Week Seven: The Apprentice analysed…

Week seven into The Apprentice and Sir Alan tested the sales skills of the wannnabe apprentices challenging them select two products to sell to local retailers in Liverpool. How did they do? Our employment lawyer panel moonlighting as TV critics give their judgment.

Hannah Ford, solicitor, Stevens & Bolton LLP

With travel budgets tightening across UK workplaces, it was good to see Sir Alan’s protégés take an unexpected pit stop at the Gateway Services. Their task? To take the road to ‘sell’ to the Costa-Del-North-West.  Ray Bans and man-kini packed, City-trader Ben could barely conceal his disgust at the prospect of swopping the square mile for a sunless city break in our capital of culture.
The sexual tension between Kate and Phil had been simmering for weeks, and we sensed from the off that their biggest challenge would be maintaining sales focus when thrown together in a steamed up cab. Oblivious to gooseberry Ben, they wasted hours giggling behind dog-eared cat-boxes and flirting over the yellow pages. Despite being a city away, mystic PM Lorraine saw it all through the swirling mist of her crystal ball and tinted glasses.       
With a huge percentage of relationships starting in the workplace, Lorraine’s fears over Phil-Kate’s dwindling productivity chimed with those of employers who stumble across an office romance.

To avoid cost, conflict and claims many employers seek to separate such love birds into different teams or cities. However, delivering her self-professed killer instinct, Lorraine took a different tack; throwing the lovebirds back together in the Boardroom and outing them to Sir Alan. Pants-man’s achilles-heel was exposed and defeated by his arch enemy, he was forced to take a lonely cab ride home.


Alan Nicholson, senior associate, McGrigors

Sir Alan provided the products and the platform, but all Philip managed to peddle was some bloke’s bike.  When Lorraine alleged that he was in tandem with Kate, we knew that Durham (with its lower wages?) was the only destination being typed into the satnav this week.

Most employers wouldn’t interview a candidate describing himself as “arrogant, cocky, stubborn and a control freak”.  But Sir Alan isn’t most employers, and you have to admire Philip’s self-awareness.  Again he argued hammer and tongs with Lorraine, and judging by his perfectly straightened hair, it was Philip who won the tongs.  Sir Alan (like most employers) wants team players, and neither candidate ticked that box. 

Slow burner Lorraine was criticised for alienating people, and Sir Alan was concerned how his other employees might react to Philip.  Objections from colleagues can sometimes justify the dismissal of the objectionable employee, and anticipated unrest can certainly scupper a job application. 

It’s relatively uncommon for employers to have policies that prohibit or require disclosure of workplace relationships, but Lorraine was keen to reveal the identity of Kate’s Pantsman.  After a tour de force in the Boardroom though, Kate stays in the saddle and Philip is on his bike.  


Kiran Daurka, solicitor, Russell Jones & Walker

The elements for a classic episode were all in place. First, Ben moving to join Philip and Lorraine on the same team – the TUPE transfer from hell. Second, Lorraine PM’ing.

But what’s this, only one ferret joke and there’s a Heal’s in Manchester? There’ll be a Harvey Nicks in Leeds next.

As usual, both teams demonstrate their complete ineptitude and the marginally less inept team wins, in this case thanks largely to Mona who manages to hypnotise an army surplus shop manager into buying 40 padded tracksuits. The shopkeepers are largely unmoved by the profit potential of cardboard boxes for cats to play in. Howard shows he is Nooral-like – ponder that concept and shudder.

To the boardroom. Philip is the fairest dismissal for a while and possibly ever.

The rest divide into two: doomed – Howard, Lorraine, Ben and Mona; and contenders – Kate, Jasmina and, despite earlier wobbles, James.


Hugh More, solicitor in the employment team at Withers LLP:

Emotions were at the heart of this week’s race around Manchester and Liverpool to plug an assortment of poorly-picked products.
Lorraine quickly announced that her managerial thinking would be very much ‘feelings driven’. Certainly, she deployed her familiar skill in stirring up passion in others, though not productively: her truce with Philip broke down within minutes (again). Credit where it’s due, though: she and Yasmina did sell more feline fire engines (don’t ask) and bike panniers to Manchester than Philip, Kate and Ben sold to Liverpool. Which is to say, ‘some’ as opposed to ‘none’.
Lorraine was quick to highlight the workplace relationship between Kate and Philip as the explanation for the team’s failure. Had they taken their eyes off the ball, the better to gaze into each other’s? Employers increasingly acknowledge that many relationships now start at work: many have instituted relationship policies to lay down groundrules. If Lorraine was that concerned, what was she doing sending them on a romantic mini-break to Liverpool (admittedly, with gooseberry Ben in tow) in the first place?
Philip’s views on the matter were predictably forthright: he thought he could have done better than Lorraine and (sweetly) that Kate could have too. Sir Alan had no time for this emotions stuff. He made his selection using good, old-fashioned objective criteria: Philip had sold nothing (plus, of course – subjectively – he was a berk). He had to go.