BBC The Apprentice 2012 Episode 1

And we’re off!  With £250k of investment up for grabs and Lord Sweetness as a business partner, 16 candidates are presented with their first task: take some blank ‘materials’, brand them up and sell them to the public.  The team with the biggest profit wins.

On setting up the teams the boys go for the name Phoenix, oddly anticipating that they just might experience some failures over the next couple of weeks and need to rise from the ashes – a real expression of confidence.  That was the accepted proposal of sales manager, Stephen Brady; and more on him later as he’s a real gem.  When it comes to finding a team leader, drinks distribution company founder Duane Bryan shows some leadership skills in directing the assembled alpha males to be assertive and put themselves forward.  All sit there doing one of two things: looking like they are suppressing significant digestive problems or doing that child thing of ‘if I can’t see you, you can’t see me, so here I am, behind my hand.’  The silence and contretemps are only broken when technology entrepreneur, Nick Holzherr, puts himself forward because no one else will.  Great start boys.

The girls go for the team name of Sterling, symbolising ‘strong’ and ‘making money.’  But the naming ceremony proves a damp squib as if no one has an idea to offer and all accept.  But the girls have no problem finding a leader as architect Gabrielle Omar quickly throws her hat into the ring.  She’s just started up her own printing business and likes creativity.  They all jump at this, but Jane McEvoy’s face displays more than a little doubt.  She is torn between avoiding the early departure that attracts the first team leaders and seeing the need for application of her business skills.

The face of 'We must not marginalise the margin in the name of creativity.'

Approaches to the task prove considerably different.  The boys dive in with selection of materials and then a costing to determine margin for their sales.  The vocal Stephen notes they haven’t selected their design yet, only to be put in his place by a firm Nick who says that this comes later.  The girls, led by a visibly possessed Gabrielle, focus on the materials and the design, with Jane assertively stepping in with ‘At the end of the day it’s about the margin.’  Immediately we are on two separate journeys to the ‘biggest profit’ but which team will be the tortoise and which will be the hare?

Conflicts soon ooze to the top on the girls team.  They can’t buy anything until the margins are worked out but Gabrielle is ‘literally with a designer right now’ – Apprentice speak for ‘I don’t have a clue’ and always best delivered over the mobile phone.  This gives Jane a great opportunity for an in-vehicle-post-mortem of ‘She’s losing control’ in the very early stages for the team.  Then, during the printing session the girls wonder where Katie (Wright) is and even Nick Hewer ponders on her lack of involvement to camera.  But they do have some good products to offer.

Heard during the boys’ printing session when the printing of bags does not go too well:

‘Put it in.’

‘Sell it to a gullible tourist.’  (This one from Stephen.)

The girls have a pitch at Greenwich Market for what is now their ‘Baby Boutique’ and also plan to sell at London Zoo.  Cue another conflict as the sub-team takes too long to head out to the wildlife enclosures.  Stephen pops up again with the boys as he takes over their team meeting believing their small teddy price is too high (it is).  It’s when some of them get to the concourse of St Pancras International Station that Stephen’s early pitch for ‘Antonym Man’ of this series takes hold.  [As seen in the You’re Fired programme here.]  He tells his team mates that you can sell on exclusivity, where people will buy because ‘no one else has got it.’  Stephen then employs this strategy on the concourse and what do we see?  People moving away quickly.  Has he not heard of the herd tendency?

How Katie handles a gridlocked situation.

Meanwhile when the girls finally arrive at the zoo, they decide to take it in turns to approach punters for sales.  What?  Shouldn’t they be splitting up, dispersing and making the most of their severely limited time?  City Risk Analyst Bilyana Apostolova is straight in there and makes the first sale.  And she … carries on approaching.  Cue bitching on the side from her team mates, especially when she’s seen talking to kids because ‘they don’t have any money’.  Having been ticked off she still carries on.  Until they’ve had enough and don’t have enough time left.  So it’s off to find a local retailer to dump the leftover stock, in an area Bilyana knows well…

Both teams fail on selling their leftover stock.  The boys, still thinking ‘gullible’ have to refund their buyer when she discovers the items that should have been binned included in her purchase at £3.50 a piece.  The girls eventually find a local shop and bully the woman behind the counter who, understandably, refuses to consider their offer.  Her knight in shining armour appears at the door and tells off the girls asking them if they realise what their last words were – ‘We’re wasting time here.’  And there’s no time to bully anyone else.

