Interviews

The Apprentice 2018, Episode 9 review - What “real” entrepreneurs think of the candidates this week

23 min read

29 November 2018

We all know what Lord Sugar thinks of his Apprentice stars, but what do the entrepreneurs operating outside of the show think of his latest and greatest?

This week’s episodes sees The Apprentice team head back down to our nation’s capital to try a spot of ‘TV shopping’.

Summoned to the iconic former headquarters of the BBC TV Centre in west London, the icy Lord Sugar informed the gang about their latest, and arguably most challenging…well, er…challenge.

They were told that in just ten hours they will be selling live to the nation on one of Britain’s leading TV shopping channels. The teams had this remaining time to discover what products they think would be best to sell. They were also tasked with putting their ‘director’s cap’ on to devise a promo to boost the sales of one of their selected items, with the team generating the most sales winning the day.

So who got the sack this week? Well, it was only a double-whammy! Jackie Fast and Tom Bunday were the victims of a shock double-eviction from the House of Sugar. Sad news indeed.

This came despite Tom, and his team filming a great promo video, but they were let down by his below-par selling abilities. This sad affair marked the third time Tom had failed as a project manager meaning he was booted out of the boardroom faster than Sugar was able to point his shaking-with-indignation corporate finger at him.

But what was possibly the weirdest outcome of the episode was Jackie’s firing. As despite receiving praise from Sugar, she was fired anyway, as, according to the mogul, she has the funds to start her own business, and presumably doesn’t need to win the show?

So, from ‘wannabe bizcelebs’ to real-time entrepreneurs, let’s look at what the later had to say about this, the latest episode…

-Table of Contents-

Charlie Johnson, CEO & Founder – BrighterBox

“Oh s*&*! Hello!”

 I really hope the contestants were on live TV after the watershed! Three strikes for Tom saw him leave the boardroom this week and, however likeable a guy he is, the reality is that his results just weren’t good enough. Lord Sugar’s decision was a straightforward one.

He seems very credible and took on responsibility – but never truly excelled to the point of being a genuine contender.

“I’ve got the chat, I’ve got the looks and the quiff.” Makes you realise how professional the shopping channel presenters are when even the smooth-talking Daniel found the task tough – made harder without the support of a promo video!

Sarah Ann’s horse-racing commentary showed a lack of poise and inability to sell, I think she could be in the firing line next week if things don’t go in her favour and she ends up on the losing team.

Sian’s bold approach nearly backfired – if she’d stuck to what she knows – lower value retail products –, and picked out their main selling points (such as the leather bag being a great price and made out of leather!) then her team would have likely won by a greater margin.

There is, of course, a certain ruthlessness required in business, but Jackie took it to a whole new level with her calculated play to push Tom forward as project manager.

I totally agree with Claude – Jackie is brilliant – but star players can sometimes be the most disruptive if they don’t connect with the rest of their team. Fair play to Camilla and Khadijah for calling her out on it – attack is the best form of defence sometimes – and Jackie’s decision to position herself as a proven success massively backfired, as it let the other two showcase their ambition and potential.

There’s a reason the show is called the Apprentice!

Amanda Augustine, Career Advice Expert – TopCV

Another week has come and gone for Lord Sugar’s candidates to show off their business acumen. This week’s task, to curate and sell fine art to a corporate client and the public, initially felt like one the candidates could get their teeth stuck into.

However, we saw many of the same mistakes from weeks gone by. From speaking over each other (*cough* Jasmine), to failing to share vital client information, the teams struggled to work as a team and communicate effectively.

Listening and being attentive to the client was a major element of the challenge. Listening is a skill, almost a fine art you could say, which many of the candidates have yet to master.

Collaborative failed to relay the overarching messages from the client brief to the sub-team, which resulted in the wrong choice of product. Whether you are selling yourself, a product or a service, it’s vital you understand who you are selling to and what it is they are looking for.

While the team managed to lock in the client sale eventually, this had more to do with the rapport Sian had built in the initial consultation than on the strength of the product.

When making a long-term, expensive purchase, a client will no doubt expect a bit of schmoozing. Jasmine, however, demonstrated what can happen when you mishandle a delicate situation – almost reacting in glee when she needed to inform the corporate client that she had sold their preferred piece from under their nose.

The client should have been treated like they were the most special people in the room – not as an afterthought. 

Ironically, given she didn’t handle this situation well at all, Jasmine’s biggest downfall was perhaps the fact that she’s too ‘corporate’ in her approach and, unfortunately, that doesn’t suit every task. In business you have to be a chameleon and adapt to whatever the situation requires.

