The Apprentice is Back!

Episode 12

And the Apprentice is …

Finally, the Apprentice final: Ruth v Michelle.

And to “help” them, six of the previous candidates came back.

Michelle had first pick from them and, inexplicably, picked the useless Sharon. Ruth chose Ansell as her first choice. Syed was Michelle’s next choice. And then Ruth picked Jo, which was another bizarre choice. Finally, Michelle picked Paul and Ruth was left with Tuan.

The two teams were given the task of organising events at Tower Bridge. Sir Alan gave them some suggestions for the events: 007, casino, Moulin Rouge and Can-Can dancers.

Michelle nicked a couple of those with a James Bond/casino night. This was a reasonably good (though unoriginal) choice.

Ruth decided on a “murder mystery” theme. This was a poor choice and, when he heard about it, Sir Alan called her up to tell her it was rubbish.

However, her team did a good job selling tickets. They went back to their existing contacts from previous episodes and sold a lot of tickets to them.

Michelle sent Paul and Syed out to sell for her team. Syed had the idea of hiring an Aston Martin and putting on tuxedos and going to the city to sell tickets. This would have been quite a good attention grabber, but Michelle wasn’t willing to spring for the car. I think it was false economy and a poor decision by her.

And, when they finally had the idea of selling to the people they met in previous tasks, they were horrified to find out that Ruth’s team had gotten in before them.

This meant Paul and Syed had to go out in the street to sell. They did a poor job and only managed to sell 4 tickets in a whole day’s selling.

Paul spent most of the time bitching about Syed and muttering under his breath. With a poor attitude like that, he showed quite clearly why he didn’t deserve to be in the final. 

The lack of sales led to a confrontation with Syed on one side and Michelle and Sharon on the other. Unsurprisingly, Syed was in no mood to be lectured by Sharon on how to sell. My one regret was that Syed stopped before he said something “really, really horrible”. I would have liked to see him put Sharon in her place once and for all.

However, the following day (the day of the event), they managed to sell another 62 tickets (by slashing their prices). Ultimately, they sold 73 tickets for a total of  £1,647. This meant an average price of £22.56, which, for the location and the theme, was a joke.

If they had taken a better approach, I think they could have easily doubled that price.

Ruth’s team were getting on well and they sold out all their 83 tickets quite quickly. As ever, Ruth was doing a great job selling and really led her team.

On the evening, the murder mystery theme was toned down and they added can-can dancers (another Sir Alan idea) and a few other, unrelated, activities. It was quite confusing, but there was food and drink in a nice location, so it wasn’t too bad.

Michelle’s event made more sense as a coherent theme. And it looked quite good.

When they got back to the boardroom, the figures were added up and Ruth’s team had brought in £3,592, compared to £1,897 for Michelle (Michelle’s total also included £250 from an auction).

However, Sir Alan didn’t seem particularly bothered and, there might be a good reason for this.

A few days before the final, the Independent reported that both finalists “been working for Sir Alan since Christmas, and only this week will he hand one of them a contract.”

So, it’s quite clear that once the finalists were chosen, the winner was going to be the candidate who did the best job (out of sight of the camera) in their 6 months of working for Sir Alan.

Maybe I’m being naïve, but I think it would have been more honest to point out that this was the deciding factor rather than misrepresenting the final as the deciding factor.

I think it’s likely that Michelle was the more promising employee, as she was the one that heard the words “you’re hired”.

This was the fourth series of the Apprentice I’ve watched. I’d already seen US series 1 and 2 and UK series 1.

And this was the weakest series I’ve seen.

The quality of the candidates was poor. If Sir Alan was looking for someone with strong business skills, I think he would be quite disappointed.

Part of this was down to the selection of the initial candidates. They were a very ordinary bunch.

Another problem was the choice of tasks. At a key stage of the series, there was a succession of sales-orientated tasks. This meant that mono-dimensional sales people could progress, but those with other skills were culled. 

The third problem was that Sir Alan focused heavily on sales performance when choosing who’d be fired each week.

This meant that, of the last five candidates left, three were out and out sales people. And they simply weren’t suited to the job on offer.

And this left Ruth and Michelle in the final, almost by default. And, while Ruth had performed well in the tasks, Michelle seemed to survive primarily through a mixture of basic common sense, keeping a low profile and not being the worst on her team in losing weeks.

Having said that, of the starting candidates, Michelle was probably the best person for the job. While Ruth was the best performer, she is very set in her ways and her ideas, and not what I’d call an “apprentice”.

If the show had been called “the executive”, she would have been the correct choice. But she’s not a learner.

Michelle has a lot of ambition, but not much substance. You could throw a stick at any speed networking event and expect to hit three Michelles.

The one piece of good news is that the BBC plans to show US Apprentice series 3 soon. If you want to see good candidates, I suggest you watch that.

Will I be blogging it?