The result? (Stop reading now if you don’t like end conclusion spoilers.)

The girls had a really good product range and sold well at Greenwich, but their sub-team at London Zoo would have had more joy with their ilk: the snakes.  The boys had a cheap product with their tatty London bus logo-printed (just) bags and small teddies with Union Jack T-shirts; but they sold when their prices matched their product quality, and in bulk.  Their South Bank location did well here, but St Pancras less so where more savvy consumers arose along with the subsequent major surplus stock.

The boys won by a significant margin.

Gabrielle chose Bilyana and Katie to return with her to the boardroom for the show down.  The writing was clearly on the wall for Katie until Bilyana chipped in yet again, in defence mode.  The lessons?  Knowing when to stop and surveying the actions and reactions of those around you to be consistent with them in your own behaviour.  Early days, but Bilyana was robbed.  I’d have tossed a coin over Gabrielle and Katie.

Ones & things to watch after episode one?

Shadows

Companies can have controlling Shadow Directors, so let’s start with the Apprentice phenomenon: the Shadow Team Leader.  The STL can arise when:

1. the STL is of the opinion ‘it should have been me’ but held back at selection time for one of very few self-serving reasons

2. the STL quickly works out the TL is a dork and is saving own face

3. foremost, the STL is a political player and uses this role to shaft the competition when in TL position.

The STLs of episode 1 are:

  • Early Antonym Man, Stephen. WE WILL ALL HEAR HIM, right?
  • Jane, who appears in episode 1 to encapsulate all 3 of the above.  Knowledgeable and professional or simply bitch?  Time will tell.
  • Jenna Whittingham (Beauty Salon Owner) who was never far away from displaying 2 and 3 above.  (See London Zoo & subsequent scenes for most impact.)
  • Duane, who extends 2 to all those around him and actually comes across as working for the best outcome for the team.  He’s a common sense boy and one to watch in more ways perhaps?

I’m here for the PR opportunity

Looks like Katie for this one so far.  Can she seem engaged during a task and not just after it for the sake getting in her spin comments?

Can’t miss this one

Jade.  Sounds quite like former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips, but louder and harder.  Superb on designs for children’s clothes but what else can she offer?  And what is her business proposal?

Fights like a tiger

Gabrielle, of Boardroom showdown mammoth defence did say ‘When it comes to business I can be like an animal and I will roar my way to the top.’  In that episode 1 Boardroom scenario she didn’t realise she was doing it.  Set for an early departure unless she learns to connect with others and realises the importance of margins in all things business.

All too not there

Where was Laura Hogg?  Edited out?  We know nothing of her, so keep watching.

Boys with balls

Adam Corbally (market trader) and Azhar Siddique (founder & MD of Catering and Refrigeration Company).  Both were forthright with opinions, perhaps just facially, but they were.  They may even clash in the episodes ahead…

Programme quirks

Have we gone all X Factor?  Do the candidates have a dental makeover before hitting the screen?  This was dazzle and dazzle again on screen in the smile department.  The only competitor to the dental parade was that string of pearls around the neck of Jade.

Best telling facial tic from a candidate

Adam’s right eyebrow raise.  Watch for it to get the essence of how he’s feeling, especially in the Boardroom.  He appears to have no control over it.  Close second: Kitchen and Bedroom Furniture Retailer MD, Michael Copp’s facial sweat in a close environment.  But what can we read from this in the future?

Best watcher?

Nothing in it between Nick and Karren (Brady) at this stage.  Both were superb in episode 1.

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