probably the favourite from their point of view seems to be Kristina with them both seeming to think that she has the right mix of attitude and skills to work well with Sir Alan.

However, as they said, it is very much the decision of Sir Alan alone – and we’ve only got to wait a little over a week to find out who he has picked.

The Cream of British Business Talent?

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Tonight, the Apprentice candidates were given a test of their entrepreneurial skills – £200 and a white van, and one day to make as much money as possible – just the way that Alan Sugar started in business. As with week one, they seemed to be competing with each other as to who could make the biggest mess of the whole task – hardly the supposed cream of British Business Talent. If this is it, I’m not surprised we’re loosing out to the Chinese!

The show kicks off with Sugar paying the candidates a surprise visit, and mixing the teams up. Troublesome Jadine gets swapped back into the girls team, with Katie the successful project manager from last week put into the boys team instead. Sugar then gives each team £200 in cash, tells them that he has arranged for them to work in the borough of Richmond the next day, and that they can do anything they like to make money. Interestingly both teams opt for service businesses, rather than the buying and selling that Sugar started out with. Sir Alan didn’t stipulate it had to be a service, but may have been a limitation imposed in the rules. Ultimately it all hinges on the choice of service and this is where it ultimately all falls down.

The boys opt for a door to door gardening business – which as the assistant in the equipment hire shop says is possibly not the best choice, as most people who have gardening work done would have a regular contractor. Plus his colleague points out that the somewhat overcast weather is not exactly great for gardening anyway. Having said that, gardening seems a positively good idea compared to the girls – who decide to organise a children’s face painting business, the problem being it’s actually a Tuesday, and in term time.

Contrary to the opinion of the equipment hire assistant, the boys team do pick up some odd gardening jobs – sweeping leaves, mowing lawns, tidying up and so on, certainly they do better than the girls who after managing to paint a few faces spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly around looking for custom and bitching at each other – Jadine being the main source of much of the bitching it seems.

As part of the task, the teams are allowed to change business idea and provide a different service during the evening. On the boys team Katie and Paul who having been responsible for sales during the garden task and doing a minimum of actual gardening decide that a mobile DJ service in the local wine bars would be a good money spinner. The rest of the team disagree, correctly thinking that a wine bar wouldn’t employ an unknown DJ at short notice – and Katie and Paul are told not to bother, a decision they ignore. Having said that, it does give the two of them a chance to hit it off, and by the end of the afternoon they are walking arm in arm…

Over with the girls, things are going from bad to worse. Having failed to find any more faces to paint, in desperation they come up with a kiss-o-gram plan, something Sugar implies in the boardroom is barely distinguishable from prostitution! Having said that, the boys team goes through a similar issue, and in the end goes round pubs singing. At the end of the day, the boys have nearly doubled their money, whilst the girls have pulled together a minimal profit.

In the boardroom the knives come out. Most of the girls blame Jadine for being a disruptive influence, so it is no surprise when she ends up in the boardroom. Alongside her and Naomi the project manager, the third potential victim is Gerri, who again had been handed finding locations for the face painting in this task, and much as with the coffee locations in the first task, fails to come up with anything suitable. Having said that, in this case I think she was in a difficult position anyway as the choice of service was poor in the first place. However it all goes wrong for Gerri in the boardroom, rather than arguing that it was hopeless with such a poor idea, she seems to back down and not defend herself, so despite Sugar being increasingly concerned about the disruption caused by Jadine it is Gerri that goes, apparently for being a slow starter, and not having done much on the task. Having said that, I could have quite happily fired quite a few of them tonight, the whole task on both teams was a veritable disaster from start to finish, with both Nick and Margaret, usually quiet observers being shown getting increasingly aghast at what is going on, and in Nicks case we hear more from than we have for a long while. From the preview of next weeks show, it does seem that we’ll be hearing more from them too…

Next week it’s selling sweets (and it appears reducing small children to tears) in London Zoo… There has got to be some apparent talent come out sometime soon though – I wouldn’t employ any of them so far!