Don’t bet on it!

Steve Gibson


Previous episodes


Episode 1

Wednesday 22nd February saw the return of the Apprentice.

Sir Alan was on top snarly form as he told the guys to keep their "three piece suites" under wraps and the girls to keep their hair unflicked, before sending them off to the market to sell some fruit and veg.

The women won a dubious victory by shifting a lot of fairly dodgy produce that they picked up for free. 

PM Ben brought back Samuel (who spent the whole task dodging responsibility) and Syed (who could start a fight in an empty house) to the boardroom. However, it was Ben's lack of strategy and poor use of his team that sealed his fate and he became the first to go.

Paul emerged as the star of the episode by repeatedly selling apples at over £2 each. The man's a star and I'm tipping him for a semi-final place. However, I don't fancy him as the winner. He showed (and admitted to) a weakness with numbers and I expect that's going to be his achilles heel.

I'd group the 12 remaining candidates as follows:

Front of the pack: Karen  

Rank outsiders: Jo, Nargis, Syed

Must do better: Samuel

To early to say: the rest 

To see bios of all the contestants, go to

Episode 2

Another visit to the madhouse:

This week’s task was to create a calendar for Great Ormond Street hospital.

After spending episode 1 in hiding, Samuel stepped up and took on the leadership of the man’s team.

He spent a long time planning the planning which alienated the sales people (who, as sales people, wanted to get on with it) and the team split into two ideological groups. On one side were the planners (Samuel, Mani and Tuan), on the other were the salesmen (Ansell, Paul and Syed).

The salespeople, had the good idea of doing some actual market research (quite a rarity in the apprentice), but were shot down.

The planners took control of the task, but made a horlicks of it. Mani deserves particular mention for going into the first presentation without first working out the price and for creating a rather insincere presentation that, laughably, borrowed from the US Declaration of Independence.

If the men lost, my picks for the final showdown were Samuel, Tuan and Mani.

Nargis took over the girl’s team. I had her marked down as a bit of a no-hoper in episode 1 due to her tendency to insult people as she’s trying to sell to them.

Jo went bananas right off the bat. Her idea for the calendar was rejected and she chose to continue to argue about tearfully rather than join the team.

This meant that, unless anyone did something really stupid, the rest of the team was effectively immune from elimination. Either they’d win the task and one of the guys would be fired or they’d lose and Jo would go.

Fortunately for Jo, Nargis did her a massive favour and decided to do the presentation herself.

Nargis showed that episode 1 was no flash in the pan and annoyed all the people she presented to. She talked at them and chastised them for interrupting her presentation. She also appeared to be shocked when the buyers asked the price. It was dreadful stuff.

When the two teams got back to the boardroom, it turned out the men had sold the most and they were saved.

Nargis brought back Jo and Karen. However, Karen was merely a spectator of a two horse race. With Nargis’ jacket on a shaky peg, Jo tried to save her by continually talking over Sir Alan and generally behaving like that guy on the bus you don’t want to sit next to.

However, even Jo’s suicidal tendencies weren’t quite enough and Nargis got the boot.

After round 2, I rank the remaining candidates as follows:

Best so far: Ansell

Showing some potential: Michelle, Karen

Great salesman, but no company leader: Paul

About to self-destruct: Jo, Syed

If that’s all you’ve got, you’ve not got much: Samuel, Mani

To early to say: the rest

Episode 3

Teflon Girl Dodges Another Bullet

Episode 3 and the task was to buy 10 items at the lowest total combined price (a task that appeared in US Apprentice series 1).

Both teams took approaches that I found bizarre. My own approach would have been to get on the phone, negotiate the best prices and then go off and collect the items.

Instead, both teams took the time intensive approach of running around London.

Syed led the men’s team, but we didn’t get to see much of the men as the action mainly revolved around the women (a sure fire sign that the women had lost).

From what I did see, Syed did a pretty mediocre job as a planner, but a decent job as a negotiator. And he didn’t manage to argue with anyone, which is a plus (but the leopard won’t change his spots and will, no doubt, be back arguing in the weeks to come).

All in all, the men were heavy on action and light on planning and were pretty lucky to win.

The women were the focus of the episode, with Jo as team leader.

There are various approaches to management, and Jo used what I would call “seagull management”: she would fly in, make a lot of noise, crap on everybody and then fly out again.

The first person she crapped on was Ruth, with a snippy comment about the kitten calendar in task 2. That put one person against her, right from the off.

The girls then spent over a quarter of their task time planning. While planning was important, from what was shown, there was a lot of time spent debating how to plan the task, rather than doing the actual planning.

They split into 2 teams. Michelle went off with Sharon and Ruth. They did a good job and collected 7 of the items. In particular, Michelle saved a bundle on one item (the silk), which put them ahead of the guys. She’s the best of the women so far.

