The Apprentice: Melody’s final refrain

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 7 July 2011

Missed the tenth episode? Catch up here.

We’re down to six candidates and we’re finally seeing the wood for the trees. We’ve got little Susie, who unwisely says everything she thinks out loud; Irish charmer Jim who can sell anything; brainy but spineless boffin Tom; ambitious Melody who talks for Britain but makes no sense; Natasha, who acts tough but is insubstantial; and Helen, the quiet assassin waiting to make her move.

The task

This week’s task involves buying things wholesale and selling them for a profit. It’s a classic business model and a great test. It’s so simple. And Lord Sugar spells it out for them just in case they don’t get it. Sell this stuff, buy more of the stuff that sells best, sell that and buy more and keep going until you’ve got a nice fat profit. And, he tells them, don’t worry about being left with stock — that will be counted as assets.

This week, the teams are:

Logic: Helen, Tom and team leader Melody

Venture: Susie, Jim and team leader Natasha

The best bits

This task reveals that there is a chasm between the leaders and the grafters that get on and sell. Nowhere is this more apparent than on team Venture.

Jim is in his element. He tells customers: “I’ll package it up nicely. I’ll even give you a hug and a kiss.” He says things like: “Come to papa”! But in the context of selling nodding dogs and plastic brollies from a market stall, he’s pitching it just right and does a roaring trade.

Meanwhile, it looks like Susan has gone off task, stopping to buy a load of bracelets that catch her eye. A born shopper, her “magpie” eyes light up as she wantonly chucks bracelet after bracelet into her basket. But can she actually sell them?

Ooh those pesky Apprentice programme-makers. They get me every time. It’s edited to look like she’s making the biggest mistake of her life. But lo and behold, she shifts most of them for a big fat profit.

So team leader Natasha must be pleased, yeah? She’s got a great team, yeah? She’s making important, decisions, yeah? If only she wouldn’t say “yeah?” at the end of all her sentences. But that’s Natasha all over. She tries to sound like a player but she’s full of doubt.

You can see her rising panic as she watches Susie and Jim sell. She picks arguments with both of them, hoping to score some points that could be used in the boardroom. They’re having none of it. And then, in an attempt to be decisive, she won’t let Jim go and restock. Not a good move, Natasha, not a good move.

The worst bits

Meanwhile, Team Logic falls to pieces. Tom does OK on the South Bank flogging nodding dogs to small children. But Helen and Melody make a complete hash of things. They decide to “go retail” and sell the wholesale goods in larger quantities to retailers.

This is where Helen has done well before. But it’s all wrong for this task. These retailers can get their own stock from the same wholesalers thank you very much. And really, why would you try and sell £50 watches to a pound store?

So Melody and Helen get into a proper muddle, making random decisions on what to buy and fixating on selling a pile of duvet covers to a shop in Hackney for a tiny profit.

Eventually, thanks to some mobile phone chargers, they manage to make a few sales to add to what Tom’s sold. But it’s a sorry sight.

The best bit is when Helen tries to stage a coup. It’s the start of day two and they’re meeting to discuss tactics when Helen offers to take over the team leader role from Melody. The cheek!

Melody looks haughty, says “no to that” and moves on swiftly. Disaster averted. Or is it? What Melody doesn’t seem to appreciate is that Helen doesn’t care whether she’s team leader or not. She is simply making public her vote of no confidence in Melody ahead of the boardroom showdown. Clever girl.

The winners and losers

Natasha’s failure to restock — despite Lord Sugar’s specific instructions — sees team Venture on the naughty step. They get a £100 fine. In the end, though, they still win. But Lord Sugar is so disgusted with them that he takes away their winners’ treat.

So it’s Logic that have to shuffle off to the losers’ café — the Marie Celeste of cafes, where there are never any staff or other customers. Tom’s such a regular, he should get a loyalty card.

Back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar has to make a tough decision. He knows Helen is good (until now, she has never been on the losing team) and Tom has proved this week that he can sell.

So the focus is on Melody. Poor Lord Sugar. He hates to do this. It’s “with regret” that he fires her, this is a “cruel process” and Melody is “a woman of exceptional ability”. He’s so gutted that he can’t even bring himself to point his finger.

The ones to watch

Helen’s attempted coup has shown that she is made of steel. But she’s got competition from Tom, who is a “product man” who can sell too. And now Jim is back in the running. He even gets Nick Hewer’s seal of approval this week. Nick says: “People like him. And I quite like him” — pause — “for the first time.” Talk about damning with faint praise.

Business lesson

Once you’ve established your best sellers, stock up and sell as many of them as you can.

Quote of the week

“This is all about courage really. Whether you’ve got the balls to actually know and smell what’s going on in business. This is what I am looking for amongst you lot.” Lord Sugar.

Missed this episode? Watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Profitometer

This week Lord Sugar made £1,479.

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