Tag Archives: Simon Ambrose

Apprentice x3

So last night we had a bit of an apprentice catch up. Having been away for a couple of weeks we had the last two weeks stored up, plus another episode going out last night.

First off we had the week three “Pub Grubâ€? task. The idea was that each team was given a pub, neither of which had offered food, and the teams had to set up and deliver a food service. For the first time this series Sir Alan picked the project managers – in the case of the boys picking Ian who having been brought up in a pub would reasonably be expected to have an advantage.

The first problem however was the distinct lack of cooking experience on either team. For the girls, project manager Sara took on the cooking duties, over with the boys, Kevin – a bank manager by profession – volunteered primarily because he ate at a lot of Italian restaurants, Italian being the chosen food style for the boys. Over with the girls, the chosen style was “Bollywoodâ€? where they basically ripped off the menu from the local Indian Takeaway. This perhaps highlights the most fundamental flaw for both teams – the over-ambitiousness of their menu. Neither team opted for traditional pub grub which probably would have been a lot easier to cook. Instead both teams struggled with the cooking, forgetting key ingredients and in the case of the girls totally failing to deliver any service at all during lunchtime.

The winners and losers eventually came down to costs. Whilst the boys spent a small fortune on professionally printed menu sheets and flyers, and bought their ingredients (and frozen pizza’s) from the local Tesco, the girls got all their printing for free in exchange for advertising on the tickets and menu sheets, and sourced their ingredients cheaply from local suppliers. The ticket idea was another deft move on the part of the girls – they sold tickets for the evening service at £5 per head offering a £5 discount on the food bill – since half of the fifty people who bought tickets failed to turn up that produced a significant boost in profits. Ultimately it was the boys that were up for the chop, and despite a valiant effort to blame Kevin in the kitchen – even lying to try and escape (Tip: Don’t put on your CV that you value honesty in business and then be filmed being totally dishonest) it was project manager Ian who took the taxi ride home.

The next episode sadly marked the demise of popular candidate Simon Smith. Through the preceding weeks he had shown himself to be one of the better organised and enthusiastic of the boys, always keen to turn his hand to anything. However, in the pub grub task he had attracted attention by trying to point out the problems within the team – in particular issues like setting the menu prices before costing out the meals – and then felt he had something to prove. When the task came up as running a photography stall in Bluewater, photography being an interest of his, against the reluctance of the other members of his team (now mixed around to avoid personality clashes) he put himself forward as team leader.

The reluctance to have Simon as leader translated into some of the strong people in his team – in particular Claire – making the management job all the more difficult. Since he was also acting as photographer, someone needed permanently on the stand, things became impossible. Since both teams also had problems with the technology – one weren’t able to correctly identify the pictures to be printed, and the other only managed to print out on normal A4 paper – his project management was highlighted as the weak link. Even a valiant effort by Claire to annoy Sir Alan in the boardroom (he threw her out of the room rather than the whole competition) failed to save loveable Simon. However if the audience reaction in the studio of The Apprentice: You’re Fired is anything to go by I’m sure he’ll have a good career in the media if he wants it.

That brings us to the ice cream making last night. Both teams were under the leadership of people on trial. On one side was Claire, who Sir Alan had thrown out of the boardroom the week before. The other side was led by Lucinda who had again been set up to fail the previous week when she had been put in charge of picture processing by Helene despite possessing no technical skill whatsoever. Lucinda proved to be a revelation though – after grumbling in the previous tasks that she was being put into roles that she did not have the skills for, she proved to be a good manager, quietly and efficiently planning the task, allocating roles and so on. Perhaps her only failing was that she stepped back from an idea to mix the production and sales teams on the second day to avoid a confrontation and bad feeling amongst the sales team.

Over on the other side it was chaos. Most of the work on the first day was done by the production team whilst Claire and the sales team disappeared off and failed to get many confirmed sales calls or ingredients that were needed in good time because they wasted a load of time sampling cider. They even failed to make it on time to their taste test, instead opting to pick two blokes at random from the local pub. So whilst Lucinda’s team were working through a list of confirmed appointments Claire and co ended up going door to door. That made it all the more frustrating when thanks to one big deal, Claire’s team put in a flukey and narrow win.

Whilst Sir Alan would have had a vast choice of potential sacking targets and reasons amongst Claire’s team, it was difficult to pin down a reason for the loss for Lucinda as they only lost by a small margin. Ultimately, when it was discovered that the sales team had achieved at least two sales by offering exclusivity deals without consulting either the project manager, nor the farmer whose produce the teams were selling it came down to being one of the two salespeople who offered the exclusive deals – the chosen victim being Lindi who was supposed to be in charge of the sales team so should have stopped Jenny (the self proclaimed best salesperson in Europe) when she first mentioned exclusivity, and certainly shouldn’t have subsequently agreed to a similar deal herself.