Jo’s team was doing poorly and spent most of their time looking for a dinner jacket. And, rather than calling around looking for suppliers, Jo preferred to use the phone to nag and ramble at the other 3 girls.

She seemed more interested in “being the boss” than actually helping out with the task. All in all, apart from nagging and buck passing, I couldn’t see what she did in the task.

As the time was running out and one item still to get, Jo passed the buck and handed responsibility for finding a tyre to the other 3 girls. However, it was too late, and they returned without the final item.

The scores were tallied and the girls had £50 plus the price the guys paid for the tire deducted from their remaining money. In the end, the guys had won by a mere £8.

In the boardroom, Sir Alan conducted his post mortem. When challenged, Sharon described her strength as "creativity" and Sir Alan made a face like someone had farted.

Jo passed the buck again and blamed Karen for not getting the tyre, though never explained how Karen was meant to do this while the group was still trying to get the dinner jacket. I would have liked to hear who was responsible for the jacket as that’s where they messed up.

Jo also hadn’t worked out who she was going to bring back in which I reckon, had Trump been in the firing seat, would have (rightly) gotten her fired on the spot.

In the end, she brought back the only 2 people she could: Alexa and Karen. Alexa looks lightweight, but made a plea to be able to show her stuff as a leader and that saved her. However, I’d be amazed if she lasts much longer.

As a lawyer, Karen should have found it easy to demonstrate why the tyre wasn’t her responsibility. However, she didn’t and she got the bullet.

Personally, I would have fired Jo. She is totally useless I wonder if her “TV entertainment value” is the thing that’s keeping her in.

So far, Ansell and Michelle are the only two who have impressed me as possible winners.

Paul’s shown sales skills, but that’s all.

Alexa’s on her way out.

Jo should have gone by now.

Syed’s got strengths as a negotiator/salesman, but his personality’s a nightmare (and remember the ‘A-team’).

And Samuel, Mani, Sharon, Ruth and Tuan have all been poor to mediocre. Unless someone steps out of this group, it’s going to be a 2 horse race for the next 9 weeks.

Episode 4

Lack of substance always tells in the end

Sir Alan decided to do something different (unless you watched US series 2 in which case, it was fairly familiar) this week and put a man in charge of the woman’s team and a woman in charge of the men.

Mani led the women. He reminds me of Tony Blair with his over-practiced gestures and his staring eyes.

He made one good decision, which was to go with a food that was quick and easy to cook well. This one decision put his team so far ahead of the men’s team that it was really a no-contest after that.

Mani was benign dictator and didn’t really give the girls much opportunity to shine. This put Sharon’s nose out of joint, as she wanted everything to be a joint decision. However, business is rarely a democracy, so she should get over herself.

All in all, Mani did a decent job. However, I suspect that his charmless personality and woeful presentation skills will get him fired before the final.

The rest of the team didn’t feature much. Michelle was solid as ever. Jo seemed like a normal person throughout. Ruth griped and moaned a lot, which is nothing new. Every week she moans more than she contributes and, every week, I’m less convinced by her.

This team ended up making a profit of almost £400 (from a spend of £1,000), which, for 3 long days work from 5 people wasn’t up to much.

Most of the focus was on the men’s team, led by Alexa. She’s been hopeless so far (and a little annoying). She (plus Tuan and Syed) made the terrible decision to make pizza.

They made another bad decision when they budgeted to sell 6,000 slices of pizza in a day, which amounted to about one slice every 9 seconds (an error which was made jointly by Tuan and Alexa).

Then they made their third blunder when they decided that, to make 100 chicken tikka pizzas, they’d need 100 chickens. This blunder was the fault of Tuan and/or Syed and makes me wonder if either of them had ever seen a chicken.

Ultimately, they made around 90 pizzas, which meant the money they lost on excess ingredients was going to stuff them.

In the end, they took in roughly £1,200, but spend almost all their £2,000 budget, so a loss of around £800. If they had just bought ingredients for 100 pizzas, they might have actually won, which shows how fatal their estimates and buying were.

Going into the boardroom, Alexa brought back Syed and Tuan (her only realistic choices). All three seemed hell bent on being fired and none of them put up a decent case for being saved.

Sir Alan was clearly exasperated with them all and wished he could fire them all.

I think this is a big difference between US apprentice and the US version. Trump ignored the rules in US series 2 and, in one episode, fired 2 people at once. However, the UK version is more like a game show than a job application and is “played by the rules”.

Anyway …

Considering his pugnacious nature, Syed was particularly weak in the boardroom and, although Alexa was the obvious person to go, he almost went instead.

However, lack of substance told in the end and Alexa was fired. I suspect, two weeks from now, I won’t remember she was ever there.

Updated rankings for the remaining 10 (with horse racing terminology as it’s Cheltenham festival week):

Clear of the field: Ansell and Michelle.

Plugging along at one pace, but ready to pounce if the leaders put in a poor jump: Paul, Mani, Samuel.

