It was interview day on The Apprentice this week as the five remaining candidates were reduced to two, with Leah Totton and Luisa Zissman heading for the final.
At the start we had five remaining candidates
It was the last chance for the candidates to convince Lord Sugar and his associates that they deserved a place in the final. They faced a round of testing interviews to explore both the candidates and their business plans.
The interviewers, located at the Institute of Directors, were:
- Claudine Collins, MD of a leading media agency
- Claude Littner, Lord Sugar’s former global troubleshooter
- Margaret Mountford, long standing advisor
- Mike Suter
Francesca struggled to remember her numbers in her business plan and confused turnover with profit. Her business plan for a chain of dance studios was described as Claude as farcical.
The interviewers considered she would need a lot of support to grow her business. She had a good idea but it was not clear whether it could be scaled up or whether she could manage such a business.
Neil was pushing his online estate agency idea. His plan was considered lightweight and Mike Suter was concerned that his idea of getting consumers to sell their own houses was flawed when it also included working with estate agents. Whatever was said, Neil just replied that he believed he could achieve his plan. Neil’s drive and commitment for his plan seemed to border on an obsession as he ignored all criticism and failed to pick up on the message he was getting from some very experienced business people; that to succeed he needed to revise his business plan to something that could work.
Mike Suter suggested that Neil was very driven but wouldn’t listen to advice.
Luisa’s existing business success was well received by Claude and he was impressed by the turnover of her three businesses: a consumer electronics business, a cake shop and an online bake shop. Luisa wanted to develop a one stop shop for bakers but Mike Suter thought her plan was lacking some key detail.
Luisa’s stubbornness and manipulative behaviour were challenged by Claudine.
Luisa was considered street wise but a bit of a spoilt child who may be difficult if she didn’t get her own way. She seemed to be able to deliver though.
Leah Totton was pushing her idea of a chain of non surgical cosmetic outlets. She had ambitious profit targets for year one which Claude Littner thought were unrealistic. Leah bombarded him with a high level of detail which convinced Claude she had thought about it.
Leah came across as being concerned about her own looks in the interview with Claudine and as a bit cold as a person.
The advisors saw Leah as a serious contender.
Jordan came under fire for his entrepreneurial skills in terms of starting up businesses. He had helped others whilst at Oxford University but the only business he had started himself was trading on eBay. Jordan had claimed that he could do a Rubic’s cube in 3 minutes. Mike Suter tested him on this and Jordan failed to solve it within the time, claiming he had made a mistake under time pressure.
More importantly the business relationship between Jordan and his technical expert (mentioned in a previous episode) was unclear. Claude pointed out to Jordan that he was not actually a shareholder or a director or a founder in the business he was proposing to offer to Lord Sugar, called him a parasite and terminated the interview before Jordan could answer. Claude was outraged that the plan was offering an equity share of 15% rather than the 50% deal which The Apprentice advertises.
The interviewers didn’t consider that Jordan was an entrepreneur.
Lord Sugar’s decision
Once feedback had been given to Lord Sugar by his advisors, he summoned the candidates into the boardroom.
Jordan was immediately fired by Lord Sugar because of the misleading nature of the business plan with Jordan having only a “gentleman’s agreement” with his technical expert and in no position to make commitments on his behalf.
Luisa, Francesca and Leah’s ideas were reasonably well received although Lord Sugar was concerned about the moral aspects of Leah’s plan for Botox clinics. Leah reassured him that she was ethical and would turn people away from her clinics if the treatment was not suitable for them.
Lord Sugar told Neil that his business plan did not make sense as their was a conflict between getting consumers to sell their own home and involving estate agents. Neil just didn’t hear the signals Lord Sugar was sending him and insisted he could make a success of the business. So Lord Sugar reluctantly had to fire him. Had Neil acknowledged the flaws in his plan then he may have made the final. Lord Sugar did say that if the process was to offer a job rather than an investment then he would have hired Neil. He was hoping Neil may have had a plan B. But like Chancellor George Osborne, Neil has no plan B. Lord Sugar was clearly disappointed that Neil fell at the final hurdle.
We were left with three candidates for two slots in the final. Lord Sugar was concerned about the risk of Leah’s Botox clinics, whether Francesca could scale her business and whether Luisa would behave herself.
On reflection Lord Sugar chose first Leah Totton and then Luisa Zissman as finalists so it was farewell to Francesca MacDuff-Varley.
Two candidates remain and Lord Sugar’s search for his business partner reaches a climax next week.
It will be Leah Totton v Luisa Zissman in the final next week. Botox v Bakery as no doubt it will be called. Can’t wait.