Do you have to be nasty to win The Apprentice?

Or do you have to be a workaholic? Early twenties perhaps, or win nearly every task?

This year’s Apprentice was the best ever! The new format looking for a £250k investment rather than a salaried job, was a winner.

Because if it were an employee Lord Sugar had been looking for, the legendary Helen Milligan would have won easily. Her ability to obey instructions, take direction and execute projects was almost faultless.

Her presentation was excellent, her delivery effective. But did she win? No.

And what about excellence in sales? Well, Jim Eastwood would have been your man. His ability to influence is a key component in leadership too, and with a little direction from Lord Sugar, Jim could have headed up a division of his Lordship’s empire.

So Jim the salesman won. Right? Wrong!

But surely the youthful entrepreneur Susan Ma was exactly the right stuff? Despite her relative youth, she has an impressive pedigree of rising above the trials of poverty and adversity on three different continents.

Susan had a voice, and grew in confidence throughout the show. At times a bit “bleaty” she was often ignored by the others, but at least she actually came up with a business plan.

Jim’s proposal for a social enterprise wasn’t exactly a business and Helen’s concierge service, not much of a plan.

Susan’s drafts were poured over and pulled apart by Lord Sugar’s gang of four. As you’d expect no stone was left unturned.

Her fantastical projections for selling face cream were to make a million profit, year one. “Don’t be silly” they all said.

Had she factored in the product safety checks? Well yes she had actually, although a little light perhaps.

Helen did a dramatic U-turn in the boardroom. It was just gripping. Instead of multiplying herself 10,000 times to provide a (no doubt) brilliant service to very busy people (just like her) she tuned-in quickly to the boss.

He didn’t like it. So she contrived a remarkable change to a bakery business. “Stick with what you know” is of course good advice. Helen obeyed.

And this is the essence of Helen. Working relentlessly she is quick to take on what the boss wants. Her personal life means nothing to her, she tells us. I can believe it.

But what does Helen want? A life of working for others? Always providing the service they want? Workaholics anonymous?

And there remained just one. Professor Tom Pellereau. With a brain the size of a planet. A gentleman. And a proven entrepreneur.

Was he nasty? No, he was charming throughout. Very geeky, creative and well-mannered, Tom’s a breath of fresh air.

Many times he wavered. Over the weeks he was on the losing team several times, but still Lord Sugar kept him in. At interview he was accused of having a floundering career, but this comes with the territory for inventors.

True, his “business plan” nearly finished him. Seeking out back pain in cash-strapped companies with a pricey fancy seating receptacle (a chair to you and me) was never going to work.

But Tom is a “product” man. He gets it; making things and selling them. But even that would not have pipped Helen were it not for his final masterstroke.

From somewhere, certainly not from Tom, Lord Sugar thought to ask him how he got into Walmart. Tom took off. He’d invented a brilliant way in to see the buyer and secured lucrative orders for his curvy nail file thing.

It’s one thing to be creative, a whole new world to be successful commercially. He did it. And it did for Lord Sugar.

Tom, geeky, creative, charming, not nasty Tom. Was hired.

When you make rules you can change them too. Lord Sugar quickly announced later that the back pain route would be closed off and instead he and Tom would be developing the nail file range.

A cynic might argue that: hadn’t Tom been bored with this, and wasn’t this why he came on The Apprentice? But I’m sure in their new partnership Tom will do well. He was understandably delighted to have won.

Lord Sugar flexed another rule too. He hinted heavily at a “deal” with Susan. Quite right too.

This was a brilliant series. It’s been going a few years now, but with the latest changes, it’s as fresh as ever. It’s a shame it’s over!

Earlier episodes: Do you really want to win the Apprentice?;  Giving the nod to Lord Sugar; Zoe tears up Edna’s MBA

About drstevelewis

Good leadership is essential for any project to succeed. I specialise in the most difficult leadership challenges; those involving the way we relate to other people or the way they relate to us. With a background of many years in business and an earlier training in medicine I combine the two in a unique consultancy.
This entry was posted in Choosing a business partner, Does being nasty help?, Integrity in business, Success, The Apprentice 2011, TV reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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