Behind: Sharon and Ruth.

Tear up your ticket: Tuan, Syed, Jo.

Next week is an advertising task. Goody, goody! I’m already looking forward to writing next week’s blog!

Episode 5

It’s the card, stupid.

Finally - an advertising task.

Sir Alan picked the captains again this week and it was the turn of Ruth and Paul.

He gave them the task of creating a TV ad and billboard ad for a special credit card that can be used for booking chartered jets.

However, both teams missed the point completely and created ads that promoted the wrong thing.

Paul’s team thought they were selling private jet travel, but had no ideas.

However,  in true salesman style, he decided that action was superior to meditation and they went off and auditioned actors for roles that didn’t exist and locations for shots they hadn’t planned.

Instead of selling the idea (albeit the wrong idea), Paul went all “brand advertising” and arty-concepts. He came up with the headline “let us show you a card trick”, which doesn’t actually relate to the offer. But everyone, including supposed advertising expert Sharon, loved it.

They tied this in with a very corny ad of a dodgy looking guy doing what appeared to be even dodgier things in a private plane.

Ruth’s team got off on the wrong track also. When Ansell and Mani came back from interviewing the client, Ansell identified the concierge aspect as “the main thing they [the client] highlighted". Mani also jumped in and raved about this aspect.

Ruth correctly identified this as a USP (unique selling point). The only problem was that it was a very minor selling point and ignored the main point which was the “credit card” part.

They then built their whole concept around this. I’d actually say that they did a better job of presenting their concept than Paul’s team did. However, it just goes to prove what I’ve said that it’s about knowing what your message is, and spending your time working out the best way to say the wrong message is a bit like polishing a turd.

When they’d finished their ads, they had to present them to the advertising agency. Paul gave a corny presentation based on the “magic” theme that went down like a fart in a spacesuit. If he had just sold it like a salesman, he would have done fine.

Maybe the arty, “love mark”, “anything is possible” ambience of the ad agency confused him and he forgot how to sell?

I was horrified by the notion that I was going to have to watch Mani (“I’m a complete expert in presenting”) do another presentation. However, Ruth made the smart decision to hand the job to Samuel and he did an ok job from the looks of it.

When they got to the boardroom, Paul was convinced we was going to lose and set his stall out early by putting Sharon in the firing line.

However, Sir Alan gave the victory to Paul. Although he though Paul’s team did a poor job, they were closer to selling the right product, so that was the clincher.

When the losers came back, Mani denied having anything to do with the “concierge” idea (a lie), but the others disagreed. Interestingly, although Ansell was the one who brought the idea up first, no-one wanted to blame him and he wasn’t brought back for the elimination.

Instead, Jo came back with Mani and despite the poor job done by Ruth, Sir Alan concluded that Mani had gone form “anchor to wanker” and fired him.

I’m glad to see the back of Mani, as I’ve liked him less week by week (and I didn’t like him much to start with).

My 2 favourites were quite poor this week. Ansell played a big role in his team’s defeat and Michelle was quite negative without coming up with any ideas of her own.

However, the other 7 are so poor, I’m still putting them up as the leaders.

So, after 5 weeks the leader board shows:

(1) Michelle – hasn’t really stepped up and made a big contribution, but has been professional and sensible throughout. Once we see her as a project leader, we’ll find out what she’s got. She’s really just here for not being rubbish (yet). Looks good in a towel.  

(2) Ansell  - missed the point of the advertising task and was a major player in this week’s defeat. Has stepped up at times and shown good leadership skills. Again, he’s not been a project leader and, once thrust into the spotlight, may turn out to be useless.   

(3) Paul – good sales skills and very personable, but not much else. Made a poor job of leading the marketing task and showed a cynical side by throwing Sharon into the firing line. I reckon he could go to the semis, but I’ve not seen any real leadership skill.   

(4) Samuel  - a bit of a shirker, I reckon. He often seems happy to take on the lowest profile tasks. However, he has a tendency to crack under pressure. He cried in episode 2 and went bananas in the kitchen last week.

(5) Ruth – I don’t like her attitude. Sir Alan likes them aggressive, but she lacks the ability to rally the troops and has whatever the opposite of charisma is. 

(6) Sharon – she’s shown nothing at all. She seems to have some academic notion of what business is about, but no ability to actually do anything. Sir Alan doesn’t have much respect for academia, so she was always going to be up against it. And there’s nothing about her that’s going to help him get over his prejudices.

(7) Syed – sometimes he seems normal, even quite talented, but the madness is always there, ready to come out. And he seems to lack common sense. Still, given that he has some talents, charisma and a lot of energy, I expect he might get to the last 4. But there’s no way he could be given the job.

(8) Tuan – never seems to get the job done. He’s just making up the numbers.

(9) Jo - very few signs of madness over the last 2 weeks, but she proved in the first few weeks that she’s just not suitable for the job.