The boardroom debate though highlighted an interesting feature of the Apprentice. Jenny, the other one of the final three alongside Lindi and Lucinda, at one point put forward that she was the best candidate, and highlighted what a good salesperson he was. More often than not a large number of the contestants in the programme are vocal sales types who maintain they are the best candidate due to their sales volume. However, Sir Alan doesn’t ever seem to go for that. Certainly he likes people who can sell, but they need to posses other skills as well. Indeed if you look at last years winner, he definitely wasn’t the best salesperson, even in the final two.

Ironically because Lucinda seems to have proved herself to be a well organised manager, she could be much more of the kind of person that he goes for – although in her case she perhaps doesn’t stick up for herself as much as she should in the boardroom. We’ll have to see exactly the kind of person he is looking for this time around – certainly after this week it will be interesting to see how far she goes, as before I was expecting her to be gone pretty quickly.

So now we have got into the series a bit, who are the people who are starting to stand out? Interestingly at the moment it is Alex, someone all the ladies seem to love. Whilst I can’t really comment on his attractiveness he does seem to be finding his feet and is coming over as trustworthy and efficient, and without the level of antagonism that seems to surround certain of the other candidates. Having said that, there is still a lot to go – I totally failed to agree with the choice Sir Alan made last year, so I could be surprised again by the end of it this year too.

Send in the Dancing Girls


In a choice which I’m sure surprised a lot of people, Sir Alan Sugar has named Simon Ambrose as the winner of series 3 of The Apprentice. Having described him two weeks ago as Teflon Simon, it was a result I was half expecting – from the fact that Sir Alan let him off back then strongly implied that he was one of the favoured candidates.

Even as he was making the decision it was clear he could see the relative merits of each candidate. He clearly recognised that Kristina was experienced, in fact pretty well what Sir Alan said he was looking for four weeks ago when he fired Ghazal. He even commented in the final boardroom that he was wondering whether he wanted to be the headmaster again. He disagreed with Simon’s assertion that he was a good leader, and yet in the end he decided to take the risk.

To be frank, even during the final task, Simon didn’t look like a winner. As in previous years the two finalists got a selection of the fired candidates to choose from. He ended up with a mixed bag with some volatile combinations. Alongside Tre he got Roryfired in week 2 after spending the bulk of the task fighting with Tre, and Jadine who also proved to be volatile at times, rounding the group off was Lohit. Kristina’s team also had problems on paper in that alongside Naomi and Natalie had Paul with whom she had had a run in back in week 6, and Adam who went in week 7 and seemed to have issues with various of the other candidates.

The difference in what happened was marked. Whilst Tre and Rory were kicking off, and Rory was giving people no doubt that he was there to prove that he shouldn’t have been fired in week 2, over with Kristina although Adam was getting grumpy, Kristina kept him under control. Paul was being pragmatic and professional about the whole thing too. Kristina divided the team and allocated out tasks, whilst Simon and Tre went off leaving the rest of the team at a loss for what to do.

The main point of the task was to come up with a conceptual design for a building to replace the IBM Building on the South Bank in London. Both teams were given a firm of architects to work with their ideas, and both produced eye catching and radical designs. Both teams then had to present their concepts to an audience of property experts, and put on a presentation. This proved to be the biggest source of arguments between Rory and Tre as for some bizarre reason Rory decided that dancing girls would be a good addition. Quite why I don’t know, and I think the reason escaped the rest of the team too, but dancing girls they had. I have to say that when he came up with that I was rather disappointed that Rory got the push so early, as this particular wacky idea added to the entertainment tonight.

By the end of the task, having seen the presentations, Kristina seemed to have managed her team best, delivered a professional presentation and held it all together, whilst Simon’s team had come up with a presentation almost in spite of themselves. Based on the editing of the programme, even the directors thought Kristina had it all sewn up. Then he gives it to Simon

On You’re Fired Kristina looked visibly upset, as did her son in the audience. Indeed some in the audience gave her a standing ovation when she came on, and the Telegraph and Mail report that some of the other candidates wanted to walk out in protest at the decision. Despite being shown the selection of Katie snipes from the series she declined to retaliate with any comments back, rising above the backbiting as she had throughout the entire series. Sir Alan was asked directly about Katie on the programme, and fell very much into line with what Michelle Mone had said, saying that having seen what she had said over the series he wouldn’t employ her, nor would anybody else. He then said that Katie had the skills to do the job and that she didn’t need to do what she had done for the attention – but then it was all about Project Katie for her.

Anyway, Simon as winner still looked shocked to have won. Of all the candidates, he was probably the ultimate Sir Alan fan – and this is most definitely living his dream.

Perhaps on reflection this was the best resolution for both of them. In terms of the on screen action, Simon will probably be best remembered for the infamous trampoline scene – perhaps not the best thing to take to a potential employer. On the other hand look at Kristina who has consistently proved that she is a safe pair of hands to take on a task – I’d be surprised if there aren’t even now a queue of top companies eager to snap up her up. Even if Sir Alan decided that he wanted Simon for the final job, for us like many of the viewers, Kristina was the one who truly won the competition, and proved herself to be the best of the candidates.

Weeding Out the Player


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…

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.


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.

