The Apprentice 2011

Posted on May 26, 2011 by  

Yes it is back. Bet72’s favourite TV show kicked off with Series 7 and did not disappoint.

So to kick off our coverage of the whole event we are delighted to say that we have got one of last year’s finalist, Dan ’Who’s doing the mincing!’ Harris on board to give us his insight into the series and he has gratefully handed over the first fired baton to Mr Ed.

You remember him don’t you….

(You can catch all the very latest Lego Apprentice’s here every single week)

Over to you Dan….

A Busy Fortnight In Apprentice Land

There seems to be a healthy alumni developing with many former candidates getting together for some charity fundraising this week. First there was my event at the Fox Poker club where 16 ex apprentices competed for a place in the PKR tournament. I got off to a good start but was knocked out in the 8th hand by Joy Stefanicki’s ringer, poker journalist Hilly The Fish. I was in good company the B final with apprentice legends Lee McQueen and Tre Azam who also fell victim to the Fish . Tre is sharp cookie and as hilarious in person as he was on the apprentice. It was just the two of us left on the final hand when we both went all in with his flush beating my 2 pair on the river.

I had some consultation though as Alex Epstein who’d never played poker before finished second to Chris ‘cool hand’ Bates in the A final. As I’d staked Alex into the competition I saw a return on the night. Talk about beginners luck. Congratulations to Chris on winning a place in the final tournament where he’ll represent the apprentices against some pretty handy players from the betting and gaming world.

On Tuesday it was all about the racing as Kevin Shaw organised an excellent Apprentice does F1 event. There were 22 apprentices on the grid spanning all 7 series and the junior apprentice. I had a great start winning the first heat but it all went downhill from there! On track with my new buddy Edward Hunter (first fired from the current series), it became pretty clear that Edward was an accident looking for somewhere to happen, after 3 laps of exchanging places we final came together on the hairpin taking out poor Zoe Plummer in the process. As a result of the crash Edward and I were sin binned and that meant I’d start the final from the back of the grid.

With any chance of a win out of the window (I’m a little bit competitive) I set my sights on getting on the podium with some aggressive overtaking. I managed to get myself up to 5th enjoying a great battle with Liz Locke and Lee McQueen on the way before Debra Barr ruthlessly forced me onto the grass on the back straight, she got black flagged for that but my race was over and I finished in a lowly 8th position. Kevin Shaw took top spot on the podium. (Little bit jealous).
The party really got going at Amika in the evening where we held a charity auction for our charities UK Youth, The Royal British Legion, The Princes’ Trust, The St James’s Place Foundation and Ray of Sunshine. Amongst those in attendance were Raef Bjayou, (every bit as suave in person), Howard Ebison, Laura Moore, Ben Clarke and one of my favourite ever candidates Simon Smith from series 3. To say the least my wife has a bit of a soft spot for Raef, who very sportingly gave her a phone call and turned on the charm!

We’re well on the way to hitting our target of £10,000 for the chosen charities and it would be great if you could donate at

Of course I’ve been glued to the TV on Wednesday nights and have enjoyed the action from the last 2 episodes. It was a shame to see Gavin go as the losing project manager, I had him down as potential winner, I’ve spoken with him since his departure and he really is a top chap who’s back to what he does best running

Last night’s episode saw the element I dislike most about the apprentice rear its ugly head. I’m referring of course to the bitching and back stabbing that is an unfortunate side effect of the knock out format. Rather than focus on winning the task, Venture’s PM Zoe seemed more intent on shifting the blame onto self-proclaimed beauty expert Suzie Ma (did you know she works in skin care?). What followed in the boardroom was pretty close to bullying as the recriminations against Susan continued, this was before they knew the results!! I’ve not been impressed with Zoe on the tasks but she has a solid boardroom strategy and she could be in for the long run. We weren’t to see a Zoe/Susan showdown though as Logic had managed to commit Apprentice Hari-kari by losing the Dark Lord money. Apparently he doesn’t like this.

