Tag Archives: apprentice

Nice guys finish last. And also first – the Apprentice 2011 finale

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.

Successful entrepreneurs are the best gamblers in Britain

In this week’s Apprentice Helen faced Lord Sugar for the first time, and was exposed to his CV inspecting wrath. He made the point to the successful executive assistant that you don’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re a businessman. You have an idea, you have drive, you have passion, and you do it.

I’ve had a few conversations lately about what it means to have entrepreneurial spirit, in this day and age. Like Lord Sugar, I don’t think being clever, inventive, creative or even organised and hardworking are the core of it. Ultimately, to want to be an entrepreneur, the most valuable personality trait is that of a gambler.

You have to roll the dice.

That’s what it boils down to. Numeracy is important, creativity, a sense of strategy, the market and marketing, leadership skills – all key. But one of the reasons I’ve not started a business myself is the same reason that I rarely push all-in with deuces under the gun, even under punishing blind conditions – I don’t like the stress associated with that level of risk. And indeed, British entrepreneurial culture is far less forgiving of failed gambles in the business realm than other countries (like the US).

So is Britain’s ‘growth agenda’, in no small part founded on the idea that we’ll have a nation of burgeoning entrepreneurs, fundamentally flawed? I’m not sure. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if the idea of taking a risk on a business proposition is less scary to the average Brit. We seem to have a culture of at least (semi-) calculated risk and we do see a lot of start-ups emerging around the UK.

What do you think?

@bbcapprentice–Melody slips on the fine line between arrogance, ignorance and insecurity

melodyThe latest Apprentice was its usual action-packed self. I found it particularly enjoyable as the barrow-boy buy/sell exercise seems more in the spirit of British enterprise than some of the slightly more artificial exercises of introducing un-researched, poorly differentiated products into a crowded market. Truly, it was the Only Fools and Horses edition episode.

I was hoping for Melody’s departure. Of the remaining brands of ignorance and idiocy, hers is the most aggravating. Loud-mouthed, tedious, and almost exclusively from a place of polished, artificial superiority, her overall tone and bearing invited contempt. I’m surprised it took this long; but I guess her unfailing sales patter did protect her from the wrath of Sugar.

To me, arrogance and insecurity are flip sides of the same coin. The less confident you are, the more you crow, and the harder you push for the centre stage. And this, I think, was at the core of Melody’s failure.

Having seen the personalities in action for a few weeks, my estimation of Helen went down too – the only way to work with people like Melody is to play to their ego. She could have asked for the stock replenishment role without usurping Melody’s authority and she might have therefore had a chance of adding another task to her winning streak.

Alan (or Al, as I like to think of him) commented on the fact that it is a "cruel process." As someone fresh to the Apprentice this is becoming increasingly evident. Unlike other reality TV programmes where there seems to be something of a bond between the participants, the adversarial nature of the Apprentice seems to have resulted in higher barriers. And, indeed, when on a weekly basis they are forced from camaraderie and teamwork into blame-calling and execution, it’s unsurprising. It’s not an exercise I’d have any desire to get involved with at all.

The remaining weeks will be interesting. Natasha and Susan are probably next for the chop, owing to the former’s unpleasant ignorance and the latter’s naivety (although I really felt for Susan this week when dealing with the frankly pathetic Natasha), leaving Tom to flounder against the polished Helen and the manipulative Jim.

@bbcapprentice–the pitch takes the biscuit


Three observations from last night’s episode of the Apprentice.

  1. If the pitch feels incoherent to you, you really can’t expect buyers to get it. "After school treat for anytime-" – that makes no sense.
  2. Absolute bullshit is apparently acceptable – Jim’s ludicrous ‘we’ll get Harry Potter to do TV advertising for you Asda’ pitch shouldn’t have worked. I suspect the only reason they managed to make the sale was because Asda felt the product could appeal to some of their shoppers that maybe put a higher premium on shutting the kids up with sugary treats than they did on the specifics of the sales pitch.
  3. One of the teams still hadn’t learnt the lesson of defining a target audience. It was Every Dog all over again in that first BixMixPitch.

I genuinely wasn’t sure which way this one would lean, but once team BixMix got left in the boardroom both Amanda and I thought Zoe might be in the line of fire (although I thought Tom might be for it too).

I’m finding it increasingly uncomfortable watching a few of the candidates in action; Melody for her general overbearing ignorance, Susan for her idiocy, and Jim for his total BS-talent. But I guess that’s what makes the show compelling…

No sign of Bix Mix or Special Stars on eBay this time… I guess those had a shorter shelf life than the magazines…