This week the teams on The Apprentice were tasked with managing a corporate away day at Silverstone.
This task should have been a breeze for project manager Stephanie Affleck, as a first class graduate in event management. But this week she seemed to lose her touch.
She and Kathryn Burn seemed ill-prepared and uninterested in the museum tour they had arranged for their guests, waving them away like mums desperate for their toddlers to have a run around without them.
You could see the guests forlornly stumbling around the museum, thinking, ‘have I really left the cosy confines of my Covid-free house for this?’.
They looked like captives for a day, feigning interest with people they didn’t really know, while every move was being watched. Just like old times in the office.
The Chuckle Brothers
Lunch was equally miserable and late. A hair-netted Akshay Thakrar and Nick Showering, providing a Chuckle Brothers / Kitchen Nightmares crossover.
Nick slopping his sauce, all over the plates, the table and himself. The plates and the cutlery forgotten. The dining experience was more industrial park, van catering, than premium hospitality.
However, never underestimate the power of a terrifying experience to make you grateful for, well anything really. Driving around the race track at breakneck speed, the punters yelped and whooped.
In retrospect they were probably glad they hadn’t eaten too much of Nick and Akshay’s mid-price slops as it would have ended up on the car’s very expensive dashboard.
The day finished with a bout of Scalextric to burn off the last traces of adrenalin still coursing through their veins. No doubt it helped the team get away with a request for only a 20% refund.
On the other team, both Brittany Carter and Harpreet Kaur put themselves up for project manager. Brittany should have been an easy choice, having a a first class degree in Hospitality. However, Harpreet, who runs a dessert parlour, told the team it should be her because she knew everything – how to make a profit, provide a great experience and use everyone’s skillset.
Curiously, this didn’t sound bombastic. It was as if she was emitting a quiet gravitas forcefield, signalling common sense and confidence which her team-mates were unable to resist.
While her management style was controlling, she used her soft skills cleverly. She buttered up the team so they were more pliant to her will, resisting Brittney’s attempts to take over with a polite “thank you for your suggestion” before ignoring her.
She knew it was probably more important for Brittney to feel heard, than the actual idea itself.
Unlike most Apprentice candidates who seem to think negotiations should start preposterously, Harpreet straightforwardly asked the suppliers and the customers what they wanted, and their budget.
She then proceeded to negotiate a better deal on this basis. This was just so much more like a real life version of business than the usual negotiating charade where most Apprentice candidates only lower their credibility.
‘Rice, rice, rice, rice!’
She did have a sticky moment of rice panic in the kitchen with Akeem Bundu-Kamara where she struggled to suppress her irritation with him - “rice, rice, rice, rice, make me rice” she kept barking.
But even then, she had enough emotional nous to warn him not to burn his hands on the oven, a subtle signal that even if she was annoyed she still cared that he was okay.
Despite the racing simulation experience being mis-sold as VR, Harpreet and her team ensured their guests had had such a brilliant day that it seemed to become a minor detail.
Aaron Willis was in his element, greeting the guests with a genuinely funny if risqué gag: “I bet you’re thinking Lewis Hamilton has let himself go”.
Harpreet did everything she said she was going to do and they deservedly won the task.
All of Stephanie’s team were in the firing line this week. Stephanie still seeming confident. Kathryn looking hurt that there’s even a hint that she could be considered anything less than marvellous. Nick simply enjoying the attention and Akshay who is turning out to be the Houdini of the boardroom.
Akshay the survivor
In eight episodes Akshay has been on the losing team seven times and this was his fifth time in the boardroom. Neither has he done anything particularly impressive to date, yet when Lord Sugar looks into his dark soulful eyes, he seems reluctant to point the finger in his direction.
Does Akshay have Derren Brown type persuasion skills, and he’s secretly hypnotised Lord Sugar to obey his will with a couple of taps under the boardroom table? If we hear Lord Sugar’s been involved in a bank heist, we’ll now know who’s behind it.
Of course, it may be that Akshay has hidden talents which are yet to be revealed. Well we’ll know the answer next week when he’s going to be project manager.
In the meantime, it was goodbye to Nick. He was unlikely to be the next Apprentice but he clearly enjoyed the experience and we enjoyed watching him, and that’s a success by any measure.
Corinne Mills is a career coach with Personal Career Management and author of best-selling books on CVs and career change.
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