The Apprentice 2017 - Episode One – What’s your beef? | The Chameleon Guide
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The Apprentice 2017 – Episode One – What’s your beef?

Welcome to the class of 2017. Time to buckle up for this year’s panoply of muppetry and mishaps as the new batch of wannabe entrepreneurs attempt to win the prize of £250k and Lord Sugar as a business partner.

It seems hard to believe that we’re on to series 13. Surralan has become Lord Sugar, we’ve seen Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer move on, replaced over time by Karren Brady and Claude Litner. Oh how I miss Margaret and her incredibly expressive eyebrows and cutting one-liners. Claude Litner said in an interview before the show aired that he deliberately does not get friendly with any of the candidates throughout the process so he can’t be accused of favouritism. He does it extremely well.

Lord Sugar must despair at the beginning (middle and nearly end) of every show when it seems the would be tycoons lack in so many areas it’s amazing many of them can actually get out of bed and get dressed in the morning. What is more amazing is that every year, miraculously, a star emerges from the mists of mediocrity and becomes a worthy winner. How does that happen? Ah, the power of TV editing…

The Apprentices

Will the candidates be of a better calibre this year? Let’s not put bets on it just yet.

We were introduced to the ‘18 Moguls in the Making’. A mogul has several definitions, and other than the one meant here, it also means a steam locomotive and a bump on a ski slope. Both of which may be fitting alternatives given the hot air and pratfalls the candidates excel at.

Hyperbolic quotes were chucked at us like confetti:
‘I smell like success’ Let’s see how sweetly you smell after being on a burger stand for several hours shall we Sajan?
‘In business I’m like a bulldog. If you mess with me I have lockjaw’ Quite a scary prospect from our Michaela. But given she already has a business worth over £2million, it may be best not to mess with her too much. Minor bit of side gossip, if you’re into that sort of thing – she’s the sister of Joshua Ritchie, Love Island and Ex on the Beach ‘star’. Now you know.
And finally Jeff Wan is going to ‘Throw people over the bus’. It was a confusing story about being on the bus, in the bus and under the bus. He doesn’t look too beefy, so I’d like to see his over the bus lob.

Into the boardroom they all traipsed to the usual Lord Sugar homilies about not wanting wasters on the show. He managed to shoehorn in Brexit quite neatly ‘ I decide who remains and I decide who leaves’. If only it were that simple. Brexit that is.

In a small twist from the usual format, five of the previous winners were wheeled in, though only three of them got to talk about the success they’d had since working with HRH Sugar. Not awkward at all for the other two who just stood there like shop dummies.

There was an immediate improvement to the format – the teams had to choose their PM there and then rather than spending the first two hours of the task seeing who was prepared to accept the poisoned chalice of the first project manager role: Danny for the men’s team and Sarah for the women’s.

The task

The task – to make and sell burgers to the public and trade and the team with the most profit wins. Nice and simple.

But first – the painful task (for us) of choosing a company name.
The women’s team got there pretty fast, having discarded Victorious Secret. Good play on words, but not terribly useful. They settled on Graphene – a two dimensional layer of carbon consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms but which is 150 times stronger than the equivalent weight of steel and with a multitude of uses. I’m going to focus on the two dimensional aspect though as I suspect this may be true of most of the candidates (ouch!).
The men inched more painfully to Vitality – via one bright spark suggesting Penultimate. Luckily he was shouted down by the rest of the team as it means the second to last. Though an apt name for this task as it turned out.

On to the burgers. With the name Vitality, the men could only go with choosing a healthy option for the burgers and appropriately chose buffalo and turkey as their meats, both being low in fat and cholesterol.
Graphene plumped for a luxury burger and then picked beef and chicken. ‘How would they make them luxurious?’ mused Karren. Good point, well made.
Having chosen the offering and the location for selling Siobhan made a near fatal mistake suggesting that the women who went to Canary Wharf had to appeal to the men. Subtext – only send the pretty ones. Karren wasn’t having any of it and challenged her on the spot. Cue much blustering from Siobhan who clearly knew she couldn’t actually say send the pretty ones without getting an exocet.