All in all, it’s a disappointing group. The only two who look like they might win might only be in that position because they’ve not been in the spotlight..

If Michelle and Ansell both turn out to be poor leaders, Sir Alan’s in trouble.

Episode 6

Teflon girl finally turns into Velcro woman.

I’ve never been a fan of Ruth’s. Her “bulldog chewing a wasp” expression and her autocratic (look in a dictionary) manner are a real turn-off.

However, there’s no argument: she was the star of this week’s episode. She sold and sold and sold and was the one contestant who came out of the show with an enhanced reputation.

The two teams had the task of selling used cars. I had Paul, Syed and Ansell singled out as the likely start performers, but it didn’t work out that way.

In Ansell’s team, Ruth was tremendous and sold 6 of the 10 cars they managed to sell. Ansell sold the other four and did a decent job as a salesman. Samuel did very little and Jo managed to scare off a lot of punters with her scary, cackling madness.

Where Ruth had the “midas touch”, Jo had the “minus touch”.

Sharon was in charge of the other team and did a terrible job.

In the first 5 hours, her team didn’t sell a single car. Syed somehow managed to turn a sales presentation into a two and a half hour marathon, but he got a result in the end and sold the team’s first car.

Sharon showed her lack of ideas by pulling everyone into a meeting. She even interrupted Tuan who was close to closing a deal and threatened to end his negotiation, just so they could talk about selling.

This is one of her weaknesses: she’d rather discuss do something than actually do it. In 10 hours, she never managed to sell a single car.

Later she complained that the team never gave her “the support”, but how can they support a leader who would have lead them to certain defeat?

Of the others in the team, Syed stood out … for all the wrong reasons. He told lies to prospects to try to make sales and spent ages on his pitches without really going anywhere.

He was so bad that, had his team lost, he might have even been fired ahead of Sharon.

When they got to the boardroom, we found out that Sharon’s team somehow managed to sell as many cars as Ansell’s team. If anyone can explain how, send me an email, because I can’t figure it out.

Because Sharon’s team were smart enough to sell the extras (Paul’s idea), they won by a decent margin. I’ve said for years that businesses should make a point of adding up-sells to their business and this added over 24% to Sharon’s team’s earnings.

If you own a business and you’re not up-selling, you could easily add 10% or 20% to your sales with little or no effort. In April, I’m going to publish a report on up-selling. If you want to make sure you get a copy, sign up to my newsletter.   

Anyway, back to the boardroom and Ansell brought back Jo and Samuel.

Samuel had done nothing again this week, but Jo was less than useless and was the obvious one to go.

The writing was on the wall when Sir Alan was looking over her CV: "MG Rover ... training directors, if you don't mind ... about how to make a profit? No wonder they went bloody skint!"

So, Teflon girl finally turned into Velcro woman and got the bullet.

It’s time to look at the leaderboard again:

For the last few weeks, I’ve been putting Michelle and Ansell up as the only real contenders. However, in his first week in the spotlight, Ansell was poor as a strategist as he failed to promote the add-ons and that’s what cost his team victory. 

Michelle’s spent the last couple of weeks in the background, leaving others to hang themselves. And, this week, she was very keen to not be PM. I’m becoming less and less convinced that she’ll turn out to be any good once she’s forced into the spotlight. She’s also started making enemies, which might cost her when she’s a PM.

She’s still going to be top of the list, but that says more about her competitors than it says about her.

How poor are they? In a week where Syed got caught red-handed lying to prospects, he still managed to move up 2 places to 5th. And if you know my opinion of salesmen who lie, you’ll know how bad things must me.

So, after 6 weeks, I’m calling it this way:

(1) Michelle

(2) Paul

(3) Ansell

(4) Ruth

(5) Syed

(6) Samuel

(7) Tuan

(8) Sharon

Episode 7

Sir Alan runs out of Options.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote “if Michelle and Ansell both turn out to be poor leaders, Sir Alan’s in trouble” and it hasn’t taken long for that to happen.

Ansell was poor as PM last week and was singled out by the sales manager as the worst performer in the losing team (and that was a team that included Jo!).

This week, Michelle was finally forced to step into the limelight and she showed herself to be greatly lacking.

The two teams were given the task of selling the most goods at Topshop.

Michelle had Ansell, Ruth and Samuel in her team but, when she should have been leading them in the strategy meeting, she was swanning around self-indulgently in the VIP room, drinking champagne. It seemed like she thought that a “manager” doesn’t actually do anything.

While she as away, Samuel was given the role of marketing planner. He came up with two ideas, both rubbish.

In the actual task, Michelle put herself in the VIP room where she couldn’t keep eyes on her team and Manuel was outside feebly trying to get shoppers to come into the shop.

Ruth and Ansell did a decent job on the sales floor and, when Michelle came up to join them, she did a decent job, too. Ansell stood out as the one member of the team who showed leadership.    

