The Apprentice – The Final, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”

Its the grand(eur) final of The Apprentice 2012 which is being screened on a miserable Diamond Jubilee Sunday for some reason.

There isn’t a task to decide who wins from the final four; just an endless round of torturous interviews conducted by Señor Sugar’s Spanish Inquisition who will tear the contestants applicants, CVs and business plans asunder.

The remaining four are Nick, Tom, Jade and Ricky. Whilst writing about this show for the last 12 weeks, I’ve changed my thoughts on who I think is going to emerge victorious. I started in the early weeks backing Tom who was very impressive; calm under pressure and a man who always seemed to see the bigger picture.

And then when Tom seemed to prefer getting battered with Adam on fizzy plonk, Nick emerged as a contender, having sailed through the process relatively unscathed. Nick’s IT skills set him apart and like Tom, he seemed to be one of the few contestants to have some business nous.

Jade has scraped through and isn’t a serious contender, surely. She spent most weeks bickering with Adam and I’m not sure Lord Sugar could put up with that Carol Thatcher voice for long.

After initially backing Tom and then switching my allegiance to Nick, for the final few weeks I think Ricky has emerged as the most likely victor. He has grown from being a bombastic show pony in the opening few weeks to the most business savvy contestant left in the process. He single handedly won last week’s posh stuff task by presenting impressively to Bulldog and the rest of the panel.

Wouldn’t it be Good

From 16 down to 4, and did we mention the £250k investment? Sith Sugar arrives to tell the quartet that they have 48 hours to polish up their business plans. Surely after living in a house playing virtual hopscotch on a Wii for 3 months, the contestants wouldn’t choose now to work on their business plans?

The Lord asks the contestants to explain in simple terms exactly what their incredible business plans behold.

Nick’s idea is an online platform to revolutionise grocery shopping so that you can buy all the items on a recipe with one click. My girlfriend thinks this is too niche and will only appeal to the middle-class Waitrose shopper. But I was standing in Asda only a couple of weeks ago thinking, ermm, I fancy something with prawns. I clicked on the BBC good food website and found this great paella recipe for Spanish rice with prawns & chorizo.

Now, I like to think I’m a fairly modern man and although I’m not a prolific cook I can usually find my way around a supermarket for stuff to eat. However, when trying to collect ingredients for this dish I was stumped by saffron. Saffron? Where do I find that little chap?

It was then that I thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could press a button and locate all the ingredients in the supermarket. A kind of shop-nav.

Nick’s idea goes one step further and you can pick all the ingredients from the comfort of your own home. I thought it was a cracking idea but still couldn’t convince my better half.

And when we see that Jade wants to open the world’s largest call center, Tom wants to get involved in wine hedge funds and Ricky waffles on about an ethical technical recruitment company; I’m thinking that surely Nick must be the front runner?

Wide Boy

So lets see who Alan has lined up to grill the fantastic four. We have the returning lovely Margaret Mountford who has a PH.D in papyrology don’t you know, and recently appeared in dictionary corner on Countdown with her fellow co-star Nick Hewer in the hotseat.

Then we have Mike Souter the man behind Shortlist magazine and Matthew Riley a former young entrepreneur of the year who has built a telecoms company worth £350m. I’m bound to get those unfamiliar faces mixed up as the night goes on, but the same can’t be said for king of the killer question, Claude Littner, chairman of Viglen.

Claude is probably most famous for tearing to shreds the most ludicrous contestant ever seen on the Apprentice, the man, the brand that is Stuart Baggs. When Claude asked Baggs, “why do you want a job with Lord Sugar?” Baggs replied, “Because I’m a big fish in a small pond”. Claude destroyed him with, “You’re not a big fish. You’re not even a fish.”

The Riddle

This week’s show is fast moving and the contestants are quickly in and out of interviews. So, I’ll try and keep up and see if I can summarise how each contestant performed with their perspective interviewer.

Jade ‘Anti-Adam’ Nash

Jade fails to convince any of the four that a huge cold calling call center, where the general public are bothered day and night and convinced to consolidate their debts into one easy solar panel payment, or something, would be a good idea.

Because lets face it, we all love to have to answer the phone whilst eating dinner to talk about changing energy tariffs don’t we?

Matthew Riley spotted that Jade called herself ‘an incredible business women’, on her application and wanted to know if she had any formal business qualifications. It transpires that that Jade failed business at ‘A’ level which she left off her CV.

Of course we all know that rule number one is to fill your CV to the brim with negativity. For instance, on my CV I forgot to mention under ‘achievements’  in 1999 I misspelt balloon, ‘baloon’ and ended up having to get 200,000 flyers reprinted at quite a considerable cost. I must remember to amend my CV to include that little gem.

Claude was “pretty underwhelmed” by Jade’s CV and business plan and described her proposal as a “pretty grubby little business”, and “unsavory”. He also pointed out her lack of details for her cash flow, balance sheet the fact that Jade projected to spend all of the Sith’s £250k investment in just six months.

