global recruitment specialists
Lessons from The Apprentice, week 11
How to avoid getting fired
The penultimate week of The Apprentice saw the final five face the classic, the interview round, and this year's cohort faced a grilling that would make George Foreman proud. By the end of the episode, five had become two, with only Joseph – now 100% moustache-free – and Vana remaining to face off in Sunday's final. With Gary, Charleine and Richard falling at the final hurdle, what can we learn from this week's challenge?
How to not get fired
* * *
Lesson #1: Be realistic
"I know you got an award from the local newspaper; it's good, but it's not enough"
Hardworking hairdresser Charleine was the first candidate to be ejected from the boardroom this week, and in her case there was a simple disconnect between her ambitions and reality. As new addition to the roster Linda Plant identified, her expectations – to leap from a single provincial hair salon to an academy and a profitable franchise model – were ‘probably beyond her ability'. Wanting to be bigger than Toni & Guy is all well and good; however, given that it took them a quarter century to franchise, Charleine needed more than promise of a high work rate to make this an appealing investment option.
Valentino – or Joseph – had similar franchise plans for his plumbing business. And similarly these were met with scepticism; as with Charleine, attention was drawn to the fact that, outside his local area, his name was not known. What set him apart from Charleine was his willingness, though he wants ‘the world and everything in it', to adapt his approach and switch to contingency – an approach strengthened by the fact he could highlight additional demand for his services from his existing contacts. There wasn't the same evidence of this from Charleine, which made her business plan an unrealistic match for Lord Sugar's investment.
Key take-away: be real about your chance of success and temper your ambitions accordingly – every plan should have a contingency allowance
* * *
Lesson #2: Understand your value
"You're just a mobile disco, aren't you?"
Second to depart this week was ‘Mr Corporate' Gary, the self-styled ‘Corporate G'. He faced accusations from tough taskmaster Mike Soutar of embroidering the truth with regards to his past experience. His claims to have been responsible for a property spend of £1bn and have led over 600 people were chipped away and revealed to be much more modest. Likewise, it was highlighted that he was ‘far from a global event planner', that lighting is not a competitive differentiator, and that his virtual party concept wasn't much more than what's offered by Skype. Ultimately he was deemed to be someone who is ‘fond of exaggerating his importance'.
When it came to business plans, Gary's was the furthest departure from his experience to date, as he intended to make the move from ‘Mr Corporate' to party planner. His experience in the corporate world is what got him so far in the process, and if he'd remained in that sphere he might have made it through. As it was, the value of his future plan was shown in the fact he was charging around £300 per event. As Lord Sugar put it, he could just about throw an event for the Piers Morgan fan club (‘about two people show up'). Compared to Vana, who planned to combine two red hot areas in the mobile app world – dating and gamification – in a risky but potentially hugely lucrative business, Gary's plans were a little too cheap and cheerful to earn him a place in the final.
Key take-away: understand the part you play and know your worth – and when it comes to future plans, identify the areas of big reward
* * *
Lesson #3: Don't try to pull the wool over someone's eyes
"You haven't done something first, have you Richard… ever."
‘Tricky Dicky' Richard was the final candidate to leave the process this week, though not without finally giving his first straightforward answer, according to Lord Sugar. His excessive use of metaphor, his reluctance to talk straight, and the mismatch between his past performance and claims for future growth (a staggering leap from £17k profit to £3m) were all criticised. And to his credit, he acknowledged that what could be a simple and profitable core concept had been overcomplicated. When told he was the kind of guy who thought he could write a load of waffle and ‘no-one would see the truth underneath' his reply was ‘I think I'm agreeing with you'.
Having been repeatedly characterised as such – not just by Lord Sugar and co. but also the other candidates, who accurately predicted, at least at first, that he would be all smiles whatever happened in the interview room – when the rhetoric was stripped away, what remained was an original concept that he had plagiarised from his own business and a conflict of interest that jeopardised his chance of success. Whatever his tactics had been to this point (and there's no doubting his excellent track record throughout the process), these flaws were enough to compound that view of his character and make him the last candidate to fall in the race to the final.
Key take-away: be honest with yourself and others – keep it simple and don't try to hide the truth
* * *
It's not all bad…
Charleine proved herself to be a dependable multi-tasker and a top seller throughout the process, and was rightly characterised as tough, driven and hardworking. She would do well to take on board Claude's advice on growing her business in a more manageable fashion. Gary is evidently a strong performer in his field, and has a lot of experience in the corporate world. He performed particularly well in the retail task, bringing his team along well for a strong win. And Richard's record in the competition is testament to his ability across a range of tasks, a very credible and intelligent candidate who project managed two great successes. Each of the candidates who left this week had done very well to reach the final, and each is already a success in their own right.