The Apprentice: Smells like Teen Spirit – tears, time outs and tantrums

Looking for the candidate that can sniff out success in even the stinkiest business opportunity, Lord Sugar might have quite a challenge given that this lot certainly didn’t come up smelling of roses…

This week’s task was to create a designer home fragrance and sell it to the trade and public. In fairness to Lord Sugar, he couldn’t have been clearer about the parameters for success: A low cost product (candles and reed diffusers) that can be sold at high margins, with the team making the most profit, being the winner. Simples. Or so you’d think.

The single sex teams were split up and Steve, Daniel and Felipe moved over to the girls’ team Tenacity, and Lindsay, Nurun, Roisin and Bianca, took a trip to the boys’ team, Summit. Fitness expert Katie fessed up to being obsessive about the smell of her home and took her seat as project manager (PM) and Roisin decided to take a punt as the PM of Summit. Then it was time to see which team had the biggest burning desire to win.

First stop for the competitors was the perfumery. A couple of superbly daft ideas (I am showing restraint and naming no names) almost thwarted Tenacity – for example, like making up a name for the scent called ‘Lemonise’ or helping your hotel room smell of food – but luckily sense prevailed and British Breeze was born. Summit’s Beach Dreams followed and then both teams were off to manufacture.

Thank goodness for Summit’s Sanjay who appeared to be the only one that could grasp the figures well enough to work out the formula to produce anything accurately – and perhaps Tenacity could have done with some help here as their candles somehow ended up unexpectedly yellow along the way.

The importantly emphasised pricing strategy was discussed in both teams and Tenacity sniffed out the high margin approach with its starting price as £40. Summit descended rapidly and, certainly by the end of the task, should have been named Base, to mirror its pricing strategy.

Summit split their team into two with Sanjay, Mark, Bianca and Roisin responsible for negotiating with the trade, the others struck not-so-lucky and ended up on a Greenwich market stall trying to trip passing consumers up and sell whatever they could to whoever they could, at whatever price the consumer wanted, with no real guidance from Roisin.
Back in Katie’s corner, her half of the team were at a private members club when, after they resolved an issue with the labelling, the team successfully managed to pocket £500. Back at the market, Lindsay had to be asked to try to sell something and Nurun, the market sales specialist, sadly, was not showing off any real sales skills.

Over in an upmarket shopping centre with the Tenacity team, Sarah was still searching for her first elusive sale. Insisting, against all the sales evidence to the contrary, that no-one was willing to pay more than £10. Sarah struggled, and wasn’t gracious while she did – I was expecting her to start stamping her feet like a teenager, but luckily she didn’t, quite. The other half of the team were faring well, this time selling reed diffusers and candles in an exclusive Mayfair nightclub.

Summit finally managed to make a big sale, but sold all of their reed diffusers and missed out on satisfying a sale that had been promised. With her priorities obviously in a panic, Roisin, left a Kensington store to take a phone call and gave up another sale. James, the most stalwart of the market movement, drove sales until the bitter end. He might have sold at a wide range of prices, but at least he sold, unfaltering in his desire to do so – and given the two not-so-leading-ladies he got stuck with, it was just as well.

When the numbers were in, Summit’s sales fell a frustrating £14.77 below that of Tenacity’s, but then, as Sugar pointed out, Tenacity still had plenty of stock left, and a pricing strategy – ‘summit’ that Summit hadn’t.

When asked for an insight into what had gone wrong Roisin appeared to be blaming James for discounting too heavily, when really it was a case of pot and kettle, not to mention a lack of leadership. ‘Del Boy’ James did himself no favours by speaking up, a lot, even likening himself to Sugar when he was young twice, and that must have made more people than just me cringe. Finally Sugar shouted, told James to shut up and chastised him, necessary to get a word in edgeways if nothing else.

Despite appearances I think that Sugar really quite liked James. The telling off felt a bit like a frustrated father snapping at his teenage son – the one he knows is bright and has a future, if only he could get over his talking back, pain-in-the-backside phase. And James seemed to get the message too calling it a “reality check” – I imagine a Sugar savaging is similar to being stuck in a jail cell over night for a troubled teen, most of the time it does the job and straightens them out, if only for a little while. But only task four will tell.

Back in the Boardroom and I felt sad for swimming academy owner Lindsay who admitted, on the edge of tears, that she was out of her depth and had disappointed herself. Sugar fired her “with regret” commenting that the “rigour of the process” had taken its toll on her, proving to the cynical that even steadfast Sugar has a heart.

Of course the firing wasn’t over yet, but the next one didn’t come as a surprise. After Sugar concluded that Tenacity’s winning team performance last week was a lucky win and a result of its product being just “less horrible” than Summit’s, Nurun could see the nail in her Apprentice coffin. She briefly fought back but she, and everyone else watching, knew that it was futile because that’s one argument you’re not going to win.



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