That said, I was still surprised to see Jasmine leave over Sabrina. I feel she had a more solid foundation to build on than Sabrina, who showed her immaturity this week, sometimes forcing issues too much and coming across as unprofessional as a result.

As for Tom, maybe he has a phenomenal business plan. Because, with no sales and very little contribution, Lord Sugar must know something we don’t!

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Stacey MacNaught, Content Marketing Consultant – StaceyMacNaught.co.uk

Stacey MacNaught - Content Marketing Consultant

The long-awaited double firing finally happened. But I was disappointed to see Jackie in the firing line.

I think either team could have lost this week. There were weaknesses in both. But the one thing the winning team did well, that the losing team did particularly badly was choosing the right presenters.

Tom chose himself and Khadija to present and they both looked awkward and uncomfortable throughout. I’m not sure I would have bought anything from them!

The choice of presenters was about the only thing I thought Sian got right though. She was a bit gung-ho in her product choices and there didn’t appear to be much thought behind them.

The standout candidate, for me, was Daniel. His presentation skills translated well to screen and despite the high-pressure nature of the situation, he did a decent enough job.

On the other hand, Tom was awkward and Khadija not much better either. The idea of those presenting while Jackie sat on the sidelines was really bizarre for me.

Tom was the poorest candidate and his immediate firing was deserved. He’s just not cut out for presenting and he was weak in delegating tasks.

I think it was the right call to fire him. But while Jackie certainly didn’t have her strongest week, I don’t think she should have gone. She has been amongst the most consistent.

The key takeaway lesson this week is in choosing the right people for the job. There’s no point having a team if you don’t delegate the responsibilities based on their strengths and weaknesses and Tom paid the price for his failure to do so this week.

Paul Rowlett, CEO/Founder – EverythingBranded.co.uk

It’s the shopping channel challenge, immortalised by Saira Khan and Hardeep Singh Kohli’s epic meltdown over the wolf fleece all those years ago. The products are classics, the pace is brutal, and holding your nerve is everything.

In a warehouse crammed with interchangeable budget bargains, the challenge was not so much what to choose but how to schmooze.

Tom, dead man walking, plonked himself straight into the tiger trap set by a smiling Jackie and accepted his last ticket to ride as PM. Third time lucky? Sadly not. Uncomfortable viewing as Tom stumbled his way through every pitch, his go-to adjective for everything being ‘amazing’ and his unstinting praise for the pug mug peaking at ‘generic’.

The production panel had cause to yip at both Tom and Khadija for wasting time with ‘dead air’, gallantly refraining from using the phrase ‘dead weight’ which was equally applicable.

The tables were smartly turned on Jackie who had engineered Tom’s downfall so well the team crashed and burned, culminating in her own execution. It prompted Lord Sugar to declare she was already ‘a semi oak tree’ and he preferred to work with ‘acorns’.

Jackie’s eyes burned with the realisation that she had overplayed her hand, revealing herself to be not just talented and capable but slightly too manipulative to be trusted. Lord Sugar can recognise a liability at 20 paces and made a bid for the hills, leaving Jackie bemused.

She is a brilliant saleswoman and would have taken the team to glory without question. But she let herself down by playing games rather than focusing on what was best for business.

Team Collaborative is now whittled down to two traumatised survivors, Camilla and Khadija, who emerged from the boardroom bloodbath by the skin of their teeth, their squealing protests likened by Lord Sugar to “two tom cats trapped in a bag”.

Meanwhile, Typhoon, headed by Sian, limped to victory with a dismal £130 margin. This despite the flat-out insistence of the PM that they were going to gamble with a pair of gold earrings festooned with diamond chips starting at the knockdown price of £2,958.

“We only need to sell one pair” boomed Sian to an ever more jittery Sabrina, oblivious to the fact that a bid does not constitute a contract. This is the kind of research that makes or breaks a winning result. Even the king of patter Daniel couldn’t manage to keep the motor running for the few seconds of air time needed to sell each product. 

Apart from the earrings gaffe, Typhoon was further hampered by Sarah Anne’s hectic promo video for the super-scrubber, delivered at triple speed in a car park as they had forgotten to bring the products with them.

The video was too poor to be used, not least because SJ repeatedly called the brush by a variety of names including ‘spin stopper’. Another lesson in prep, research and staying calm.

Conclusion: ‘dead air’ Tom was on his last warning, and Jackie let herself down. The right people went.

