The people who come up with the tasks for The Apprentice really are fiendish, because they have come up with challenges that are so hands-on. Selling fresh fish one week; doing laundry the next; trying to organise pub food the next.
The reason why that’s so brilliant is that these people who come to throw themselves at the promise of a job (something of a chalice, but breeze past that) are all from the “modern” world of management and business. You know, the one where you don’t actually get your hands dirty doing anything like buying real stuff, or dealing with people who are not that far above living from hand to mouth.
Instead, they’ve all got experience of telesales and similar non-jobs, where you work off a script to people who may already be halfway to buying whatever crap you’re offering because they rang you up and hung on the phone for a quarter of an hour.
Which leads to their classic pricing mistakes. Lobsters for £5. An offer to do the overnight laundry for a hotel for £5,000 (only 25 times more expensive than the bloke was seeking.) And the negotiating skills? Nonexistent! “I was looking for something in the region of £200,” says the hotel manager. “I’m delighted to accept your offer of £200!” says the telesales regional manager of the year. There was a similar scene last week when they were trying to sell the last of their fish. The would-be buyers simply bid low. The telesales dolts couldn’t even pretend to have another buyer outside; they just caved.
Oh, I forgot until I looked at Anna Pickard’s writeup at the Guardian. The 24-hour laundry hotline. Oh good god. The absolute embodiment of the bodiless, no-product rubbish of modern British business. As Sugar says: “who on earth needs a hotline to ring up to ask ‘how’s my pants doin’?”
And, to cap it all, they lost some of the clothes. Get these people over to Terminal 5, quick.
And so the boardroom denouement. Why shouldn’t I fire you, asks Sugar? “Team motivation and working within a group is one of my fortes,” the woman replies. Flipping heck! Find a straight answer, can’t you? What is this rubbish. He asks a straight question and you explain about how you don’t move peoples’ choose.
Why shouldn’t I fire you? “I’m an opportunist, I’m a doer.. I don’t know in this task where I went wrong.” The other facing the axe answers for her: “She lied, she complained, she manipulated, didn’t deliver on the task… could you be quiet?” This because the second has started yacking.
Second one again: “I put the process in place… at no point was any machine left unattended.” Except it was, by her, who knew which clothes were whose.
Now, I’ve crossed swords with Sir Alan (I’ve still got the emails from him lurking somewhere in my inbox..) but I don’t envy him the task of trying to choose between this bunch. Terrible. Management-speak spurts forth from their mouths, but there’s absolutely nothing behind it. Classic British business today.