The other team, led by Tuan, had to put up with Sharon who was sulking and, as usual, trying to accept as little responsibility as possible.

I’ve really taken a dislike to Sharon. She expects everyone to listen to her, even though she rarely says anything worth listening to. Syed said that he couldn’t “stand her smugness”. Yes, she’s too smug for Syed.  

Paul appeared to be the star performer, charming girls into buying lots of clothes and his relentless selling probably made the difference between the two sides.

Once they were back in the boardroom, Tuan’s team had won and Michelle’s team had to come back.

The sack race was between Michelle and Samuel.

Sir Alan was unimpressed with the time Michelle wasted in the VIP room and her decision to place herself where she couldn’t manage the team.

He was quite right. She behaved amateurishly and neglected her responsibilities. She was perhaps the worst PM since Alexa.

Because she had been so poor, there wasn’t much she could do to defend herself against the accusations.

However, Samuel had been lightweight one time too often and he was the one who got the finger.

The current ranking is a tough call. Frankly, I wouldn’t employ any of them as a leader.

But, someone‘s got to win. So, after 7 weeks:

(1) Paul

(2) Ruth

(3) Ansell

(4) Michelle 

(5) Syed

(6) Tuan

(7) Sharon

The big mover is Michelle. She had talked a good game up ‘til now and looked the part. However, her one time in the spotlight has shown her to have little substance.

Episode 8

Ding dong! The “moaning bitch” is dead!

This week’s task was a lot more relevant to the sort of work the apprentice will end up doing.

The two teams had to sell new products to trade buyers.

Ruth was in charge of Michelle and Ansell. They made the good decision to pick 2 products that could be sold in the same shops.

This meant they could pitch two items in every meeting they had.

We never saw much of the team and, with the items they selected, they did a decent job and racked up £3,237 in sales.

Syed’s team were the focus of most of the show.

Paul and Sharon went off in a mini-team to sell a piece of bent metal. Unlike the girls at Topshop last week, Paul didn’t really hit it off with the buyers at the furniture shops and his pushy approach turned off a number of the prospects.

However, the feeling was mutual and Paul sneeringly dismissed the buyers as the sort of people who spend their time “reading books, having coffee and eating croissants.”

Perhaps he’d be happier selling to illiterate pie-eating, lager louts?

Sharon managed to sell some of these pieces of metal (12, in fact). I think it was the first sale she’s closed since she offloaded a couple of dodgy looking bananas in episode 1.

Syed and Tuan were off selling a fuel can. In fact, not a fuel can, but “the fuel can of the future.”

I’ve begun to quite like Syed. He’s got brass balls and a certain charming arrogance. Unfortunately, he’s also got a very flexible sense of morality and a lack of common sense. And this showed again this week.

He did get one big sale. At the last moment, he and Tuan got a buyer to go from 100 units up to 300, bringing in £2,250.

However, the time it took to make that sale meant that Syed and Tuan missed the deadline. This meant a nervy night for the team, as they had to wait until the boardroom to find out if they’d be penalised.

When they sat down in front of Sir Alan, the penalty was set at 25% of Syed & Tuan’s sales. This cost them £700 and meant that Ruth’s team had won by £93.

Now, from where I was sitting, Syed’s decision to go after the final sale was fully justified. That one final sale was £2,250. Take away the penalty, and that left £1,550. Which amounted to 49% of the adjusted total of £3,140.

It was clearly a good decision and Syed should have taken this in as his defense. And he would have been safe.

Instead he ignored the numbers and turned into Suicide Syed.

He made a lot of noise about how great his is (rather than letting the numbers doing the talking). This was crazy as it allowed his team to pick at his personal flaws. They could never have argued with his numbers.

Paul was clearly bombproof in this task and this meant the three who returned to face the finger would be Sharon, Syed and Tuan (or, as Margaret called them, “the whinger, the liar and the planner”).

When they came back in, Syed was still in hari-kari mode and didn’t know when to shut up (Sir Alan telling him to “shut up” should have been a good indicator).

Fortunately for him, Sharon’s really done nothing all series and has developed into a real sulker. Or, as Paul put it, a "moaning bitch".

No-one wants to work with someone like that, so she finally got the sacking that she’s deserved for the last few weeks.

In the hallway after the sacking, rather than going out gracefully, she needed to get the final nasty word in and called Syed an “arrogant wanker”.

When she goes back to college, she can go to the bottom of the class for having no class.

The leaderboard:

Sharon's dropped off the bottom and the only other change is that Paul and Ruth have swapped places at the top.

(1) Ruth

(2) Paul

(3) Ansell

(4) Michelle 

(5) Syed

(6) Tuan

My guess is that, if he’s on the losing team, Tuan will go next week. He’s by far the weakest of the remaining candidates. Sir Alan’s lost all interest in him.