Worse was to come for Jade as Margaret asked her about her constant job hopping and Mike Souter asked her about the 4 website domain names she had purchased for her business. It transpires she didn’t own one of them, www.chooseenergysupplier.co.uk and Mike the little scamp has purchased it, ouch.

Nick ‘Boris Johnson’ Holzherr

After the character assassination of Jade, we see Nick flung into the lion’s den.

Margaret kicks off with a rather lame attempt to knock Nick for mentioning ‘intelligence’ on his CV a couple of times. We also find out that Nick is Swiss and didn’t own a TV or still a mirror by the look of that hair.

Claude then gives Nick a further shoeing by describing Nick’s business plan as an academic exercise. I’m guessing they are struggling to find the ammo to tear Nick apart like Jade.

Nick explains to Claude in layman terms what his business plan is to which Claude says, “do I care?” and goes on to describe Nick’s idea as “irrelevant”. Nick retorts by claiming his idea could be a Google or a Facebook, which it isn’t, but you can’t blame a lad for dreaming eh? Nick describes his altercation with Claude as like being in a war zone. I bet our lads over in Hellman province must really feel for him eh?

Matthew Riley also misses the point with Nick’s idea. Why are they being so obnoxious? I love Nick’s idea, especially after my Asda paella experience. Matthew also asks Nick if he is smoking something when he already has a successful business that he isn’t focusing on and why is he even sat there in the first place? How dare Nick want more than one successful business, someone call Richard Branson and tell the bearded fool to stick to ballooning.

Mike Souter questions Nick’s ambitious projections when Herr Flick tells him that after year 5, Lord Sugar could expect a whopping return of £145 million. Bottom line however is that Nick is going to ‘focus’ on being ‘focused’. Wise words.

Tom ‘awkward’ Gearing

Tom’s business idea is dull. Hedge funds? It’s hardly a curved nail file is it? Anyway Mike Souter starts the interrogation and we find out that at the ripe old age of 23 that this is Tom’s first ever interview. Blimey, I remember having my first interview at the age of 15, before Tom was even born, at the now defunct Texas HomeCare. Tom must have led a sheltered life.

Tom does however get a glowing job reference, albeit from his daddy, who is bound to say nice things about his son, given the fact his son is also his boss. Slightly condescending tone from Mike, basically asking if daddy did his homework though.

They are all impressed with Tom’s complicated business plan, even if they are suspicious about his father’s input.

Margaret asks Tom what ‘BNOC’ (big name on campus) at university is all about on his CV. I’m surprised that Tom wasn’t LTRV on campus (likely to receive violence) for writing something so appalling. Margaret failed to notice that Tom had also written that ‘people think I look like Olly Murs’. Forgive me, but unlike Tom, doesn’t Olly Murs smile from time to time?

Claude quizzes Tom how on earth he can gather £25m in funding when basically he is a pre-pubescent Olly Murs wannabe. It seems that at the age of 23, its very difficult to be taken seriously. Tom has also put on his personal statement, “I am entirely well-rounded and have….”. Now apart from being grammatically incorrect, how well rounded can you be at the tender age of 23? The simple answer is that you can’t. Nick describes his grilling by Claude as ‘stressful’, not quite the warzone scenario that Nick painted.

Finally Matthew Riley finds out that Tom has no business qualifications and no hedge fund experience. And that £25 million is a bit of a risk, but Tom is a gambler, so that’ll turn out ok then?

Ricky ‘Ravishing’ Martin

I’ve obviously saved the best to last. I’ve been looking forward to see how the most seemingly confident man on the planet fairs up in these interviews and the battle with Claude in particular.

First to face Ravishing Rick Rude in the squared octagon is Matthew Riley. He starts by telling Ricky that he opened his application and wanted to be sick. Good start. Lots of twitching and eyebrow raises the Rickster after that one.

He also questions Rick’s business acumen which Ricky retorts by saying he is the sledgehammer to go through walls, exciting stuff.

Margaret questions why Ricky has classified himself as Thor, the Nordic pantheon, and just how he will dethrone Lord Sugar the Godfather of business. She then asks if Ricky sees himself as a reincarnation of Lord Sugar. Now, forgive me here, but doesn’t someone need to be dead before they can be reincarnated?

Mike Souter drills into the fact that Ricky Martin’s real name is actually Richard Martin. Apparently he uses the name Ricky to be remembered in business. He should just turn up to meetings as his Wrestling alter-ego Ricky Hype, decked out in lycra, they wouldn’t forget him then.

After all the Hors d’oeuvres, we come to the main event of the evening – Ricky vs. Claude.

Claude has been looking forward to this one and describes Ricky’s personal statement as the most “Crass, obnoxious and infantile” he has ever read. Ricky has also described himself as Claude points out, as, “the best business partner on the planet”. This isn’t going well.

Further blows rain in from Claude as he points out that Ricky has said he will be able to “teach an old dog new tricks”, when it comes to partnering Alan Sugar on this venture. Ricky is metaphorically down on the canvas and admits that it was a mistake putting that on his application and that it was a very immature statement to make.

