Three business experts give us their views on who they think should win tonight’s Apprentice and why....
Graeme Patfield, director at strategic PR and marketing communications firm Polymedia PR in Fareham
‘The Apprentice gets further and further away from business reality with every series - from Lord Sugar’s scripted one-liners to the candidates’ woeful business plans, don’t make the mistake of believing that any of it resembles the real world.
‘That said, even in this cartoon version of commerce, presentation is the key to success. Particularly when your every faux pas is being filmed for an audience of millions, how you come across can makes the difference between a Fired and Hired.
‘Equally crucial is that what you say is backed up by what you do. So many of the final five came unstuck here, their business plans monstered by hammy Bond villain Claude Littner, whose interviewing style would be counter-productive for any business interested in bringing out the best in people.
‘Frances was rightly unforgiven for going in with a pitch that was unfinished. Grainne seemed to think she’d invented recruitment (to be fair, this was a tactic that worked for Portsmouth’s own Ricky Martin in a previous series). Jessica, who is the kind of person you’d throw yourself under a bus to get away from, had a business plan based on giving a few Z-listers a couple of quid to Instagram a picture of a dress. ‘Influencer marketing has its place, but on its own it won’t achieve those kind of results, especially for such a dodgy product.
‘So we’re left with the least terrible two. It says something about the quality of the candidates that one of these is Courtney, a personality-free 12-year-old with a business plan that is one step up from reselling fake dog poo on a market stall. Perhaps that’s why former barrow boy Lord Sugar likes him.
‘For my money (and I’m glad it’s actually Lord Sugar’s dosh at stake) it’s cake-baking Alana who has the best chance of rising to the occasion.
‘Despite her complete failure to know her market, her unoriginal idea and an unwillingness to invest in her own business, she’s been the voice of sanity this series.
‘I suspect Lord Sugar won’t care much for her cakes, but he may be impressed by her logical thinking, ability to actually make the occasional decision, determination and presentation skills. Together, they are pretty good ingredients for success.’
Ian Lee is a director at leading independent property surveying practice McAndrew Martin. McAndrew Martin is based in Portsmouth with clients across the south.
Three of its employees have previously been highly commended in the Apprentice of the Year category at the Portsmouth News Business Excellence Awards.
Ian said: ‘The candidates were put through their paces with some harsh questioning in the interviews.
‘Most of them had their own businesses, differentiating them from the traditional workplace apprentices most of us think of.
‘At McAndrew Martin we see our apprentices develop and make real progress; as they reach goals along the way, their momentum and drive to succeed grows with them.
‘Out of the two finalists, Alana just has the edge although Lord Sugar may struggle to choose between two fairly straightforward businesses.
‘My advice to the winner would be “don’t get too big too soon”. Get to know your market and clients really well. When you bring new people in, make sure that they have the same passion, drive to succeed and entality as yourself to ensure you maintain a high quality of service. It is important to look after your clients and nurture these relationships.
‘The first three years are critical for any business although the eventual winner may be expected to make an instant impact and deliver returns for Lord Sugar almost immediately.’
Michelle Stewart, MD of recruitment agency Wild Recruitment, in Arundel Street, Landport
‘It was encouraging to see four women make it through to the “Final Five” episode of The Apprentice.
‘And as always in this episode there were some CV howlers uncovered by the interrogators. When will candidates learn not to lie or exaggerate so much?
‘Some of the errors and omissions in the business plans were embarrassing. Perhaps when they put together their plans the candidates didn’t think for a minute they’d get through to the final stages of the competition.
‘We also saw the interviewers and Lord Sugar become exasperated with Courtney because he lacked personality. It’s important to show enthusiasm and passion in any interview process.
‘However, Courtney’s business plan clearly impressed Lord Sugar more than his personality did because he made it through to the final.
‘His business that designs, creates and sells novelty gifts relies on speed of invention; a risky strategy but a flexible concept.
‘He is up against Welsh cake maker Alana who wants to expand her baking business – and took her products with her to the interviews.
‘If it were my £250,000 to invest I think I’d have my cake and eat it.’