Tag Archives: Sir Alan Sugar

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.

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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

How to Loose by 97p

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Last week on The Apprentice, Adam in part survived the boardroom with a plea to let him be project manager the next time to prove himself. True it gave him one more chance, but unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off, and he found himself on the loosing side by a grand total of 97p.

This weeks task was a Sugar favourite where each team is given identical lists of items, and have to obtain them for the cheapest amount possible. As a task it tests a variety of skills including negotiation and time management.

It is also covered by some fairly strict rules. Firstly, the only source of information is the Yellow Pages – so specifically you can’t go looking things up on the internet, even thought the teams have internet capable smart-phones. Secondly, you have to negotiate the price down, you can’t go with the initial asking price. Thirdly, if you fail to obtain one of the items, the team will be fined £50 plus the estimate value of the item. Finally, if any members of the team return to the boardroom after the 6pm deadline, the team will be fined £50.

Both teams picked up fines, Eclipse for failing to negotiate on a price – for one item the trader refused to meet their price, but offered them a batch of seconds at a fixed price which they accepted, and Stealth for failing to obtain one of the items. Bear in mind that they did have a supplier for the item, but couldn’t get there and back in time for the 6pm deadline. Of course if they had remembered the rules and realised that the fine would be less for arriving late, they would have won… Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Ironically the reason that they left it so late was because of the item on the list to catch the teams out – Nigella Seeds. They are known by a number of different names, and with a few moments on the internet you can look up the different names, however without the internet both teams were left scratching their heads as to what they actually were. There were some truly bizarre suggestions put forward, including Adam suggesting that they were something to do with artificial football pitches!

Ultimately though, once it was clear that stealth had lost, it was a foregone conclusion that Adam was going to go, as this was his fourth successive visit to the boardroom. Unfortunately I think this was a little unfair. Whilst the first and fourth times were due to him being project manager, the intervening two visits were as much to do with Adam not being liked by the other candidates. This came out again in the boardroom with Katie in particular making it absolutely clear that she wanted him gone. As before, she saved the really venomous comments for the one-to-one interviews, this weeks alienating a large part of the country by saying that Adam should head back to the north – snobbish? Certainly seems that way. There was also the interesting alliance of Katie and Kristina who put aside their differences as far as Adam was concerned in order to get rid of him. Quite how long the truce will last remains to be seen.

Interestingly, even though it was pretty clear that Adam was likely to go, not least for the decision not to go and get the Nigella Seeds, it did seem like there was a possibility that Sugar could give Katie the boot instead. This is the first time she has been in the boardroom, and if she is even half as unpopular as she is with most of the general public, I definitely think she’ll be on the way out – Sugar made a number of comments about needing to think about how the winner will fit into his organisation – certainly being too forceful has been shown in the past to thoroughly put him off.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a change of tack next week, with an advertising task. A repeat of the hilarity of the private jet task last year? We’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, as Adam has said on every appearance since he was sacked, he is looking for a job – check out his website at www.adamhosker.co.uk.

Parlez-vous anglais?

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I mentioned last week that the trailer for this weeks episode of The Apprentice looked entertaining, and it did not disappoint.

The task was simple, buy a selection of speciality British food’s from a list of small independent suppliers given to the teams, load them into the back of a van, and head over to a farmers market in France to sell the produce. Included in the list of approved suppliers was Makro, to give the teams somewhere to pick up miscellaneous bits and bobs, to equip the stall.

Needless to say, there were some gotcha’s amongst the suppliers to catch the unwary – product lines that wouldn’t sell. For example Eclipse picked tea as one of their lines – certainly English, but since the French are a nation of coffee drinkers, not the best choice. Stealth on the other hand went for home-made sausages, and then had a big discussion about cheese. Kristina was adamant that it would be a bad idea, as the French had hundreds of their own varieties. The matter seemed settled until team leader Paul stopped off at Makro to get a frying pan and a burner to cook the sausage samples – as team leader he made an executive decision, and came away with a cheap gel burner, and 30kg of Makro mass-produced cheese… The girls on the team in the other car, even Paul fan Katie looked less than pleased when they were told.

It proved to be a disastrous decision. The gel burner was hopeless, and failed to cook anything. It wasn’t until Kristina used her initiative and asked a local restaurant for help that the samples were cooked, and the sausages started to sell. Paul and Katie ended up going around local businesses trying to shift their stock, sometimes at cost price. The highlight of those sequences has to be the point where they tried to sell pork sausages to a Hallal butcher. In the end, half of the stock of cheese, and large amounts of the sausages were just dumped in the bin at the end of the day. That along with a rather expensive banner that Adam managed to order resulted in an overall loss for the task – something that didn’t please Sir Alan one bit…

Over on Eclipse, everything seemed to go smoothly. After quietly getting on with things over the previous weeks, Sir Alan had appointed Lohit as project manager, and his calm demeanour continued in the new role. On paper he had the most explosive group containing both Tre and Jadine, but he seemed to handle it well. Tre was kept under control, and as in the past couple of weeks didn’t seem to be causing many problems with the other candidates, just providing a number of entertaining comments to camera. Jadine at one point did kick off after a disagreement with Simon, however Lohit took her aside and dealt with it, and the team worked well.

On Stealth, Sir Alan had also appointed someone who had just been getting on with things – Paul an ex-army man. Unfortunately, Paul seemed to be running his team like the army, the cheese thing being one of many examples when he effectively just gave orders. This in particular caused friction with Kristina culminating in the two of them having a stand up row over the price of the sausages in the middle of the French market.

The choices that Paul made for the final boardroom weren’t a surprise. Adam came back ostensibly for the screw up with the poster – but it was as much because with two successive previous visits to the boardroom, he looked like a weak candidate. Kristina came back because she had argued with Paul. Kristina was effectively safe, as it was clear that she had picked up Paul on his errors, but had been ignored. She had also used her initiative to enable the sausages to sell. Adam nearly blew it purely because he was in for the third time in a row. However once Kristina and Adam grumbled about the relationship between Paul and Katie, something that the press has picked up on recently. At this point Sir Alan has heard nothing about the ongoing relationship (although after week 2 he did split them up) and whilst he says he doesn’t have a problem with it, he does seem to believe that Paul hasn’t brought in Katie because the two are an item – to my mind she didn’t do anything to warrant being in the board room though, although she continued with the bitchy comments about the other candidates in the one-to-one interviews.

After all that, it seemed a pretty well fore-gone conclusion that Paul was gone, however Sir Alan seemed to hover an awfully long time over whether to get rid of Adam instead. It wasn’t until afterwards you found out why. It seems that Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick all had Paul picked out as a potential winner – for what reason I don’t know, as from what I can see he hasn’t really done anything to warrant it aside from keep his head down up to now. The only point he particularly figured was back in week 3, when he and Katie wasted a load of time trying to sell the team as a mobile disco whilst most of the rest of the team were working on gardening.

So six weeks in, are there any likely candidates? I have to say that I was impressed by how Lohit handled the team, but he may well be too quiet for Sir Alan. Tre is providing ongoing entertainment, but whilst he may stay in a long time, he is too much of a loose cannon to be the final winner. Katie is getting a lot of attention, but her ruthlessness has made her the main villain in this series, and I suspect when someone does eventually bring her to the board room she may get a bumpy ride from Sir Alan. I’m certainly starting to think that Kristina may have the right balance this time around – of course I could be totally wrong.

Next week is the classic shopping list task, when the teams are sent off to buy a series of items at the best possible prices. Similar tasks in previous series have proved quite entertaining – it will be interesting to see if the teams this year try to push the time limit though…