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BBC: The Apprentice Episode 6 – Steptoe vs Pickfords

a end for Edna

a end for Edna

The Apprentice Episode 6 – Steptoe vs Pickfords

Best decision of the week: when Tom and Jimmy (some mouse that Jimmy) wanted to quit a job half way through because it was taking longer than they thought and wouldn’t make money, PM Helen immediately and decisively said “no – we can’t leave a client with the job half done.” Although we seldom hear it in Sugarland, there are vital business instincts other than how to make a fast buck and manipulate punters to part with their money. All sustainable business is founded on trust; keeping your word; making a deal and standing by it. This isn’t a technique you acquire on a management training course or from studying for an MBA; it is an ethical instinct, a given, part of who you are – even in a TV game. Helen was impressive in a number of ways this week but never more so than here: she showed herself to be someone you can safely do business with, someone you can trust. And as PM she demonstrated another important business principle: the leader sets the tone, the ethos of a business – and stands by it even when inconvenient.

Jimmy stopping Tom from nicking someone’s barbecue set from the front garden was more common sense than deeply ethical; and to be fair Tom had his own doubts. This dynamic duo did invent a new urban game – skip-stripping. Jimmy’s good at thinking on his feet: quick as a flash pointing out to the guy with his own skip that the more they stripped out of it the more room he would have left. Whether touring the streets, scaring the sh*t out of residents by loud-hailing them from your tipper amounts to a business strategy I’m not sure. As Kevin Bridges remarked on You’re Fired later: Jimmy’s Derry accent must have added a frisson of uncertainty to the occupant of number 73 cowering behind the sofa.

Otherwise this seemed a pretty pointless task generating for me a pretty boring programme. Post-hoc-ism was alive and well again when Nick Hewer chiming with Sugarlump’s criticism of Zoe, remarked that she “hadn’t understood the task from the start” and “I hope they were listening at the briefing or they’ll lose money.” Waste millionaire Jason Moore had said: “we make money by charging to get rid of waste” so if anyone wasn’t listening it was not Zoe but Helen. In fact based on the briefing Zoe might quite reasonably have expected that in pitching her price to the two clients Sugar set up, she was competing against the right price, not a freebie.

I really don’t see the purpose of this week’s task: other than to ensure that some perhaps over-coiffed, over-groomed young people, and that’s just the blokes, got their hands dirty. (The Good lord! can’t resist a weekly dig about “manicuring your nails” etc). This was just setting guesswork against guesswork: estimating the weight of various metals, judging how long it will take to hump and shift 2mt of rubbish etc aren’t intuitive skills, or theory-based – they depend on experience none of the candidates could be expected to have. A parallel case is house removal: absolutely everything in that business depends on the assessor: how much is there, how long will it take to pack/unpack – the rest is just humping. Get the assessment wrong and you lose money.

Management-wise in a sense neither PM did too much wrong this week: Helen had an infectious enthusiasm, smoothed over the odd dispute quite well and kept the team commitment on the road when one or two of them started wavering in the hope of distancing themselves from a possible defeat. Zoe got it ‘wrong’ in terms of the game but right in terms of the advice and briefing they were given; but importantly she admitted that up front and without reservation. She should also be grateful to Glen for his determined – ‘come on let’s sort it out’ after the disaster of day1. It is true that Zoe’s blunt Northern demeanour is harder to warm to than Helen’s more inclusive manner; more Yorkshire than Cheshire one would think. Also Zoe hasn’t noticed that Su doesn’t talk nonsense all of the time; though the received wisdom that Su needs to be more assertive is going to get tedious if she does. “I sell cosmetics for a living” was a bit of a dog.

After being invisible for 2 weeks, objectively Edna was perhaps unlucky on the basis of what she contributed to get fired but one knew the writing was on the wall as soon as she mentioned the fatal letters ‘MBA’ nothing is more guaranteed to wind-up the Good! Lord. And having put herself in a deep hole she just kept digging as they deliciously sent up You’re Fired.

I can’t see much else this task accomplished: ‘negotiation’ on The Apprentice is totally false as the other party always knows he’s on the show and that it is therefore a game not a real deal. Unless the winning Apprentice and the Good! Lord are going to flog hookey DVD’s or smuggled fags there didn’t seem to be much here to be learned or demonstrated.

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