Monday, 18 July 2011

The Apprentice Limps Home

Oh dear. The Apprentice finally limps home to its big anti climax.

No final task. No return of the contestants to sabotage each other. No cheesy adverts and pitches to baying crowds of industry experts.

And we didn't even get to see much of the interviews either.

We got to see a lot of waiting around, a lot of fake smiles, a lot of cars shuttling people back and forth and a lot of... well, hot air, really.

This year's final was based solely on each contestant's business plan, which were as follows:

Tom Devices. No, a monitoring service. No, devices to prevent loss through absence. What he meant to say was "orthopaedic office chairs".
Susan Cosmetics that she made in her kitchen using margarine and porridge.
Helen A service to make dentist appointments for poor people. Otherwise known as a 'concierge service franchise'.
Jim A service whereby Jim tells Alan how fantastic he is each day. We mean e-learning skills to teach schoolchildren how great Alan is. We mean employability skills. And if they're lucky, employment by Alan, who is great.

OK, so spot the odd one out. Three business plans based on what the contestants already do for a living and would like to continue to do, funded by Lord Sugar Daddy. One business plan based on the premise that Lord Sugar is vain, egocentric and can't see past his own fringe. But Jim's big mistake is that this is the British apprentice. The judge is not Donald Trump but Sir Alan Lord Sugar OBE. He can't win him over by buttering up his comb-over.

Jim tries bravely to recover by suggesting that his business is a non-profit venture. Charity may begin at home, but you're not at home, Jim. You're in Alan Sugar's house. And Al is in da house, and he already "does his bit" for charity, so they can all get lost. The bloody spongers.

And Jim is therefore the first casualty of this dog eat everydog, one trick dog and pony show. Take your tired old clich├ęs and stick 'em where the sun don't shine, sunshine.

Susan's business plan is based on a simple premise. She can make a grand in a weekend at a tourist market in London, employing 15 illegal immigrants and making the products in her kitchen with no safety testing or regulatory costs, so if she had stalls in 20 markets, multiplied by 52 weekends, that's a million pounds!! Easy!

Why didn't we think of that?

Oh yes, because we're not 21 and we've got some common sense, that's why.

Susan's biggest selling point is to have Alan Sugar's name behind her brand. Right. Alan Sugar, darling of the cosmetics industry. Walking advert for skincare.

Wouldn't that be like using Duncan Bannatyne's name to sell a book on how to be pleasant?

And Susan was out on her ear.

Helen's business plan was simple. You do people's admin for them. Now, because the editors chose not to show us much of any interest, it's difficult to see how she planned to make money out of it. Basically, you do it in one of two ways, you charge a fee to the customer, and/or you charge commission to the services that you use. But make any money out of it?

All that it came down to was the fact that Lord Sugar doesn't do service businesses. He likes products. Scale. Volume. Licensing. Retailers. Margin. Money. More money.

It's no wonder that Lord Sugar found the decision so difficult. There wasn't a clear winner in terms of the business plan, so he had to go with the person. The reason that Tom won it was that he was the only person who put forward a plan based on a mass produceable product.

And, as it transpired in the after-show interviews, Lord Sugar isn't actually interested in the chair at all. He wants the curved nail files. He wants to sponge off Tom's past ingenuity and hard work.

Careful, Tom. He wants to own your ass.

Now, here's what we would have done if we were Lord Sugar.

We'd have gone into business with Tom and hired Helen as Operations Manager and Jim as Sales Manager.

Now that WOULD be a bloody good business.

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