However, Sian’s victory was very slender and there was little to choose between the teams this week, with each side falling flat through lack of prep, lack of strategy and lack of organisation. 

Martin Talbot, Group Director – Total Jobs

What the winning team did well?

Working together and following instructions meant team Collaborative claimed another win in this task. Decisive leadership from PM Sian meant everyone understood their individual roles and were reassured that someone felt comfortable being held accountable for the final decisions. Real enthusiasm from all team members was also commendable, which was vital for this high energy TV-selling challenge. 

What the losing team did badly?

Internal conflict and a lack of accountability resulted in another loss for Team Typhoon. Lord Sugar’s double-firing was a clear sign that the team performed badly both on an individual and team level. Nobody was on the same page, and this was reflected in the boardroom.

The team also really suffered from Jackie’s lack of engagement, so following her exit, I hope to see the team pull together and approach the next challenge with a revived attitude and positive energy. They certainly need something to change to compete next week.

Which candidate stood out in a good way?

Sian led her team to victory with a strong and clear management style. She showed no signs of hesitation at any point, and this inner strength and self-belief was great to see. Every team needs a leader with a clear vision and the ability to communicate this to the wider team. I was impressed with how Sian stood by decisions throughout, despite knowing the outcome might lead to being fired if she was wrong.

Which candidate stood out in a bad way?

Jackie’s game plan led to her downfall. She deliberately took a step back, removing herself from all accountability and any kind of contribution, to the detriment of team morale and their overall success.

She’s shown signs of strong attributes over the weeks, but last night it became clear that not only could Lord Sugar not work with her, nobody else could either.

What lessons and takeaways can budding entrepreneurs and small business owners take from this episode?

A key takeaway from the TV-selling task is the importance of remaining personable and relatable – both on and off-screen. Mastering this skill is a great way to showcase your best professional self at all times.

I would encourage you to be confident in yourself and your expertise, as well as demonstrating your strengths, and this will make you far more appealing to a potential employer or business partner.

Finally, I believe all candidates looking for a new job or business opportunity can’t achieve success alone. Being a lone wolf will not lead to long-term success, no matter how credible or impressive you are as an individual.

Those who can work proactively within a team and adapt their skillset to work in tandem with others should consider this a real asset that is worth highlighting, particularly at an interview stage.

Linda Davies Carr, Business Turnaround Coach – TheMasterFixer.com

Lord Sugar really mixed it up for this challenge for a cringe-worthy TV show and an impactful double firing episode ending. The challenge – sell live on one of the leading shopping channels. The added challenge was to source products with potential and to perfect their presentation skills.

The teams were “balanced” and Daniel and Sarah-Ann went to Typhoon and Tom was reassigned fateful to Collaborative leaving some of the strongest candidates together for an explosive episode.

Everyone in Collaborative wanted to be Project Manager, but in a sudden, and in my opinion a manipulative, tactical move and fateful twist Jackie threw her weight behind Tom. Even Karren Brady raised an eyebrow as, even though he was by his own admission the only person on the team who had never bought anything from a shopping channel.

Sian took a risk went high end and completely ignored Sabrina’s viewpoint both on the choice of jewellery and the raincoat. Would you buy high-end jewellery from a shopping channel? Tom’s selling technique was wooden and pitchy – he was the pug in the mug!

Jackie and Camilla were in agreement in pitching low end and volume sales.

The promos videos were tragic and Sarah’s speed talking and distressed performance it wasn’t a surprise that it was viewed as too poor quality and wasn’t used.

Although Daniel’s promotional video was poor he really excelled on screen despite Sian barking orders at him. Sarah-Ann and Daniel worked well together their banter was good. Sian;’s summary was good she was bold, she took a risk and although not a greater listener so stayed focused and on purpose.

The win although a close result was still a win!  Tom’s quick fired exit by Lord Sugar – three times a PM and three tasks lost was an easy decision. This left the 3 girls in the firing line, fighting for survival.

Although brilliant, Jackie was manipulative and I felt that Lord Sugar maybe didn’t feel he could mould her as he likes to. He prefers to work with small businesses and Jackie is older and just too well established.  

The most important takeaway for me from episode 9 this week for everyone irrespective of owning a business or being an entrepreneur is know what your customer wants! Ultimately Lord Sugar is the customer and clearly wants an “acorn” who is in their 20s.

He likes working with younger business partners and moulding them and their small businesses.

My top three takeaways from the episode are:

  • There is never a good reason to be aggressive.  
  • People make decisions based on what they experience and observe.
  • No one respects manipulation.