The Apprentice: Lesson one - how to get yourself fired

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 22 March 2012

BBC Apprentice - Candidates 2012{{}}Lord Sugar is persistent, I’ll say that for him. Here he is again looking for another apprentice — or what he calls a “so-called entrepreneur” — that can help him make lots of money.

Sixteen Apprentice candidates are lined up in the boardroom. We’ve heard the usual posturing from them about how great they are, but now they’re looking nervous as they listen to the law according to Lord Sugar. “This is my boardroom and by the way this is my money. I’m not looking for a friend. If I wanted a friend, I’d get myself a dog.”

Woof woof.

Lord Sugar also said he’s looking for a “Lennon to his McCartney”, a “Marks to his Spencer”. And it will take 12 weeks of tasks to sort the winner from the wannabes.

This week’s task is simple. Take some unadorned items – t-shirts, bags, teddy bears – and print a design on them. Then sell them for a profit. As usual at this stage in the competition, it’s boys versus girls.

It’s quite telling that none of the boys want to be project manager. You would have thought from their interview tapes that they would all have been clamouring for the job. But no, they all look down like a bunch of schoolboys who haven’t done their homework.

In the end, Nick Holzherr steps forward and with the name Team Pheonix, they start to plan their strategy.

Meanwhile, the girls call themselves Team Sterling and Gabrielle Omar puts herself forward as leader, based on the fact she’s planning to set up a print business.

There is talk of margins on both teams but it’s only the boys that figure them out before they buy the goods. The girls make their order and then try to make the numbers work.

When it comes to print and design, though, the girls are way ahead thanks to the secret weapon that is Jade. She does some lovely animals sketches. Nick Hewer, not one to bandy complements about, says: “Her design is smashing.”

But there’s red ink all over the place where the boys are trying to print pictures of London buses onto bags. There are great blobs of red ink all over the bags – making them only fit for the bin.

So it’s swings and roundabouts until we come to the selling. The boys do well until they have to give a shopkeeper a refund for selling her a bunch of bags that are covered in ink stains.

But there’s another unhappy retailer in London. The girls try and sell their remaining goods to a North London store and practically reduce the shopkeeper to tears. The poor woman says she won’t buy under pressure and still the girls berate her, all talking at once. Eventually, they leave but not before they get a good telling off from a chap that turns up to defend the shopkeeper. Quite right, too. Nick Hewer sums it up: “She couldn’t stand being cornered by a pack of baying hyenas.”

And so to the boardroom where we discover that the boys have blown the girls out of the water. They made a profit of £616.20 while the girls only managed a measly £214.80.

Like many a project manager on The Apprentice, Gabrielle hedges her bets by taking two very different people back into the boardroom with her – quiet Katie Wright and talkative Bilyana Apostolova.

What follows is absolutely fascinating. Bilyana basically fires herself.

She just doesn’t read the room. It’s obvious that Katie is for the chop. Even Lord Sugar says: “the person leaving may not feel they had enough time to show themselves”. Clearly, he means Katie.

But Bilyana will not stop talking. At one point Lord Sugar says “stop” ten times in a row. Moments later he tells her to “listen” nine times. In her attempts to save herself she actually makes Lord Sugar change his mind. He warns her that she’s not doing herself any favours. But she won’t listen. Bilyana is fired.

Find out more about this year’s bunch of Apprentice hopefuls.

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