Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Last Night's Apprentice

Starting out as the Del Boy of his day in 1967, by selling aerials out of the back of his van with just £100 to his name, Lord Alan Sugar has gone on to amass a fortune of 730 million pounds. His story could be described as a rags-to-riches-council-estate-boy-made-good-fairy-tale; yet, appearance-wise he wouldn’t look out of place in a remake of Carry on Camping, playing the part of a raucous Sid James!

Last night, the first episode of the seventh season of The Apprentice aired on BBC 1:

“Sixteen potential business partners. Twelve tough weeks. One life-changing opportunity.”

At the beginning of the programme, Lord Sugar told the candidates that he wasn’t looking for ‘bloody sales people’. He was looking for someone with a brain who was going to start a business with him.

The Lord gave the teams £250 to purchase fruit and vegetables, expecting a reasonable profit from their efforts. Then he announced he was sick of what he calls the “moaning culture” of people saying you can’t do this and you can’t do that, because in the Lord’s world, you can! And he’s got the t-shirt and written the book to prove it!

He started off by telling the candidates they needed an idea, a concept. Okay, TV aerials might not go down so well these days, but they needed to come up with a product, they also needed determination and to put in hard work.

The candidates were divided into two teams, boys versus girls. The boys’ team was headed by former accountant, Edward Hunter who seemed to want to shrug off the ‘accountant label’. After rejecting the team name ‘ Ability’, suggested by self-confessed perfectionist and ladies’ man, Vincent Disneur, they chose the name ‘Logic’.

The girls’ team, headed by project manager, Melody Hossaini, came up with the name ‘Venture’.

Team Venture decided their game plan was to use as little of Lord Sugar's £250 as possible and to come up with a breakfast and a lunch product to feed London’s hungry workforce.

The girls hit on fruit salad pots for breakfast and vegetable pasta for lunch.

Edward suggested things that Team Logic could make efficiently, quickly and well. He went on to say that soup would be the best option ‘because you can’t get it wrong!”

At that point, Glenn kept trying to ask a question, but everyone seemed to be doing their best to ignore him.

Eventually, he queried, “Does anyone actually know how to make soup?”

After a moment of silence and shaking of heads, it became apparent that no one did and it was probably much quicker and more efficient to open a tin of Campbells’ Cream of Tomato!

The second product chosen was orange juice.

On the way to the New Convent Garden at 3.20 am, Edward made the confession that he had no intention of showing off he could work out margins, even though he was an accountant. He seemed more intent on spending Lord Alan’s money and selling to the public. Yet, what had the Boss of the Boardroom already warned candidates, “I’m not looking for bloody sales people!”

Team Venture seemed more focused and had the idea they needed to keep moving to catch the breakfast market.

The boys, after being unable to squeeze the price down on oranges, ended up with 140 boxes of them and a few boxes of tomatoes.

The girls, content with purchasing pineapples and grapes for breakfast salad pots, purchased peppers and courgettes, even managing to knock the prices down. Edna seemed unhappy that others were making the deals while she should have been taking control of the group’s finances.

Northern Irish, Jim, declared, “We are going to make soup like we’ve never made soup before!” Which was quite funny as none of them had.

After much chopping and slicing of fruit and veg, and the seemingly never-ending task of squeezing oranges, both teams were ready to meet their target – the hungry work force. Nick seemed dubious that the girls had bought enough of their product. Karen was convinced the boys wouldn’t just miss the breakfast trade but also the lunch trade if they didn’t pull their fingers out and get out there to sell.

Breakfast trade for the girls was brisk as they sold all their fruit pots, but the pasta was left a bit late. Melody got stroppy with Edna as she wanted the pasta at Canary Wharf by 1 pm for the lunch trade. The vegetable pasta arrived too late for the girls, so they had to push the pasta for people to take home for their evening meals.

Glenn was irritated about missing the breakfast trade and tried to take over by getting the boys out, Jim stepped in to diffuse the situation and eventually the boys were out selling.

The boys chose Liverpool Street as their permanent pitch to sell their soup and orange juice. Sales manager, Vincent did well selling around the offices by charming the ladies with the chat, reminding me of a younger, less posh, Nigel Havers.

At 4 pm trading ceased and it was off to the boardroom.

The boys questioned the randomness of Edward’s leadership as PM, whilst Edward continued to fudge the issues presented by Lord Sugar. It became apparent that Ed had no real business plan and tried to make out that he’d handpicked Jim to be the ‘soup man’.

Lord Sugar had no time for accountant Edward's ramblings in the boardroom. He wanted simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, but Edward, who insisted in ‘rolling with the punches’ came out with the most awful verbal diahorrea, causing the baron of the boardroom to question whether he was speaking in semaphore.

“Cut the crap!” Lord Alan commanded.

The girls seemed happier with their team leader, Melody. Although they were pulled up by Lord Alan for not spending all of the £250.

The boys team took £432.00 which was surprising, and maybe at that point may have thought they were home and dry. Unfortunately for them, Team Venture took £592.00.

The girls were sent for a champagne reception back at the house, whereas the boys went back to the greasy spoon cafe to drown their sorrows with a cappaccino.

Edward chose to take juice presser Leon, and Gavin, who had challenged Edward about being PM, back in the boardroom for a showdown with Lord Sugar. When questioned why he had brought Gavin into the boardroom, Edward insisted it was because he wasn’t a ‘doer’. Yet, as Karen pointed out, Gavin had sold the second highest number of units that day.

Edward seemed to think it was a disadvantage to be the youngest and shortest in the team! Insisting he had got profit for Lord Sugar, the baron countered, “But you lost the task!”

Although Lord Sugar pushed the theory that a lot of people who became bosses of large companies started out as accountants, in Edward's case, was not impressed that he failed to use his accountancy skill during the task.

For Edward Hunter, his continual comments about ‘rolling with the punches’ became a self-fulfilling prophecy as eventually he was knocked out of the competiton all together as Lord Alan pointed the finger and declared: “You’re fired!”

“Fifteen potential business partners. Eleven tough weeks to go. One life-changing opportunity.”

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