After 13 episodes (11 tasks, plus two “specials”), the Final Four candidates at last got a chance to present their business ideas, and meet Lord Sugar’s interviewers.
I don’t know about you, but it was a tense time on the Clayton sofa. ï¿½I expect there are 9 million or more opinions about the outcome and many will be informed by the hindsight Tom was so often accused of.
But, as the “You’re Hired” follow-up show reminded us, often, Tom exhibited genuine foresight, identifying a key issue early on in the task. ï¿½His failing was more often not to be “wise after the task” but to fail to convince other candidates that he was wise during the task. ï¿½I made this point when I wrote about Tom and the Nature of Leadership on 28 June.
Dara O’Briain identified his 10th Rule for Apprentice candidates as “Play your Trump Card” and I suggested that, in this series, trump cards are:
- 1. Intelligence
2. Sales success
3. Commercial acumen
4. Strategic thinking
ï¿½ and, because Lord Sugar will need to invest in his Apprentice in a new and significant way:
- 5. Lord Sugarï¿½s respect and liking
Let’s see how the Candidates did against these criteria with their business plans, in the interviews.
Susan based her business plan on her own established Tropic Skin Care business and had a lot of detailed figures to back it up. ï¿½Her financial claims were excessive and showed the enthusiasm/naivete which have become so characteristic of the Susan we have come to know over eleven weeks. ï¿½It seemed to be the only plan for a truly viable business, and by the boardroom, I was leaning towards Susan as a winner.
For me, Susan scored highly on 1 and 5, and well on 2. ï¿½I think it was commercial acumen (ridiculously high year one turnover figures) and strategic thinking (lack of understanding of regulatory environment for cosmetics) that let her down. I said after Episode 11 that:
“Susan needs to neutralise the risk that Lord Sugar will need to play kindergarten supervisor”
Clearly she didn’t, but I got a strong sense from the live “You’re Hired” show that Lord Sugar would still like to go into business with her. ï¿½Susan, I think youï¿½can count yourself a winner from this process.
We saw Jim at the house preparing, by writing sales figures into a table, by hand, leaving the impression that these were made up numbers. ï¿½I like his idea, but he did fail to heed my Apprentice Lesson 12:
“You must set aside your own opinions and gather market data objectively.”
With no market research to establish the viability of his idea for providing employability skills to school children by e-learning, it was bound to be a weak proposition. ï¿½I like the idea, because employability is a valuable skill and schools do need to focus on it. ï¿½Although Lord Sugar does not focus his own business activities on services, Jim surely knew that his idea had a lot of overlap (“synergy”) with Lord Sugar’s Viglen business, which supplies IT equipment to schools. ï¿½But, ultimately, with no evidence to show that schools would like Jim’s solution or could afford to pay for it, then the planning was flawed, and with little margin and possibly not enough confidence in Jim’s planning and execution skills , Lord Sugar could probably see too much risk and too little return.
Ultimately, Jim failed to win enough of Lord Sugar’s respect and liking for him to go into business with Jim. ï¿½I also don’t see enough strategic thinking for Jim to lead a successful business at this stage in his life. ï¿½Jim, I think you know that and I wish you well with your speaking career. ï¿½Do get in touch if you read this.
Judging by the massive number of viewers of my analysis of Helen, she was a favourite among my readers. ï¿½I was glad to hear one of Lord Sugar’s colleagues say that “entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes” – my point exactly when I wrote that blog. ï¿½However, Helen chose a really bad business to pitch to Lord Sugar. ï¿½Concierge services are fine, but “for the masses”? ï¿½If the business model were truly scalable to the mass market, there would be a clear market leader already. ï¿½This is the wrong product for the mass market and it was doomed to fail. ï¿½Lord Sugar’s disappointment with this plan was palpable and I thought, for one moment as Tom and Helen waited outside the boardroom, that Lord Sugar might follow my suggestion of going into business with Tom and Helen – a dream team of Mr Ideas and Ms Flawless Execution.
After week 12, I said:
“She has the skills and professionalism to succeed at whatever she takes on, but comes across as a far more capable manager than innovator and I am not sure that the risk profile of a truly entrepreneurial business will suit her personality ï¿½ and I suspect Lord Sugar may share that analysis.”
I think he did, when Helen chose a strategically and commercially flawed business proposition. ï¿½Helen, you showed yourself to be a really talented professional who can achieve great things corporately. ï¿½Your website gives little indication of what next, but I’m sure Greggs will want to hold onto you for as long as they can.
A worthy winner. ï¿½From the earliest episodes, Lord Sugar was interested in Tom’s inventiveness and he showed right away a fearsome intelligence and quickly won over Lord Sugar’s (and everyone’s) respect and liking. ï¿½As we might have expected, his business plan was complex and subtle, and, frankly, Lord Sugar and his aides appeared to hate much of it. ï¿½But here is the thing: business is about people and I think Tom showed all of the five personal characteristics needed to win. ï¿½Yes, he will invent something new every day, but if I were Lord Sugar and had the means to harness delivery capability to a strong business idea, that’s a good thing! ï¿½So a flawed plan in this case, was backed by some solid thinking about a real product.
Then there was Tom’s coup. ï¿½He unveiled the masterstroke that showed he could trump even Jim on charming a customer and creating a sale. ï¿½He told us how he had won a sales contract with Walmart and even Lord Sugar looked impressed.
I said, after week 11, that complementarity is key and that:
“I think Tom and Lord Sugar will complement each other well.”
So, it finally came down to a gut feeling from Lord Sugar who describes himself as “a product man” to go with another product man, and to prove that gentle courtesy, a passion for ideas, and a focus on detail can win.
Take a look at Tom’s website, by the way. ï¿½His sister Harriet, who created it, is also very talented.
Tom, I said early on that I’d want you on my team. ï¿½I think Lord Sugar chose well, congratulations. ï¿½And when you’re in Alresford, if you’re at a loose end (as if!), I’d love to buy you a pint or a coffee!
Hindsight or Foresight
My conclusion when I asked “Who will Win” after episode 11 was:
“… on the balance of risk, and on the complementarity test, and vitally, on the evidence the showï¿½s producers have let us see so far, I believe Tom would be the strongest candidate, with Susan a close second.”
I have closed my poll on the final five, with my readers very much supporting my views.
Well done us!
Some Last Thoughts
This has been a great series – possibly the best yet – although I frankly don’t recall all of the others.
There are three good reasons why I have enjoyed this series so much:
- There have been fewer laugh-out-loud moments, but I think this reflects well on the candidates this year.
Where they have made mistakes there has still been much to learn.
- There have been some inspired ideas and some excellent execution on the eleven tasks we have seen.
- I feel trulyï¿½privilegedï¿½to have seen some very talented people – particularly Jim and Helen – and three
truly outstanding individuals: Melody Hossaini, Susan Ma, and Tom Pellereau
Melody, Susan and Tom are allï¿½stand-out individuals with the capacity to be more than just excellent
business people, but to achieve something quite remarkable and I really hope I can get to know
any one of you in my future business life.
- OK – a pretty puerile fourth reason:
who could forget Lord Sugar’s BBIW Award to Jim?