THE pressure is mounting in The Apprentice UK and in the case of Paul Sullivan, it boiled over this week, with his temperament at least partly responsible for the 38-year-old Chigwell marketer and CEO being sent for an early bath by Lord Sugar.
The boardroom final three was made up of project manager Paul and his teammates Frances Bishop and Jessica Cunningham. It was never going to be pretty. Having recovered from a Week 6 warning from Lord Sugar to “be on a winning team someday” with a Week 7 victory as project manager, Frances was not going to go quietly. And to find Jessica in the final three was little surprise given the way she and project manager Paul had clashed during the task.
So, with the field of candidates down to eight from the initial 18, how did it all end for Paul, a candidate who had been reckoned to be sufficiently strong to at least be in the final running for Lord Sugar’s €250,000 investment?
The Task – London Landmarks
The Apprentice UK Week 8 task was London Landmarks. The teams were summoned by Lord Sugar, Karren Brady and Claude Littner to the National Portrait Gallery. But they were not there to admire the artwork. They were being assigned just 36 hours to organise exclusive late-night events at two London landmarks — the London Aquarium and Madame Tussaud’s.
Paul was in charge of Jessica, Frances, Trishna Thraknar and Sofiane Kelfa in Team Nebula for the Madame Tussaud’s gig. And over at the London Aquarium, it was Dillon St Paul calling the shots over Alana Spencer, Courtney, and Grainne McCoy.
The teams were competing against one another to determine who had the superior event management skills. They were being measured in terms of profitability and also in the quality of the event staged. In the end it would be fair to say that neither team covered themselves in glory.
After deciding on a casino night, Paul lost control of the ticket pricing strategy, with admission plummeting from an initial €65 for a free Proseco and canapes (with extra sales to be made on hot food) to an average of €23-€24 per person (many of whom bought tickets in the understanding that the hot food was free).
Dillon had to deal with teammates—including Grainne McCoy and Courtney who were less than enthusiastic about the fancy dress method of ticket promotion.
In addition, they’d pitched the entertainment as an mermaid who would be swimming in a tank and “holding her breath for over a minute”, whereas what they got was a singer, dressed as a mermaid, singing songs seated on a stool.
Undeterred, Dillon ploughed ahead, remained upbeat, encouraged his teammates to be positive and due in the most part to his spirit of fun and positivity, managed to achieve 100 per cent customer satisfaction for an event that was, on the face of it, pretty far short of what had been expected.
The figures didn’t lie, either. Paul’s team fell short, with sales of more than £2,085 offset by approximately £958 outgoings, leaving £1,127 in profit. Titans, however, achieved sales of £3,149.71 but their outgoings left them with £2,400 profit—a clear victory for Dillon and his three teammates.
Not only did Paul lose control of the pricing strategy, and his cool with Jessica, he also made a fatal blunder of taking a combative stance in his final boardroom encounter with Lord Sugar. Never a good idea.
With the candidates down to a hard core of eight, all of the remaining characters are capable of winning, or at least getting into the final three or four.
Alana Spencer: the owner of the baking company Narna’s Cakes, Alana regards herself as versatile and determined. She has had some wobbles, but her potential has been noted. Having had a couple of warnings from Lord Sugar, however, she needs to beware any further missteps.
Courtney Wood: the novelty gifts entrepreneur, owner of the company Bubblegum Stuff, is not the most comfortable ‘front of house’ performer, but he has a cool, level and focused approach to task roles and project management that could see him through to the end on this season of The Apprentice UK.
Grainne McCoy: has been a strong and confident candidate from the get-go. Doesn’t conceal it when she thinks projects are going wrong, and has an energetic approach to project management that manages to keep most of her teammates so far on board.
Trishna Thraknar: this is the candidate for whom the term ‘quietly confident’ could have been invented. She is level-headed and smart, and has fully engaged with all the task roles assigned to her so far. She sometimes has her opinions disregarded by her teammates, which is something that might cause her difficulties in the decisive final weeks.
Sofiane Kelfa: a bit of an enigma. He undoubtedly has commitment and energy, but it sometimes seems misdirected. He has repeatedly caused friction on teams when he disengages and goes on solo runs. However, he has survived a boardroom final three with Lord Sugar, and insists that we have yet to see the real Sofiane, so who can say?
Frances Bishop: seems strong and committed on all the tasks to date, and yet she has been on the losing team in seven out of the eight tasks to date. She cannot afford to be in another final three, we reckon.
Dillon St Paul: Dillon seems to have the respect of everyone in the house, and neither Lord Sugar nor his associates have any doubts about his determination and energy. However, he has had that damning warning from Lord Sugar about whether ‘nice’ equates to solid business acumen.
Jessica Cunningham: a whirlwind! A great sales person who has rescued at least a couple of tasks from loss-making or completely positions due to her selling ability. However, she is by her own admission “disorganised, scatty and forgetful”. This will not play well in the stormy final four weeks, but she undoubtedly has solid business smarts as the owner of two companies, so she can in no way be counted out.
The Wisdom of Lord Sugar
With fewer candidates left in this season of The Apprentice UK, Lord Sugar seems less disposed to shooting up the skyline with witticisms and more focused on drilling down into the business abilities of those contending to be his business partner. But he said enough this week to underline the kind of focused and uncompromising business partner he will be. Unsurprisingly most of it was focused on Paul Sullivan.
• “That was a Petticoat Lane pricing strategy, was it? I’m not gonna sell it to you for £65; I’m not gonna sell it to you for £55; I’m not even gonna sell it to you for £35…” – educating Paul on the importance of being structured and organised when calculating price
• “You’re starting to show your aggression again, Paul. And you don’t want to show it to me, I can tell you…” – a stark caution to Paul Sullivan to rein in the attitude
• “I think that you made a very, very big error in the pricing strategy. And you did lose your rag on this task, in representing me, in front of customers…” – just immediately prior to issuing Paul with the red card
• “Now, ladies, calm yourself down; just calm yourself down… There’s gonna be another tough task coming up next week, d’you understand me? This is business. Off you go.” – a pep talk to an emotional Frances Bishop and Jessica Cunningham after the grueling boardroom final three
Looking Ahead to Week 9 of The Apprentice UK
Next week on The Apprentice UK, Karren and Claude visit the candidates at the house, to give them a briefing, delivered virtually by Lord Sugar, assigning them to develop a new virtual reality game.
It will be a tough task, requiring the weary candidates to push their imaginations and design skills to the limit. The Apprentice UK Week 9 task culminates with the teams pitching their new products at the world-famous Comic-Con exhibition.
The sneak preview aired at the conclusion of this week’s programme concluded with the vintage Sugar burn, “There’s no imagination here! If it was up to you, Super Mario’d be known as Fat Plumber!” As ever, AGENT wishes it was next Thursday already!
The Apprentice UK is broadcast Thursdays 9-10pm on BBC One, followed by The Apprentice: You’re Fired, hosted by Rhod Gilbert, on BBC Two, 10-10.30pm.
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