Episode 9

"A load of rubbish, bollocks and a lot of nonsense"

This week the remaining six candidates had the task of letting flats.

Ruth was a winner straight away as she got the dream ticket. She was teamed up with Syed and Tuan, the two weakest candidates. This meant, even if her team lost, unless she did something stupid, there would be no way she would get fired.   

As it was, she took to the task like a duck to water and let out 5 flats, far more than any of the other five candidates.

Tuan was the leader of her team and he started off by saying he knew that, after all the warnings he had received, he had to go out and close some deals this week. However, he quickly reverted to type and took a backseat while his teammates did the selling.

Syed was turning on the bullshit as usual, telling one prospect that he "knew a good property" when he saw one. Unfortunately, he wasn't very good at getting into these "good properties" and twice brought the wrong keys. He also managed to lose another prospect by giving him the wrong directions.

Finally he did close a deal with two people he saw looking into the estate agent's window. And that meant 6 for his team: one for him, five for Ruth and none for Tuan.

It was looking like curtains for Tuan if his team lost.

On the other team, Michelle led Paul and Ansell. She and Ansell managed to let 2 flats each while Paul struggled. Paul got stressed out as he hadn't managed to close a deal but, in the end, he closed 2 in quick succession and that left Michelle's team with a total of 6.

Once they got to the boardroom, the total commissions were added up and Michelle's team had won by almost £300.

When they returned to face Sir Alan, Ruth was smart enough to keep her mouth shut unless spoken to. 

Syed wasn't so smart and he showed yet again that he doesn't know when to shut up. 

Last week, he should have been safe in the boardroom, but almost talked himself into a firing. This week, with Tuan about to be sacked, Syed dragged himself back into trouble.

However, even this wasn't enough to save Tuan and he became the latest contestant to go. 

Tuan seemed a decent guy, but he just never followed the advice Sir Alan kept giving him - to get out there and prove he can sell.   

The leaderboard:

Ruth has stretched her lead this week. She closed 5 deals when no-one else closed more than 2. 

I'm finding it hard to rank Paul. In week 2, I described him as "great salesman, but no company leader" and I'm going back to that conclusion. He's good at some types of selling, but I don't see a broad range of business skills. So, I'm moving him to fourth in the table.  

Syed could make the semis, but is a no-hoper for the job. He's shown the British public that he's happy to tell lies to sell something. What would it say about Sir Alan if he gave a high level job to someone like that? 

I expect the final will be Ruth against either Ansell or Michelle.

(1) Ruth

(2) Ansell

(3) Michelle

(4) Paul  

(5) Syed  

Episode 10

“God forbid he should win this thing”

As a program, the Apprentice has been interesting during the last few weeks. However. as a competition, it’s been a bit of a non-event.

For a while, there has been a clear distinction between the contenders and the “dead men walking”. And it has seemed that we’ve been waiting for the no-hopers to be picked off so the competition could start in earnest.

Finally, with only five left, everyone was fighting for their lives.

Their task this week was to put on entertainment on a cruise ship.

Paul was leading Michelle and Ansell and he did a really good job.

Firstly, he came up with the idea of a dance training/competition event. This was a very good idea as it was a simple concept that was easy to manage and worked well with the audience that they had.

Syed was leading Ruth and they came up with an idea of a “fun day” that had a lot of different events. This idea was poor as it involved a lot of management (and they only had two people), it didn’t really tie in with the people they were marketing to and it wasn’t so simple to understand.

Maybe I’m being unfair, but I got the feeling that Ruth was happy to allow Syed to run with some bad ideas so that he’d end up carrying the can if they lost. I understand that it’s every man for himself in the Apprentice but, at times, she seems exceptionally self-interested. 

Their marketing plan was an ad in the ship magazine. Ruth was chuffed that their ad was so much bigger than Paul’s. As she (rightly) said, “you can have the best product, but if nobody looks at it, you’ll never sell it.”

Sadly for Ruth, Paul had bigger ideas and went on the ship’s TV show.

The look on Syed’s face when he saw Paul on TV was priceless. It looked like someone had stolen his cornflakes.

Later, in the boardroom, Ruth tried to claim that her marketing was better than Paul’s. However, good marketing isn’t good marketing if it doesn’t produce results.

Once the events were underway, Syed found that his events weren’t attracting customers and he and Ruth decided to push their raffle and this seemed to bring in most of their income.

Their quiz also made money but, apart from these two events, their plans were a failure.

On top of that, they made the mistake of giving rewards to the staff.

Only later did they realise that the price of these rewards would come out of their profits. This was mainly Syed’s fault as he told Ruth that the costs wouldn’t be deducted from their total. Having said that, Ruth should have read the rules herself.

Once the events were over, it came down to the money taken in. Paul’s team made just over $1,000, while Syed’s made less than $400.