Ricky is floundering. Claude describes Ricky as an arrogant fool and is ready to climb on to the turnbuckle and slam Ricky out of this process all together.

But wait, Claude has read his business plan and is blown away. All the cobblers that Ricky wrote in his personal statement was simply aimed at getting him noticed. But Ricky has changed his ways and learnt that being a BNOTA didn’t really do him any favours.

Ricky proves he has done his research and is backing recruitment as a great investment. And as part of that sector, I’m backing Ricky all the way!

Nobody Knows

We are back in the boardroom, but with Alan’s confidantes and not the contestants just yet.

Ah, poor Alan, he’s a pensioner now don’t you know. I hope he has his fuel allowance sorted for winter. So, like a Xenophobic Eurovision judging panel, here are the votes:

Everyone still hates Jade’s call centre idea, with Alan’s quartet pointing out that Lord Sugar doesn’t really want his name associated with such an abhorrent practice. Mike Souter shows off a bit more about buying the missing URL and Claude annihilates her figures.

Karren and Margaret come out fighting with a bit of female solidarity for Jade only for Nick Hewer to stick the boot in.  Let’s face it, Jade doesn’t stand a chance.

Nick’s unconventional background is questioned and everyone thinks his business plan is almost too slick. Again, the panel miss the point and I’m wondering whether they are going to miss this opportunity to launch something quite brilliant, the fools!

Tom’s fine wine hedge fund is falling down because of the £25m needed to get the business off the ground. His age of 23 comes into question again, but Karren points out that she was running Birmingham City at the same age, although I can’t see Alan letting a 23 year old loose with £25m of other people’s money. He’ll be worried we’ll have another Nick Leeson on our hands.

Ricky got Claude so excited that he couldn’t sleep with excitement, in fact he was ‘mesmerized by the guy’.

Alan questions if candidates these days have to fill their CVs with, and I quote, ‘bullshit’, to get themselves noticed. The simply answer to that is no, nothing turns a recruiter off more that a convoluted CV full of buzzwords and bullshit.

Ricky’s business plan is strong and written in simple English and Claude’s words seem to carry the most weight with Alan Sugar. Claude is almost like the Simon Cowell of Alan’s advisors.

Human Racing

No numbers this week and no teams failing because they didn’t sell enough bikini strimmers or suitcases with legs. This is all about who impressed the Lord’s advisors and who has the best business plan.

The remaining four sit to hear their fate and Jade is immediately slaughtered by Alan for her business plan. Karren commends her enthusiasm, but picks holes in her numbers.

Alan then turns his attention to Tom who argues about investing his fine wines really well but I’m afraid if I focus on Tom too long I may fall asleep.

Ricky’s succession planning statement about teaching his old doggie Sugar some new tricks is torn apart from Alan, as is his bold statement that he is an icon in the pharmaceutical industry. But, bravado aside, Ricky’s business plan seems to make the most sense here and its looking like the Lord is beginning to agree.

Finally, the lord still doesn’t get Nick’s online platform to revolutionise grocery buying. Shame. I love it. Did I mention that? Nick does point out that the other three’s idea are not innovative which Ricky ‘ratchet jaws’ rebuffs by saying that he has learnt a bucket load during the process.

Jade is the first to get the finger of fate. Lord Sugar didn’t really want somebody ringing and talking to him about internet relationship providings, as he tries to watch Crimewatch with a paella on his lap.

I’m gutted to see Nick go next. The lord just doesn’t get all this new-fangled online business, after all its tricky to get his Amstrad on to the Waitrose website when he is spending all his time on his internet relationship providings. Nick may have been the love child of Boris Johnson and Harry Styles from One Direction, but his was the only idea that was exciting.

Your Brave Face

Down to the final two then; Ricky and Tom and we have two ideas; sensible and boring.

In the final conflab of the series, Nick Hewer describes Tom’s hedge fund idea as ‘electrically exciting’. That man has spent far too long presenting Countdown. Karren is firmly in Ricky’s corner, erring on the more cautious side of business.

When the lads are called back in, Tom is willing to reduce his ambitious £25 million target but does outline himself as a risk. Ricky claims he isn’t a risk.

So it’s either take a massive risk with Tom (the devil) or play it safer with the world of recruitment with Ricky.

And the lord says he is keeping to his ethos of keeping it simple and keeping it straight forward and plumps for Ricky with those immortal words, ‘You’re hired’.

It’s a shame that Ricky isn’t going head-to-head with Response because that would be a battle he would have had no chance in winning!

I hope you have enjoyed my reviews of the Apprentice. I’m glad to see Ricky emerge victorious and I wish him every success.

Remember you can follow all our blogs via our RSS feed here, or you can follow me on twitter at @job_blogger.

Nathan Lloyd

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Nathan Lloyd is the Group Marketing Manager of Response Web Recruitment.

Response are a flat-fee online recruitment company, which utilises a multi-channelled web-based approach to source talent for companies. Accessing job boards, social media and online recruitment CV databases, their mission is to drive down the cost-per-hire for their clients and save them a considerable amount of time and money on their recruitment processes.

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