Given the girls were going for luxury, it seemed odd that they rejected chicken for £6.60 a kilo in favour of some skankier meat at £4 per kilo which Michaela managed to push down to £3.60.
All very well if they then oomphed it up with wonderful herbs and other stuff to make it taste delicious. They didn’t. Adding a brioche bun with a bit of extra topping was the luxury element apparently.
Sarah organised the production team well and it all looked like Elizabeth was super efficient with an organised system in place. Until they realised she’d got the proportions wrong and the mixture ended up rather gloopy and unburger like. Having solved that, they proceeded at great pace to produce, and wrap the burgers and head out the door to Canary Wharf having also established what they were going to charge for their bites of luxury.
Sarah did make the error of putting Siobhan and Elizabeth together on cooking duties as Siobhan had already decided Elizabeth was a muppet and they bickered with each other endlessly. Elizabeth didn’t endear herself to Siobhan by calling her Sinead. Those two will never be friends…

Back at the production location for the men – things were progressing rather slower with a lot of faffing around (or faffling as Siobhan likes to call it). Much angst over the labels, much bluster about who was doing what and little action on the patty making. Danny’s management style seemed to be to ignore everyone and shout loudly at every opportunity. Details, schmetails should be his strapline. Pricing? Nah, don’t bother with that – we can work that out on the phone later.

It eventually dawned on them after making about 10 patties (ok, so I’m under exaggerating for effect), that it was well past lunch time and they ought to get out there and start selling.
By the time they reached Brixton it was like a ghost town. They managed to sell one burger – one that just contained lettuce. Did they make an alternative plan? No. They just milled about moaning and shouting at the sub team. Charles who was in charge of the sub team was trying to work out the pricing. Not well admittedly, but the only one to do it. And had abuse hurled at him from all sides with Danny screaming down the phone at him and his sub team mates shouting at him to stop and make burgers. He had accusations of not listening to others in the boardroom, but to be honest, no-one was listening to him.

Eventually they moved to Shoreditch and started to sell at gone 4pm. Can you see where this is going yet?

The sub team on Graphene were having a few issues of their own. Mostly bitching about the pitching and who said what, when and to whom. And then gave away burgers for £2 a pack before the buyer had even chance to take breath. No surprise when he bit their arm off.
And that was before the madness of the real price cutting in the dying 30 minutes of the task. 10 packs for a fiver. Bargain!

The Boardoom

So to the boardroom for the first blood letting.
Graphene had done pretty well, garnering a profit of £237 despite their burgers looking like a ‘constipated tortoise’. I’ve never seen one myself, but as descriptions go it pretty much did what it said on the tin.
Team Vitality had none and made a shameful loss of £114.

Danny was accused of not being decisive and then immediately proved it by changing his mind over who he brought back in with him. Charles was no surprise, but he also brought back Elliott (after a last minute Harrison swerve) who’d sold a massive two burgers but was still outraged at being picked. Obviously!
They failed for a number of reasons:

  • Danny was hopeless as a project manager. As someone who works in manufacturing, this should have been the perfect task for him.
  • They hadn’t considered pricing
  • They missed the lunchtime selling slot – prime selling time.
  • Arguably Brixton was a poor location
  • Too much muppetry all round

I did feel Charles was the target of unjustified criticism – he was the only one who considered pricing. Only time will tell if he actually is as annoying as the others claimed.
Thankfully (for me anyway) Danny was fired. Never mind him not being very good, he seriously irritated me, so it was absolutely the right decision as far as I was concerned.

And so the sun set on the first task in the search for Lord Sugar’s next Apprentice. I’m marginally more hopeful about this lot than last year with Sarah getting off to an excellent start. Undoubtedly the ‘characters’ will emerge over time, but I shall be keeping my eye on Siobhan who seems a bit of an egotistical, opinionated handful. Let’s hope there are a few more with a bit of gumption, otherwise I may start pining for Karthik the monobrow.

Next week – Interior design at a high end hotel. What could possibly go wrong…

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.