Felicity quickly learnt there are no friends in the boardroom as Ellie and Natasha teamed up to send her down. Felicity paid the price of ignoring the maths from the first day and left it too late to sell the treatments that had a far superior margin to the questionable hair extensions. It was a shame to see her go as for the most part she ran a firm but fair task. I’m not convinced that Ellie and Natasha made a significant contribution but having lost money on a task that could have delivered a £2,000 profit had they stuck to their plan the PM was always going to be vulnerable.

Overall this wasn’t an episode that was going to improve the credentials of the show as a beacon for business. I hope next week we’ll see more focus on business and less on political posturing and ase covering. Still it’s nice to watch it without the risk of being fired.

Captain Ed goes down with the ship

The pontificating is over as the action starts for new series of the apprentice. The memories of my own apprentice experience came flooding back as I watched. From the off I empathised with Ed, less for being a wheeler-dealer trapped in the body of a bearded accountant and more because like me, he took the initiative and lead the boys.

With 75% of project managers fired on the first task, I know from a bitter experience this is a risky strategy. It’s one that will pay off if you win but will see an ignominious exit if you’re defeated. No one was going to argue their corner to be project manager once Ed had volunteered and Gavin squirmed when he inadvertently put himself in the frame, the relief on his face when he lost the vote was palpable.

By his own admission Ed’s heart was racing once he’d realised what he’d done, I know that feeling. Once you’re PM you realise this is real, you go from thinking “I’m on the apprentice” to “I could get fired!” The pressure hits you and the adrenalin kicks in!! There’s nothing like this pressure in a real business!!

Ed launched into a ‘vision over substance’ strategy. Desperate not to go the way of former soldiers and lawyers who’ve been fired in the past, he distanced himself from his accountancy background and dispensed with any thought of buy prices, production costs, sales units or profit margins!!

His leadership style was like a Captain of a Pirate Ship with a strong hand required to prevent a mutiny, (there was enough facial hair on display for an instalment of The Pirates of the Caribbean!) He probably made the same mistake as me, by not engaging the opinions of the group and dismissing ideas on the (probable) assumption people where out to get him he was alienated and made himself vulnerable for a firing. It was a win or bust strategy that echoed my sausage making task.

Meanwhile the girls had appointed Melody as their leader, or more likely Melody had appointed herself as Helen’s challenge never seemed likely to succeed. I’m interested to know where Melody studied to have Al Gore, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and 12 Nobel Prize winners as tutors. It’s too bizarre to make up isn’t it? Melody reminds me of series 1 runner-up Saira Khan, for the annoying over enunciation and condescending communication style which she seems blissfully unaware off.

New Covent Garden Market

At 03:20 AM, both teams leave their very swish house in Richmond (rumoured to be owned by Katherine Jenkins), off to the market to do some smart buying. In deft piece of delegation Melody appoints Edna head of finance. Of course as a business psychologist she was the natural choice, huh? More likely this was strategic arse covering if they came up short in the boardroom.

Smooth negotiation from Ed sees him start at the £9.50 asking price for a box of oranges, to buy at, wait for it… £9.50. Where’s Jamie Lester when you need him? Step forward Jim Eastwood, with just £40 to buy all the ingredients they need for the soup , Jim plays a lovely ploy of creating a ‘what-if scenario’ to test the entry point for a negotiation, very calmly he gets key information before closing a deal with another vendor. When asked by the seller ‘if I do you a favour, what can you do for me?’ Cool as a cucumber (tomato) he responds with “I’ll give you an extra £10 but I’ll need an extra box of peppers and 6 onions” before he has time to think, the £40 is in in his hand and the deal is done. Good work Jim.