Teflon Simon

Mark Frith on The Apprentice: You’re Fired summed up the result of last night’s episode of the Apprentice pretty well:

“I’ve never, in any series of the Apprentice seen anyone fail so completely and utterly as Simon did tonight, and not get fired.â€?

The basic task was simple. Sir Alan had lined up an hour in prime time for each team with shopping channel Ideal World. Each team split into a single and a pair and selected two products for the other part of the team to sell live on air whilst the others were in the gallery producing, and the winner was the team that produced the most cash. As always they had a wide variety of products to choose from ranging from low value high volume to high value low volume items, although Sir Alan explicitly advised against gambling on a high value item to get through the task. He also mixed up the teams again, swapping Lohit and Naomi. The project managers for the task were the only two candidates to have been on the same team all the way through, Kristina for Stealth and Simon for Eclipse.


Neither team can really walk away from the task feeling proud – Ideal World quite literally lost thousands of pounds over the two hours, with both teams bringing in barely a tenth of the sales that the channel would usually expect. More than that their appearance actually produced complaints from the viewers of the channel! If anything it proved that selling on TV is a lot more difficult than one might expect. Both teams had an eclectic mix of products, and exhibited various levels of ineffectiveness over the selling ranging from just appearing generally uncomfortable, through unintentional comedy in product demonstrations through to Kristina who in the process of struggling with demonstrating a mop actually swore live on air. Ultimately though it was Simon and Eclipse who sold least, and it was Simon, Tre and Naomi who ended up in the boardroom facing Sir Alan.

It is worth going over quite what a mess of the task Simon actually made. Like Kristina he decided to select himself as the single, and pair up the other two team members. Whilst that put Naomi who was by far the strongest presenter of the three with Tre who for once admitted that he wasn’t good at something, it was a significant mistake when it came to guiding his team members from the gallery as they tried to sell the items he had selected, as he dried totally. Indeed on the live show the professional producer from Ideal World was looking significantly concerned at his lack of interaction.

However his lack of interaction paled into insignificance against the product choices. Naomi and Tre selected some pads to allow craft fans to easily produce decoupage, and an exercise trampoline, whilst Simon ignored the advice of Sir Alan and picked a hair-removal kit, and a luxury folding wheelchair. When the time came around to present the items, Naomi and Tre seemed to have tried to make the best of the choices they had been given and understand their products. Simon however seemed to be trying to wing it. A staff member at the channel expressed concern that Simon had made no effort to understand what decoupage actually was, and had done about the same amount of work to understand the trampoline – and it showed. Simon failed to sell any trampolines at all, and the decoupage pads didn’t do much better. Naomi and Tre did slightly better, even managing to sell two of the wheelchairs, netting more than half of their final total.

On that basis, it seemed pretty clear who was going to go.

Simon had explicitly ignored Sir Alan and gambled on a high value item, he had been hopeless as a producer, and failed to sell when on screen – alongside that he provided some unintentional laughs whilst demonstrating the trampoline – you can watch the trampoline selling for yourself below… (and watch out for a classic Tre moment in there too.)

On the other hand Naomi and Tre had, despite the products Simon had landed them with managed to sell two expensive wheelchairs, and brought in the bulk of the money on the task.

Also against Simon was the fact that throughout all the previous weeks he had never been in the board room which usually means that the candidates aren’t adept at defending themselves, plus the fact that he was project manager of the whole sorry affair. When he walked in, you could see from his face that he expected to go – he knew he had messed up.

However that wasn’t the way it went. When criticised over selecting the wheelchair, Simon countered that he thought that there would be housebound people watching who would be interested in the product. Whilst due to it’s high cost it wasn’t exactly an impulse buy, two people had bought. Sir Alan seemed to give Simon credit for this, but no credit at all to Naomi and Tre who had managed the sale. When it came to the fact that Simon had failed to sell any trampolines, or many of the decoupage pads it wasn’t down to SimonNaomi and Tre were to blame there too for poor product choice. When it came down to the firing, Simon didn’t even figure, it was Tre for moaning too much, and Naomi for her poor product choice and unimpressive performance previously. Tre seemed to narrowly escape, resulting in Naomi getting the boot.

I didn’t agree, neither did any of the panel, nor most of the audience on the Apprentice: You’re Fired – it was an amazing decision. I guess ultimately it comes down to the fact that by this point Sir Alan is very much picking based on the ultimate job he has for the winner, but still it was incredible that Simon survived.

Next week though, comes the interviews, where the remaining five are reduced to the final two. Often it is this round that throws up the biggest changes, with someone who has done comparatively well up to now heading out the door – Paul last year being a prime example. In terms of who will get through, despite her faux pas this week, I think Kristina has a good chance. I still think that Lohit and the way he quietly and efficiently gets on with things is great, but he may well be too quiet to get through. The mauling that Tre got this week seems to make him an outside bet, however the survival of Simon certainly implies that Sir Alan thinks a lot of his abilities. That just leaves Katie. The problem with her is that she is very two-faced. Yet again we had a fired candidate this week who regarded her as a friend, until she saw footage of Katie comparing her to a golden labrador