Before the final even began it was clear that Jim was a great salesman, Helen was a fantastic organiser, Susan was very young and entrepreneurial and Tom was creative, but nice.
The final turned out to be an exhaustive and exhausting interview for the candidates feedback from which gave Lord Sugar an unbiased view of the candidates.
The interviewers were joined with a very welcome return by Margaret Mountford. The full line-up of interviewers/advisers was Claude Littner, Mike Soutar and Matthew Riley and of course Margaret.
The interviewers soon had the candidates on the ropes. Susan because she’d optimistically forecast a profit of over £1 million in the first year. To be fair to Susan her plan did show costings, but didn’t appear to include the cost of testing for the creams that she wanted to launch. She had put a line in her costings for legal and Patent of £6,000 which would probably cover the majority of the testing costs. However, the testing costs weren’t explicit. Personally I’d have asked her what she meant by the line: “Product research and expertise – £4,000.” After all isn’t she the expert and didn’t she say that she’d already got 4 products in mind?
Margaret made short work of Jim when she said she’d never seen a longer application form She also pointed out that clichés were spread out all over his (long) business plan. And when asked to summarise what he was about without a cliché, Jim marvellously said that he was what it said on the tin! Jim was pulled up about his business name “AMSmart. And as Nick Hewer later points out the business plan is basically “one long seduction letter” set out to charm Lord Sugar. And when asked how many head teachers Jim had interviewed to see whether they would sign up for the business Jim said. “Direct delivery of this is time consuming, it’s labour intensive.” Jim is asked the question again and replies, “In Northern Ireland the uptake on direct delivery is very high.” Then when asked for numbers, Jim says, “I haven’t divulged the nature of eLearning.” The bottom line is that he hasn’t done any research about eLearning in schools.
Meanwhile Tom was hit over the head with fact that he’d not mentioned the word “chair” in his plan when that was pretty much what it was all about. He also managed to make a complete mess of his figures so they just didn’t add up. Tom admitted that he’d created a prototype so he an idea of probable costs. To which Claude retorted that he hadn’t mentioned the prototype and apologising for the lack was pointless! Later Tom is asked about a previous employer who said Tom wasn’t a starter/finisher.
And then the interviewers got to Helen. Helen is marvellously professional. I’m not sure whether that makes for good TV because you can’t always gauge what she’s thinking. Anyway, the advisers weren’t overly impressed by Helens business plan. As they pointed out to run a concierge service for people you need contacts. Helen’s business sector is food and really she needed to address exactly how she would get the contacts she needed in the business plan. She wanted to be the market leader, which is going to be tough against the raft of already established concierge services. Helen was also aiming at the mass market and I’d argue whether there would be enough people in a mass market to afford a concierge service. One example Helen gave was a reminder for dentist appointments. My dentist also texts me reminders. An obvious way to ensure that they reduce no-shows. So I, and probably many others, don’t need such a service. Then Helen’s asked to show her human side by telling a joke. When she eventually thinks her joke it did actually make me laugh. The joke? Simply, “A fish is swimming along. And he swims straight into something. He goes, ‘oh, dam!’”
Jim summed it up when he said that being interviewed was like a “walk in the park” with people shooting at you and throwing hand grenades at you too. Looking at the other candidates you could see they probably felt that way too!
The advisors consensus was that Jim was “slippery” and trying to get details from him was like “trying to nail custard to the ceiling” and clichés “cascaded from his lips” like “there was no tomorrow.”
Lord Sugar points out the impracticality of offering a back checking service to businesses. After all who would pay for it?
Pretty quickly Lord Sugar fires Jim, recognising him as a good salesman, but ultimately not as a business partner.
When Lord Sugar turns to Helen he expresses his disappointment, as she hasn’t come up with a business plan which doesn’t play to her own industry knowledge.
Then he points out that Susan hasn’t really looked at the real costs of the business she wanted to go into Lord Sugar with. So he fires her. Although he notes that Susan is one to watch.
There is further discussion, including Helen dumping her original business plan and saying she had a backup plan that is in her industry relating to chain of bakery stores.
Lord Sugar appears to be impressed by Tom’s story of how he got into Walmart.
Finally, Lord Sugar hires Tom.
Was the hiring fair?
As Lord Sugar said Helen would have definitely won the original format of The Apprentice. However, in the new format he was looking for an entrepreneur and preferably someone with the ability to think of new products. And so in reality the two that had shown the most entrepreneurial flair were Tom and Susan. With Susan out of the picture Tom is an obvious winner.
I think that there’s a good chance that the business Lord Sugar set-up could be successful. However, I think it would be even more successful if they had Helen as the manager because things would get organised and done. Helen would also make sure that Tom finished things!