The Apprentice: Week One

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The sixteen contestants, who were all highly confident in their introductory videos, enter the board room looking more than a little shaky, to learn that their inaugural task is a fairly simple one. Buy blank products, print anything they wish onto them and then sell them to the public at a profit. As usual, the team with the highest profit wins.

After establishing that it’s girls versus boys the teams head off to get started. The boys, team Phoenix, weren’t exactly forthcoming when it came to volunteering themselves for the role of project manager but after many awkward silences, Nick Holzherr offered himself up to a sea of congratulations and agreement.

At this point you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t call themselves team gutless. The girls, calling themselves team Sterling, instantly found Gabriella Omar volunteering for the role of PM.

With the official bits out of the way each team begin planning their strategy. Well, the boys plan a strategy and the girls just get going. Being serious for a minute, why would you go through such a grueling application process to then not be bothered enough to plan correctly? It’s moments like this that you find yourself questioning how some of the candidates made it this far.

Team Phoenix were very focused on the figures. They knew how much they wanted to spend, what their margin for each product was and how much profit they should come end up with when they reached the finish line. Organised? Very. However, being in possession of this valuable knowledge doesn’t mean anything when their designs were just so…I’m trying to think of a word that won’t offend readers…rubbish.

They planned to sell to tourists using the British theme but the terrible designs left a lot to be desired. The bag with the wording ‘This is a’ followed by a picture of a bus was one of the most pathetic and condescending things I’ve ever seen. In fact, I would have been more likely to buy one had they had ‘punch me’ written across them.

The lowest point for the boys came after making a trade sale. Before they had chance to relax, the buyer called them back and requested a refund due to the poor quality of the printing.

It’s just such a school boy error. If this is their way of displaying their business acumen then Lord Sugar should be very worried indeed. Quality control is a vital element when it comes to the manufacture of any product. Selling products that are under par give a bad impression of you and your business.

The girls sold well from their market stall but the sub team floundered when they got stuck in traffic heading for London Zoo. You could feel the tensions rising as Bilyana Apostolova seemed to take charge of selling at the zoo.

At this point I found myself wondering why the boys seemed to work so well as a team when it came to selling and yet the girls spent precious, limited time arguing over who would approach which family and criticising Bilyana for steaming ahead with the sales.

Why, when women are put into teams during this process, do they tend to compete against each other rather than work together? Yes there will only be one winner but to even get close to that end target you have to work together!

By the time the teams are called to the boardroom you can see the cracks starting to show in team Sterling, the boys however appear confident and united and the results reflect their demeanors. The boys win the task with an overall profit of £616.20 versus the girls £214.18.

Gabriella decided to bring Bilyana and Katie Wright back into the boardroom and this is when things really hot up. The responses to Lord Sugar’s questioning begin calmly enough with Bilyana simply talking far too much. If the woman had a mute button I would have taken great pleasure in pressing it.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Gabriella comes to life. In her VT she says ‘When it comes to business I will be like an animal and roar my way to the top’ and boy was she not kidding.

The cool, calm exterior that’s been displayed throughout the task is suddenly replaced with a wild eyed animal who is almost frothing at the mouth when replying to Bilyanas accusations.

Lord Sugar raises the point about Katie being too quiet and hiding behind others and we are left wondering whether this is the case or as she puts it ‘I let people underestimate me so I can blow them out the water’.

Good plan in theory but I watch wondering if she keeps it up for much longer, will she ever be given the opportunity to blow anyone out of the water.

The highlight of this weeks episode has to be the firing. Lord Sugar begins his final sentence with ‘I did say in my introduction that I didn’t want anybody to hide’ so we all sit watching, anticipating the moment when that famous finger is pointed towards Katie.

At this point Bilyana makes her fatal mistake. She speaks. Surely by now, everyone knows that this is Lord Sugars moment and that you need to keep your mouth shut (see earlier comment re mute button). So with a little begging to be saved, Bilyana may as well have called her own cab as it becomes clear that Lord Sugar has had enough and realises that having to deal with this woman for the next twelve weeks would be tantamount to sticking a chop stick in his ear. Katie is saved and Bilyana is fired.

There were many candidates that we didn’t really get to see much of this week so I’m looking forward to finding out more about each one. I think some of the bigger characters may be on the boys team but we’ll have to wait and see.

Week one of The Apprentice 2012 leaves us all begging for more, roll on week two!

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