The Kitchen

Onto the production line and the boys run into trouble trying to turn 1,400 oranges into 560 bottles of juice (not sure if they knew that was the target!). When the juicers finally pack-up the only option is to do it by hand. Unfortunately Ed seems to have glued his hand to his forehead as the pressure of the situation mounts, add some heated exchanges from Glenn and Jim has his ‘Ronseal’ moment diffusing a situation by saying “I’ll diffuse this situation”, classic.

The girls fair better but when Susan flags her worries about under buying, Melody side steps making a decision and passes the buck squarely to Edna. Shades of Nicholas and Anita being outmanoeuvred by wile Alex and Debra in previous years. At this point I have the girls £91 up based on their lower spending a good edge to start the selling with…

With both pitches established the boys head out selling office to office. A mixture of sales styles from an effusive Ed to a factual Leon and smarmy but strangely effective Vincent seem to supplement the boys Liverpool street kiosk. Meanwhile Ellie seems to be having some problems with her spelling struggling with vegetables, though I have some sympathy as even the simplest tasks become Herculean efforts under the pressure of 8 Million critical eyes. Whilst business is brisk at Canary Wharf stock is low and Melody seems to think it’s a good idea to put everyone together at a quiet looking Euston Station.

The Boardroom

Sitting in the waiting room before you’re called in, you’re told by the production crew not to talk which makes you feel like you’re back at school whilst creating an uneasy sense of anticipation. When you go through you’re faced with a stony faced Karen and Nick and the empty chair where the former Sir Alan will hold court. For me the tension broke when I faced him directly for the first time and I couldn’t help thinking that with his heavy (I mean heavy) studio make-up on he looked like a spitting image puppet of Sid James, only shorter. I then sat back in my chair and the rest is history.

Onto the debrief and it’s clear to me that Ed has adopted a boardroom strategy. Where I went for ‘golf club relaxed’ he’s going for mono-syllabic, cryptic non-self-incrimination. A strategy yes, the right one, no and he quickly estranges himself from Sugar who’s the hardest person to read I’ve ever met. As Sugar questions the girls underspend, Melody for a fleeting moment looks nervous but a quick bit of arse kissing from Felicity restores her egotism (good work Flic as you don’t know if you’ve won yet). As Nick builds the tension with a slow reveal of the figures, it looks like if Ed loses he could be heading for the exit. The boys are all in at £432.13, the girls £592.33, a winning margin of £160.20. If you take out the investment, profit figures show 137% difference in the girls favour. Ouch!

A quick visit to the Café for the coffee of shame and the incrimination begins. Vincent highlights the loss, as a production issue and he’s right to a degree, had they juiced all the oranges and then sold out at £2 per bottle they’d have made £910 but as they only produced a fifth of that stock the issue was over buying. Had they bought the 280 oranges they needed they’d only have spent £42, the saving being enough to win by £8. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but a bit of focus on the numbers up front would have given them an edge. When I lost my task by £15 it was because I’d taken this approach up front, so when sales when I bombed in the afternoon I was still in with a fighting chance right-up to the close of business. Owe for 4 packs of bangers and it could have been so different!!

In the final boardroom, I really wanted Ed to stay and the have chance to grow throughout the series but Sugar really had nowhere to go and unfortunately another Reading boy was out in the first week.


Project managers who win the first task on average make it to week 9 and 2 have made the final, so what I predict is 9 weeks of Melody being a pain in the arse for the girls as she basks in the glory of a (not that impressive) first win. I can’t see her sitting back and letting the others run things as she’ll want to keep her profile high. The battle lines are starting to form around 2 early protagonists, Melody and Susan, whilst the boys are yet to shine other than Jim who for me was this week’s stand out performer.

Writing this has been cathartic and I’m happy to hand over the baton of first fired to Ed Hunter who with a name like that must have a future in recruitment! Keep your chin up son and roll with those punches!

Great article Dan, thanks.

And you can find him on twitter too – @DanHarris75

And here’s a couple of clips to keep you going whilst we start gathering all the series 7 goodies for you….




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