The Apprentice: Was Lord Sugar out-witted?

With just eight candidates left, Lord Sugar decided to turn up at the house at 6am and give everyone a briefing in their pyjamas. The task was to source a list of nine products and buy them at the best possible price by 6.30pm that evening, with the team which purchased them at the lowest price being the winners.

Sugar also added that these items had all been products purchased over the last 10 years and it raised the question – has Lord Sugar or the producers run out of ideas? Did we not cover the tasks and products used in previous years in episode one? I appreciate these were different products – there have been a lot of products purchased over the last 10 years – but was there really a need to re-use this concept? Anyway, I digress…

The two lucky teams, now made up of Solomon, Bianca, Sanjay and Roisin (Summit) and Daniel, Katie, Mark and Felipe (Tenacity) voted in their leaders. Sanjay headed up Summit and, after a bit of argy bargee with Katie, Daniel got the PM spot for Tenacity.

The teams were given £1000 to buy the range of random goods, from scallops to skeletons and a diamond to rope. Their additional resources were a business directory and a map of London. It seemed Googling was out, which was a shame, as it would have made this tiring episode shorter. The teams were also to face fines if they didn’t get all of the goods, or if they arrived late back from the task.

Sanjay decided that planning was the secret to success and he certainly stuck by his belief. While Tenacity was out buying, Summit was planning, planning, planning – for a good two and a half hours.

Roisin seemed blinded by the sparkly concept of buying a diamond and irritated both me and her team by continually ignoring the advice to go to Hatton Garden and spent an hour or more phoning independent jewellers to no avail. Despite Sanjay’s planning protestations, somehow when he got on the road, there didn’t seem to be much of it and with three hours left Team Sanjay & Roisin still needed four items, frustrating efficient team mates Solomon and Bianca.

Meanwhile, Tenacity was storming to success with some decent negotiating and well planned execution. However, this is where the controversy was. Felipe found a build it yourself, anatomically correct, paper skeleton that fit the brief they were given and, enthusiastically backed by Daniel, they knocked a good couple of hundred pounds off the budget, purchased it and Tenacity headed back to the boardroom under budget, with all nine items and pretty pleased with themselves.

When they got there, Sugar was not impressed. To me he seemed ridiculously aggravated by Tenacity’s attempt to abide by the brief they were given in a way that he hadn’t envisaged and actually said he was “really, really angry” and that they were “taking the p*ss”.

Apart from his usual charm, Sugar said that the paper skeleton wasn’t what he wanted, but from my point of view, the trouble was, that he’d not specified in his brief that it had to be built or the materials it had to be made of and therefore, it was his fault if his brief was inadequately put together and didn’t deliver what he wanted. Communicating your brief effectively is a vital part of any business and as a business guru Sugar clearly knows this – to my mind, he didn’t like the innovative approach to the brief and therefore, in his role as God of The Apprentice, he quashed it, and Felipe along with it.

Despite Summit getting a fine for returning late and not sourcing one of the products, Tenacity still lost after a huge fine was imposed for the allegedly inadequate skeleton. Disappointingly Daniel back-tracked with embarrassing speed and tried to distance himself from Felipe to save himself, which (sadly) he did, despite it being his fourth visit to the boardroom.

As Sugar said, he’s “judge, jury and executioner” on The Apprentice and he thought Felipe was “attempting” to show him a “tactical piece of genius”, which in the end Sugar really, really disliked. But from my lowly, lay person point of view, it doesn’t mean the attempt failed, Sugar is just the man that makes all of the decisions, and perhaps, just perhaps, he didn’t like being out witted.

About Clare Bampton

Clare Bampton has nearly 20 years’ experience in PR and marketing and founded Derbyshire-based Bampton Communications Limited seven years ago following a career including Lloyds TSB, The Boots Company, TNT and British Waterways. Bampton provides practical, value-for-money PR and marketing services to a wide range of SMEs and marketing professionals across the UK.