I wasn’t expecting that (ref finale of BBC Apprentice 2011). But then, I wasn’t expecting Helen to go off the rails with a totally nonsensical business model on the basis of absolutely no previous experience. For Susan to be stupidly naive, borderline illegal – well, that was predictable. For Jim to be 100% bullshit – again, predictable.
That the single least successful person in the process to make it to the final eventually became the winner kind of nullifies the entire purpose of the process, no? Tom’s 11th hour revelation on how he got his previous product into Walmart must have had a big impact on Alan hiring him for his guts as he’d been as meek as Susan most of the way through the process. Lord Sugar clearly had, however, a soft spot for Tom the whole way through the project. And we liked him too, and were chuffed for him when he won through.
But perhaps the process was never about being the best business person – after all, Helen was unquestionably the best at doing "business" in the process – but perhaps it was about not contributing to stupidity and making your presence felt on collaborative group projects to demonstrate your role within the teams. As the roles filtered down at the end – Alan had a choice between the inventor, the operations person, the sales and marketing douche and the sparky, driven nit-wit with no clear discernible skills. Left with that choice, as a successful, excellent operations person yourself – there really is only one choice, irrespective of their performance in the final task.
Tom and Helen both did badly on the final task. Tom’s business plan was riddled with errors, didn’t mention his major margin product in it, he didn’t fight the case for workplace need before Lord Sugar (every large business’ health & safety requirements is having people fill out workplace health assessments these days), and was generally an affable twit. Helen’s idea was chronically bad; a re-hashed version of a concierge service wrapped in some nonsense about lifting Britain through recovery whilst really being contingent on a ‘recovered’ Britain in which idiots with too much money and too little time would outsource administrative trivia to an army of virtual assistants. My single biggest question about the Apprentice – were they allowed to use the Internet / computers? Surely a spreadsheet and a web-browse could have wheedled out 90% of the idiocy encountered across the course of the series.
The Apprentice process is exactly what it claims to be; it’s about finding the best business partner for Lord Sugar. It’s not about finding the best business person or entrepreneur in Britain – Lord Sugar already has one of those – himself.
For us? Adieu to Apprentice 2011 – it was fantastically entertaining television – and here’s to the next thing.