After twelve weeks of gruelling trials and desperate squabbling, the villainous Lord Sugar has once again seen fit to select a new partner in his nefarious quest to undo Captain Fluoride and take over Toothopolis for himself. The selection has been narrowed down to four devious individuals. This Sunday he will choose one of them to become his new sidekick.
If you didn’t get that then I’ll clarify. I’m talking about The Apprentice which has been airing on the BBC over the past eleven weeks and will end this Sunday as the remaining four candidates are grilled over their business proposals. The above is a humorous analogy that I cooked up in my review of last year’s Apprentice final. But, to Ricky Martin, Tom Gearing, Nick Holzherr and Jade Nash, this is no joke. It is serious business and they must be at the top of their game if they want to impress Margret and Lord Sugar’s other close business friends.
Unlike last year’s bunch who seemed to be deserving of their positions in the final, the final four this time around have all had their fair share of ups and downs. That’s fairly natural but given that Ricky Martin has been project manager three times and only won one of those occasions or that Jade Nash could easily have been switched out for practically any of the other candidates this group as lacks the wow factor that Helen Milligan or Tom Pellerau.
Given the choice, I’d probably give the prize to either Ricky Martin or Tom Gearing. I think that they were consistent in their work ethic early on in the show and their more recent losses have genuinely either been tight failures or blunders caused by another teammate. For instance, Ricky Martin’s fitness regime or English sparkling wine campaigns both seemed to be lost because of the videos. Especially in the case of the sparkling wine when he made it very clear that he didn’t want a cheesy video and he ended up with an extremely cheesy video. Lord Sugar made the point that, because the video was so important, that Ricky Martin should have been the one at the film shoot but I’d argue that he made himself very clear to his underlings and the simply didn’t care to listen.
- Ricky Martin
As I’ve said above, I do feel like Ricky is one of the top contenders for the title. He’s always very hands on, which is a quality that Lord Sugar always appreciates, and his ideas have usually been of good quality. The execution of those ideas has not always been great but Ricky Martin has such a imposing character and voice that he’s managed to save himself on many occasions. For instance, on last week’s task where the team ordered to find packages for an online daily deals website, Ricky made the suggestion to skip a major hotel/restaurant because it was too far out of the way and he’d lose valuable time. That hotel was major enough for Lord Sugar to consider that a deal or two from that one establishment might have won them the task. Had Ricky failed to make good use of his time when he hadn’t gone to the establishment then it’s highly likely I wouldn’t be writing about him in this blog right now. But Ricky Martin has proven himself as being highly capable at selling and pitching. If his business plan is half decent at all, he’s got it in the bag. Perhaps he’s seeking Lord Sugar’s money in starting up a British wrestling federation?
- Nick Holzherr
Nick Holzherr probably doesn’t get talked about much in terms of this competition. It might seem strange because he’s won tasks as project manager and he’s usually has a few bright ideas but when you consider that he’s running against guys like Ricky Martin and, up until last week, Stephen Brady, he tends to get sounded out. He’s liable to be the guy in the background who will get overlooked because other contestants stand out more. But he actually does have a good mind for business, even if he does suffer a little from Susan Ma-ism. He just doesn’t drive his point home enough. On this week’s task, he certainly should have forced the idea of hot chocolate or pushed to have himself in charge of the chocolate making. Instead, when his ideas were shot down, he just went along with everybody else’s ideas. He also said on his resume that he’s good at finance? If the past two weeks are anything to go by then finance is certainly not a strength he possesses and he should take it off his resume immediately.
Again, it comes down to the business plan, but I don’t think he’s loud enough to be able to force the positives of his plan when it comes to the grilling and it may not be as well researched or financed as he might think it is. I think he needs something brilliant, rather than just good. If his plan isn’t brilliant then it’ll be the door for him.
- Jade Nash
If there’s one candidate I don’t think deserves to win, it would be Jade Nash. She really doesn’t seem as savvy as the rest of the candidates when it comes to the competition and her first big mistake was probably back in week seven when she failed the wholesale task (losing out to Nick Holzherr’s team funnily enough) and brought in fellow finalist Tom Gearing. Gearing clearly had little to do with the failure of the task and even Lord Sugar was a little baffled as to why he was brought in. She managed to stave off leaving the competition by heaping blame on Azhar Siddique who she claimed “kept butting in on the phone and wanting to speak to me about strategy all the time, but no solutions.” I’m not sure that she realises that if she’d replied to his questions on strategy he might have come up with a few solutions. But given that in this week’s task she seemed to throw as many ideas at Adam Corbally without a thought to any strategy of selling affordable, luxury goods (you know, the name of the task), one has to wonder whether she really understands the purpose of a well prepared strategy to the ongoing success of a business.
As before, the business plan will be the real decider in the competition but given what we’ve seen of Jade Nash, I don’t have high hopes for her.
- Tom Gearing
You’d be forgiven for thinking that guy was all style and no substance with his pampered appearance. He’s actually shown himself to be extremely capable both as part of a team and in the running of a project. One of his major failures came quite late in the series in the art gallery task where it seemed like his history with fine dining and the high quality life style would lend itself to marketing art well but he lost out to Gabrielle Omar’s enthusiasm. His fail-safe strategy of going high risk didn’t pay off but I think that Lord Sugar actually appreciated the fact that he took the risk even if he did reprimand Jade Nash for not persuading him to go with an artist she thought was better for the gallery. But he redeemed himself in the sparkling wine task due to his history in the market so while he has made some mistakes in the process, he also has shown himself to be able to apply himself and his talents.
Regarding his business plan, looking at his profile I think his plan will be to do with fashion or something similar to the fine dining business that he’s already in. I think the luxury goods market is his strength and he will stick to that. It’s largely up to the product itself and whether it will be endearing to Lord Sugar. If it isn’t innovative enough, Lord Sugar won’t waste his money. Too ambitious and there will be too many problems to move forward. But if he strikes the balance just right, he might just walk home with the partnership.
Considering the candidates, I really do think that only three out of the four have any legitimate chance of walking away with the £250,000 investment. And even if their business plan shows promise it’s still a matter of good pitching and understanding the background of the business because before they go in front of the interviewers, they must sell their plan to Lord Alan Sugar himself. It’s clear from some of the previews that at least one of the business plans hasn’t been thought out. Once they’ve explained their plans to Lord Sugar then each contestant will face Margaret Mountford, Matthew Riley, Mike Soutar and Claude Littner in turn. This is where having a clear understanding of everything around the business and having solid market research will pay off.
Given what we’ve seen from the contestants this year, I’d say that Ricky Martin and Tom Gearing certainly have the best chances since they have both shown themselves to be in depth in their approach to research and pitching. I’d probably give Ricky the edge since I think he’s been a more consistent seller but I also wouldn’t overlook Nick Holzherr who might be something of a dark horse in this race. Nick is actually the most successful candidate of the final four. In both his stints as project manager, he won. He has only been on the losing team three times and of those three times he was only brought into the boardroom for the first last week. Including his stints as project manager he has been in the winning team eight times. Every other candidate has lost as project manager at least once and lost at least four times. The question is whether any of these statistics will result in a better business plan or will he just fall at the last hurdle?
There’s only one way to find out. Well, two actually. You could bribe Alan Sugar but it’s probably easier just to watch The Apprentice tonight on BBC One at 8.30pm.