Paul’s victory made sense. He had the better concept, the better marketing and took greater care over their costs.

Paul’s team’s reward was a 2-day holiday in Rome. Paul was telling Ansell about the delights of the Enternal city: “you’ve got the Coliseum – where Gladiator was filmed - … you’ve got … there’s just shit there”.

They should put that on the brochures “Rome - there’s just shit there.”

So, back to the boardroom.

It was the best boardroom so far. 

Syed was the obvious person to go as he was the PM and he’d been the weaker candidate over the 10 weeks. But, unlike the previous 2 weeks, this time he was excellent in the boardroom. He was winding up Ruth brilliantly and she was getting very hot under the collar.

Ruth couldn’t handle this and almost talked her way to defeat.

When Sir Alan sent them outside so he could talk to Margaret and Nick, Nick said of Syed: “God forbid he should win this thing, you’ll have endless trouble”.

Sir Alan shot back “I like trouble!”  

However, Syed’s time was up and he had to go.

I think Sir Alan will miss him. I’ll miss him too and I hope that the BBC hire him to interview/wind up politicians.

One thing that struck me in the boardroom was that Sir Alan asked if Ruth was just a one trick sales pony.

If he was worried that he could end up with a one-dimensional salesman, why did he give the candidates one sales task after another and judge them only on their ability to close.

Look at the remaining four candidates and what does he have left? A bunch of sales closers (plus whatever Michelle is).

If he wanted a broad range of skills, he should have given them a broad range of tasks.

The leaderboard:

Paul was the star this week. Ruth was poor. Ansell and Michelle never seemed to do much (again).

Next week, it’s job interview time and people’s CV’s are going to come into it. I reckon that this should help Ruth.

I’ve got Ruth as a clear leader and would be surprised if she didn’t make the final.

The other three are in a bit of a heap. Based on what they’ve done in the series so far, Paul deserves to be the other finalist. However, it’s a tough one to call and any of the candidates could get through to the final.

(1) Ruth

(2) Paul  

(3) Michelle

(4) Ansell

Episode 11

“Don't Keep Saying How Brilliant You Are”

It was semi-final time on the Apprentice and that means job interviews.

The four remaining candidates were interviewed by three of Sir Alan’s trusted advisors.

They were Gordon, Claude and Paul.

Claude was the scariest of the three and tore all the candidates to pieces. Particularly Paul. And, when Paul said he could “get on with anyone”, he snapped back “you’re not getting on with me”.

In fact, Paul was having a hard time getting on with any of the interviewers. His “I think I’m brilliant. I think I’m great” (yes, he actually said that) shtick was rubbing them up the wrong way and they all thought he came over like a cheesy door-to-door salesman. 

You’d think that, as a recruitment consultant, He’d know how to conduct himself in an interview, but he was rubbish.

And, when it was firing time, he was the first one to go. 

Michelle did well in the interviews. For some reason, the interviewers made a big deal out of the fact she was a check-out girl when she was 15. What was she meant to be doing at 15? Vice-chairman of BT?

Because she had come so far from a tough background, Sir Alan gave her a chance and put her in the final.

So, it was down to Ansell and Ruth.

Ruth had gone into the interviews like a bull in a china shop and this aggression, combined with inconsistencies in her story, made a poor impression. If I were Sir Alan, I’d be worried about her ability to work as a team. She said that, the moment  she takes over a management role, some people quit immediately. That’s never a good sign. 

However, she’s the most “complete” of the four candidates and the top performer in the tasks.   

Ansell did poorly in the interviews, but that was mainly down to his own limitations. I’ve liked Ansell throughout the series. In fact, everybody’s liked Ansell throughout the series, but he’s never delivered anything you’d pay him a six-figure salary for.

So, he was fired. Still, he’s come out of the series really well and I’m sure it’ll open a lot of doors for him.

So, a Ruth v Michelle final.

I think that, given the fourteen original candidates, the finalists are probably the best two. Perhaps Karen would have turned out to be strong – we never saw enough of her – but I don’t think any of the others were better suited to the job than Ruth and Michelle.

I’m quite pleased that Paul went as I had him down as a semi-finalist after episode 1 and I’ve been proven right.

I thought Ansell might have stepped up and shown more, but he never did. Episode two was probably his most impressive episode.   

I had Michelle at the top of the leader board for a long time, but downgraded her when she did a really poor job as a leader in the Top Shop task. However, apart from that, she’s been quite solid and I’ll be interested to see what she can show in the final task.

Right now, if I were Sir Alan, I'd be leaning towards Michelle because she's more of an "apprentice" type.

Ruth is more capable right now, but doesn't strike me as the sort of person you could mould. So, it depends if he can live with her bull-in-a-china-shop personality.

Next week will be interesting.

My guess is that, if she can do a good job as leader, Michelle will get the job. However, to do that, she'll have to step up a long way from what she's shown so far.