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The Apprentice gives another lesson in cost management

I guess it’s proof that this form of reality TV is still kicking. I was wrong and should have listened to the chat on Twitter after the first dull episode (to quote @boundaryit: “It always takes a few weeks to get going – too much noise to begin with.”). Kudos, Sir Alan.

The task was an interesting one: come up with two original and natural body care products, manufacture them and sell them to the public.

Sir Alan mixed up the teams and selected Noorul as team leader of Ignite and Paula as team leader of Empire.

Can I just say right now that it’s not an overstatement to declare Noorul to be the most irritating, insipid, uninspiring man on the face of the planet. My. God. I wanted to punch his lights out several times. He looked as though he was going to cry throughout the episode, couldn’t make a decision and was generally as charming as a plank of wood. No, wait. A plank of wood would be more charming. I can unequivocally say that I would rather have dinner with a plank of wood than with Noorul.

Okay, back on point. Sir Alan flagged early on that keeping down costs would be key. In fact, the bearded one said the product should cost pennies but be sold for pounds. This is important.

Both teams decided on soap and shower gel as their products with Empire selecting seaweed as its natural substance to be included in the wares and Ignite opting for honey.

The point of high drama came when Paula and Yasmina (who, along with Ben, was asked by Paula to help keep an eye on costs because that wasn’t her strong point), got the sandalwood and cedarwood mixed up. This would obviously not normally be a big deal but it is when one – sandalwood – is worth some £1200/litre and the other a fraction of that cost. Guess what – they chose the sandalwood.

Forget the bum slapping of episode three, this was total head slapping time. Nick, god bless him, created arguably the funniest moment when he pointed out the mistake later. Yasmina looked like she was about to throw up then Nick (oh you rogue, Nick!) said with arched eyebrow: “I’ll leave it with you.”

Back with Ignite, Phil (who we discovered at the beginning of the episode enjoys the “odd cosmetic here and there”) was a cranky, cranky man. Kimberly was doing his head in with her indecisiveness. “Get off the fence,” he screamed. We’re with you, Phil.

Against all odds, Empire produced a pretty good-looking product. Well made, nicely presented. Ignite’s honey soap, on the other hand, was a bit (how shall we say?) rubbish. It was literally a piece of soap with a chunk of gooey honey in it. Apparently it went okay, though. Mona tested it in a totally gratuitous bikini shot. Hmmmm.

Empire’s main selling spot was Notting Hill and they picked it perfectly. Paula doubled the price of the product when she realised the costing error but the posh folk wandering Portobello Road didn’t mind. In fact, the team ended up increasing the price! Cheeky.

Ignite sold at Camden Lock where the £5 price tag was perfect for the location. Noorul, Mona and Lorraine (who’s as tenacious as a really annoying, tenacious, yappy dog) also sold at Carnaby Street. Correction: Mona and Lorraine sold, Noorul did not sell a thing. Not one thing! He then moved to Bond Street to see if he could sell better there (he couldn’t). And then the team went to Camden to meet up with the others and sell the rest of the stuff.

Just prior to this, the Camden crew called Noorul to allow them to discount the price to shift more stock. Noorul wasn’t having a bar of it, leading Phil to chuck a major tantrum. Hilarious to watch.

Both teams managed to get rid of all of their stuff ahead of their boardroom meeting with Sir Alan. At the showdown it was revealed Ignite made £900.85 worth of sales and spent £406.88 on production, leaving them with £433.97 profit.

Paula’s costing mistake came back to bite her on the arse: Empire had sales of £1073.20 but the stuff cost £1141.24 to make, leaving the team with a loss of £68.04. Oops.

At this point I was vainly hoping for a twist. Surely, SURELY Sir Alan would say: “Yeah, so Empire won but Noorul – you’re such a toolkit, you’re going to be hauled in front of me as well as Paula and one other.”

There was no twist. Instead, Paula predictably brought Ben and Yasmina into the boardroom with her.

I’ll be honest – I wanted Ben to go. He is a twit. For example, he brought up the fact he was offered a scholarship to Sandhurst as proof of his leadership skills. He is so far up himself, only his bootlaces are showing. He makes me use rude words (in the privacy of my own home, of course) to describe how little I like him. Given the choice, I’d rather have dinner with a plank of wood than with Ben. Fact.

However, Sir Alan failed me again. He saved Yasmina first, telling her she needed to be project manager another time to prove her worth. Paula, while a lovely lady, showed she couldn’t talk the talk and failed to convince Herr Sugar that she deserved a place in the luxury Victoria apartment. Ben was saved and Paula was fired.

And despite the rage over Noorul and Ben, Real Business can say with certainty that we’re looking forward to next week.

Related articlesThe Empire doesn’t strike backThe Apprentice: who went” who stayed The Apprentice: Rocky gets fired.


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