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BBC Apprentice Final – Cometh the Hour – Cometh the Tom


Tom Wins


The Apprentice Final – Cometh the Hour – Cometh the Tom

Suicide note in two words: ‘non-profit’ to Lord Sugar.  Suicide note in one word: ‘Sugar’, without the Lord.  Thus ‘in-it-to-win-it’ Jedi Jim Eastwood’s AMSMART battle plan, codeworded AMCREEP, went word-spinning out of orbit and was incinerated while trying to re-enter planet Sugar’s atmosphere.  But though gone, Jimbo will not be forgotten as the man who matched Tony Blair’s genius for cliché-blindness.  For our ‘Tone’ talking of the newly forged Northern Ireland agreement – “this is no time for clichés, today when we feel the hand of history on our shoulders.”  For Jimbo when asked to explain why he should win without using a cliché – “I am what it says on the tin.”  This was of course true: what you always get from our Jim is the heavily varnished truth. Gloss finished.  He did however come up with a quick-as-a-flash answer to the question beloved of all HR-trained interviewers: do you have any weaknesses? ” If I have one, I’m working on it”.  We might almost Christen this a Jimboism: ‘a plausible expression with no discernible meaning.’  I’ve always thought the best answer to this trick question is that one doesn’t suffer fools gladly – which is a kind of humble confession that you’re actually pretty brilliant.

Anyone who knows Susan’s background cannot help but be mightily impressed by her courage, determination and resourcefulness.  However admirable these sterling human qualities are they do not necessarily make her a successful entrepreneur or any the less irritating.  Her health and safety threshold for her beauty products seemed a tad low at ‘not having arsenic’ in them.  And I’m never quite sure why all natural ingredients are so desirable – pee and poo are 100% natural but I don’t necessarily want to massage them into my face.  I’m not sure why the Good lord! should correctly point out in the boardroom that major cosmetic manufacturers have to spend a fortune on health and safety approvals but then implying on You’re Fired that Su might ‘help’ Tom with product synergy between her market stall cosmetics and the curved nail-file range.  Maybe she could do the market research: Q1 – Do the French have fingernails? However, as the one who perhaps needed to win the most, it was sad to see her miss out.

Jedi Jim’s AMSMART idea does have some mileage as a parlour game:

Cosmetics company – AMSKIN, AMPOO
Loan shark – AMSKINT
Chess Player – AMBIT
Pension Adviser – AMBIGUITY

And then there were two.  As we sort of knew there would be.  And Helen decided to commit Sugarcide.  One of her great strengths has been the ability to read people. How could she have got the Sugarlump so wrong? Helen, Helen, he’s a thing man, a give ‘em a big lump of something to take away kind of salesman.  Service industry? Strewth what’s that?  A pitch for a chain of MYPY restaurants or even her back-up Bakery shops would have won it.  But the idea that Alan Sugar was going to put hard cash into an IT-based service, even before he discovered to his horror that it might be called ‘concierge’, was a no-brainer non-starter from the first.

Helen’s tendency here and in the flog-to-Retailers strategy, to be a bit too theoretical indeed ‘strategic’, were good reasons for her to lose.  A bad reason was the one Alan Sugar gave: that she did not have any experience of setting up her own business.  If only people who have tried to set up their own business can win, then don’t accept candidates who haven’t done so.  They may acquire all kinds of new skills and business knowledge during the programme but what they cannot do is acquire experience of having already set up their own business.  They can demonstrate the potential to run their own business and over 10 out of 11 wins, especially the MYPY project, Helen more than proved she has that potential.

And so to Tom, who presumably is the first exception to the implacable Sugar Law “that no engineer can understand business”.  Creative, imaginative, intimidatingly intelligent, a gentleman and a gentle man, assertive without being aggressive, very determined and enormously likeable, how can one be anything less than delighted? And I am.  A measure of his self-effacing style was that he left the most impressive fact about himself until the very last programme: getting his curved nailfile into Walmart had the Good lord! salivating and the brass necked, creatively determined way of doing it was brilliant.  Even a foot-in-the-door salesman like Alan Sugar was impressed.  Just how intelligent is our Tom to pull this deal-clincher out at the eleventh hour?

It was a little worrying to discover on You’re Fired that Sugar isn’t interested in any of Tom’s new or current ideas – they apparently will work on expanding and exploring Tom’s currently successful products which he has already got onto the shelves of Boots in the UK and Walmart in the US. Watch yourself Tom Tom – have your contract checked by a good lawyer.  Make sure it is clear who owns the patent to the curved nailfile and any other inventions you come up with. Otherwise you could find yourself doing all the work and your ‘partner’ owning and taking all the long-term profits.

Personally I think the Good lord! and the producers missed a trick:  I’d have taken both Tom and Helen and if necessary Lord S could afford £500K.  If he starts with Tom he will soon need a Helen to organise, find and develop markets, and watch the numbers:  if he had started with Helen he would soon have needed a product ideas man like Tom.  So as they’d both proven they could work well together – why not set up that way from the start?

The good news Tom is that you’ve won: the bad news is that you may have Susan as your happy little helper.  Good luck dear boy. And don’t forget that lawyer.

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