Last night�s first episode of the new series of The Apprentice gave us one simple, powerful business lesson.

But, unusually, we had to wait to the very end to learn it.� Along the way, two new teams formed, with the names Phoenix (men) and Sterling (women) to add to the growing list of Apprentice team names.� The teams competed to choose unbranded goods, design a brand, over-print the goods, and sell them at two prime London locations each.

Phoenix was led by Nick Holzherr, who stepped forward when everyone declined the poisoned chalice of week 1 leadership � remember Edward in Week 1 last year?

In Sterling, Gabrielle Omar stepped forward immediately.� She is an architect so should be strong on design and she plans to set up a print business, so had relevant expertise and passion.� If she�d not stepped forward, she must have known that she would be in the firing line anyway if her team lost.

Spoiler Alert

And lose the women did: fairly comprehensively.












There are reasons, and they are not very instructive, given how obvious they seem to the detached observer.

Phoenix focused on costs and margins, selling shoddy goods (many of which were of astonishingly poor quality) at astonishing prices.� They targeted the tourist market � a wise move with their pricing and product strategy.� Their designs were poor to awful and their sales pushy and brash, but they did shift stock and they did keep expenditure right down.

Sterling offered better products � aimed at the baby and toddler market – with better quality execution of pretty decent designs.� But commercially they were all over the shop.� One team went on a wild goose chase over Primrose Hill, to end up berating innocent shop-keepers to take their unsold stock at a big mark-down.

The action all happened in the boardroom

� and not just that; it all happened when Gabrielle returned with her choice of two team-mates to face Lord Sugar�s final scrutiny: Bilyana Kostolov and Katie Wright.

The three women had very different demeanours in making their cases and defending themselves to Lord Sugar.

Gabrielle showed passion to the point of very nearly loosing emotional control at one point.� Lord Sugar rightly values passion, but he also knows that a business person must be able to retain the composure under extremes of business-meeting pressure.� Gabrielle did not, and that was a serious weakness.

Bilyana kept her cool emotionally but lost mental control.� She could not make herself listen to Lord Sugar�s direct instructions and doggedly forced her point on him, often talking over him. �She failed badly to read the situation. �That was a serious weakness.

Katie kept schtum. Indeed, as Nick Hewer had observed throughout the task, she did not really get involved until called on � and then made a very weak defence of her inefficacy.� That was a serious weakness.

Which Weakness Lost-out?

Given his admonition right at the start that he had no place for people hiding in the shadows, it soon became clear that Lord Sugar was going to fire Katie � and rightly, I felt.� She had nothing to offer in what we saw.

Then, just as he was about to do it� just before he named Katie� Bilyana dived in again and started pleading once more.� And she wouldn�t stop when asked, and then told, to.� What could Lord Sugar do to shut her up?� There was only one thing.� He changed his mind and fired her � and rightly, I felt.

Now we get to find out if Katie does have anything to offer, and we say goodbye to Bilyana, before we got to find out anything more than that she can talk for England (or Bulgaria, if she chooses) but could not listen.� As Lord Sugar said, her demeanour was her demise, and that was last night�s lesson.

Business is about people, and what they present to the world � to customers, to colleagues and to business partners � is their demeanour.

In the end, it was demeanour that mattered above all in last night�s episode.� And it is, in much of real life too.

The Apprentice 2012: Week 1 Candidates


4 Responses to The Apprentice 2012, Episode 1: Demeanour = Demise
  1. What is the warehouse called where they got all there unbranded items? Thanks.

    • Harry, I don’t know. But I am sure there are plenty of them around in all of the major cities. A bit of Apprentice style initiative should get you set up!

  2. It was a case of Bilyana needs to learn that God gave us two ears and one mouth! Even the next morning on BBC Breakfast she was not good at listening.

    • On the face of it, it is confusing: Katie nearly went, for not saying enough. Bilyana did go, for saying too much. It’s about balance, what you say, and how you say it. Neither woman showed any deftness in any of these areas, but at least Katie had the sense to show Lord Sugar respect and listen to him when he was speaking.


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