The Apprentice Blog: Expert opinions from those in the know (Week 4)
Fri, 13 Apr 2012
Our two former Apprentice contenders – Ellie Reed and Natasha Scribbins – blog on the fourth episode in this year’s series.
It’s Week 4 and The Apprentice meets Bargain Hunt with the two teams battling it out to make money from selling 2nd hand items found in the depths of bric-a-brac stores and car boot sales. Ricky is moved to Sterling (the previous girls’ team) and Jade is moved to Phoenix (the previous boys’ team) and PMs are decided. Fine wine importer Tom takes the lead for the boys, apparently without competition and Duane loses the vote to Laura five to zero. The fact she’s the only one running her own retail unit make her an obvious choice, and Duane was PM last week after all (he’s a very confident boy, that’s for sure!).
Tom (only 23) decides that Phoenix want to sell quality over quantity in their shop, and sends the sub team off with only £200 of their £1,000 budget (either because he doesn’t trust them enough or he’s hedging his bets by holding back more of the investment money – something Lord Sugar doesn’t usually like). Meanwhile on Sterling they decide to buy “as much crap as they can” and add value to it by adding chair legs, wheels, paint and various materials. With phrases such as “tart up” and “funky up” flying around like wildfire, Gabby is quick to step up to the role of head of creative (apparently she’s produced her very own limited edition stuff before). However there doesn’t seem to be any mention of budgets and so Gabby and Jenna go hell for leather ordering materials.
Over at Phoenix the teams are carefully selecting a few key pieces for their shop much to Nick Hewers disgust – apparently he’s all for the “buy a load of crap” model. However Adam and his team are left scavenging the bins out back at the auction mart, when they find they can’t bid for much with their tight-arsed budget. However later at the bric-a-brac store Stephen is well chuffed with the “hidden gems” they manage to find at the back of the shop, unaware that the shopkeeper is describing their purchases as “absolute rubbish”.
On Sterling, Laura’s team have bought up truckloads of crap including bits of old carpet and curtains from a home clearance. The creative team get to work like the “Elves and the Shoemaker” busily adding chair legs to suitcases resulting in items that wouldn’t look out of place in a Stephen King film – or a Doctor Who episode – or for those of you old enough in Willow the Wisp (as in evil Edna). It’s a big job for the team and I really feel for them. As they are sweating away upholstering and painting union jacks on things, team Phoenix are carefully placing their few chosen pieces in a 10 by eight room.
At 7.30am after getting dressed up to look hip (boys mainly clad in AllSaints) it’s back to the shops to start the selling, Sterling’s shop looks more like a building site than a retro shop with plenty more “Shabby Sheiking” (adding chair legs and union jacks) to be done and leaves to be laid (????) before they open. Meanwhile Phoenix’s “Retro Station” is doing well. The punters are clearly buying into the idea that less is more and that their shop is more exclusive (reminding me a bit of Harry Enfield’s ‘I saw you coming’ sketch). However stock is soon low, so Adam, Stephen and Jade head off to the car boots to pick up more.
On Sterling, Jane’s aggressive sales techniques (which are usually commended on The Apprentice) don’t appear to be working. Karen does not like her approach and makes this clear to the cameras. The Brick Lane crew are clearly not taken with the Union Jack style stuff describing it as cheep and tacky. Even the leaves on the floor don’t impress them! So with little time left Laura sends the team out with 10% off flyers, which seems to do the job, bringing in a sudden rush of people. On Phoenix Adam and Stephen are seen running through the streets with tables and chairs desperately re-stocking. The day comes to the end with the last Shabby Sheik punter loosing a chair leg off her designer suitcase-table – nowt a bit of no more nails can’t sort out!
So after a hard day’s graft for both teams its back to boardroom for the results. Again both team leaders are said to be good….before the results that is! Not surprisingly with only a £360 spend on key pieces (compared to Sterling’s £660 on crap and materials to make them crapper) Phoenix are declared winners. Tom’s cool manor, bold decision making and general tightness, along with a good lot of bartering from the others seems to have paid off so they head to a swing party to celebrate.
I have to say as Sterling head to the café I feel sorry for them. Lord Sugar traditionally likes teams to spend rather than save his investment money but unfortunately they just bought the wrong things. Over lukewarm tea the overall verdict is that too much money was spent on materials and the sales were too low. With this in mind back in the boardroom Laura is swayed by Karen’s observation of Jane’s aggressive and desperate sales techniques, along with fact she only sold £10 of stock, and so opts to ring her back in Gabby is the other victim blamed for overspending on chair legs etc.
So the boardroom fireworks begin. Gabby rightly points out that she took on the most responsibility and Laura, as team manager, should have kept an eye on costs at least. However Laura fires back saying she thought Gabby would have enough sense to buy only what was needed rather than excitedly overbuying the bright colours.... and chair legs. Meanwhile Jane sits quiet until Sugar turns to her repeating the observations from Karen. Jane retorts saying she “genuinely” worked hard and didn’t get the opportunity to sell as she was sent outside to bring people in and give out flyers (I can sympathise on that one as I was sidelined on the massage task). Anyway it appears Lord Sugar is swayed by Karen’s analysis and despite both Gabby and Jane saying Laura should go, for her lack of budgeting and management, Jane is the one in the taxi back home, after all it is his boardroom, his process, his money and his decision. Jane is teary in the taxi home but clearly as she is already a successful woman in terms of career and family she doesn’t need Lord Sugar – I’m genuinely sure she will be just fine.
Next week the two teams are developing fitness programs – I wonder if recruitment Ricky will bring a few wrestling moves into it???
We are still waiting, when Ricky Martin will take on the role of Project Manager – Come on Ricky! Although being tasked with selling vintage goods on East London’s Brick Lane, again may not be exactly in Ricky’s space, I am going to take the risk and say that I think he will be PM next week.
On team Sterling with Laura as Project Manager, again Ricky ever so slightly drifted into the background this week, a real shame after such an impressive Boardroom finale in the condiment task. Adding value to vintage cast offs found Ricky being reasonably directive about what to spend their budget on, a team player again! I am also noticing his ability to pick-up issues along the way such as pointing out that using the British Flag painted over the cast offs, was not a great idea! Unfortunately due to a mixture of over spending on materials, generally over spending and trying way too hard on the up-cycling of the stock…Ricky’s team Sterling had a Loss!
Ricky was not taken back into the Final three this week; the board room was filled with the ladies who provided a strong level of entertainment battling out who over spent the most, painted the most chairs, and sold the least amount on junk. In the end Jane was fired which I thought was the wrong decision as even though she did not shine in this particular task, she has a successful business already, and is a strong individual. It would have made more sense for Laura to have been fired as she was a weak Project Manager, and her contribution was not particularly great overall.
Come on Ricky for Project Manager next week!
Ellie Reed, who previously to appearing in last year’s series was a senior consultant with Beresford Blake Thomas, founded and now runs her own rec-to-rec business – Ellie Reed Consulting – in West Yorkshire and is also involved in motivational speaking in schools.
Natasha Scribbins made it to the final five contestants on last year’s Apprentice and is now group operations director EMEA at engineering recruiter Find the Engineer and rec-to-rec firm We are Recruitment. Both enterprises encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of recruitment by hiring consultants to work as associates.