The Apprentice reviewed by a career coach: Lord Sugar’s interviewers rip apart some truly awful business plans

Claude wasn’t impressed by Brittany’s business idea on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC)Claude wasn’t impressed by Brittany’s business idea on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC)
Claude wasn’t impressed by Brittany’s business idea on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC) | BBC

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The interview week is always the real test on The Apprentice, and the final four’s business ideas left a lot to be desired, writes Corinne Mills

Assisting in The Apprentice cull this week were Lord Sugar’s old friends Claude Littner, Linda Plant, Mike Soutar and Claudine Collins.

And they were vicious.

Brittany Carter, usually as positive and enthusiastic as a puppy, was reduced to tears and shown the door as her lack of experience and business credibility were cruelly exposed.

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Brittany’s boozy fitness nightmare

Her business idea was for a protein-packed alcohol food supplement. Apart from Brittany, who clearly would order boxes full of the stuff from QVC given half the chance, it was unclear who else would buy it. Tipsy gym fanatics?

Her idea isn’t a huge leap from other companies flogging nursing-home type shake meal replacements as “healthy and time-saving”. Brittany’s product only adds to this by feeding you and helping you get sloshed at the same time – a much more efficient way to social dysfunction.

There may be market for this, but one you could imagine being subject to government health warnings before too long. Brittany would be well advised to keep it as a home brew and look for other ways to use her talents.

Stephanie Affleck nearly made it to the final. She’s a smart, grounded woman and her business idea selling pre-loved designer kids clothes had promise. As long as the food stains and puddle splashes come out, why not recycle your Gucci and Prada to families with pretensions above their household budget?

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However, she would have to find a way to authenticate the items. She couldn’t even spot what was real or fake when laid in front of her, and there was no way to digitally authenticate items at scale. Perhaps she is ahead of her time and this technology will be possible down-stream, but for now her best hope is to keep it as a side-hustle while she looks for a new job.

Mike Soutar grills Kathryn on her website idea (Photo: BBC)Mike Soutar grills Kathryn on her website idea (Photo: BBC)
Mike Soutar grills Kathryn on her website idea (Photo: BBC) | BBC

Kathryn Burn’s business idea was a company that sold pyjamas for the whole family, including the dog. A cute, Instagrammable idea perfect perhaps for Christmas.

Although any other time of year it would sound like coercive control. The whole family forced to wear outfits in synchronicity so that even asleep you know where the power lies.

Perhaps there can be an affiliate marketing tie-in with social services as an early warning system.

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You only need to tune in half an hour earlier to Dragons Den to hear the investors ask how easy it for the products to be copied by other companies. No doubt competitors will be producing their own versions in plenty of time for Christmas.

Stephanie faces up to Linda Plant on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC)Stephanie faces up to Linda Plant on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC)
Stephanie faces up to Linda Plant on The Apprentice (Photo: BBC) | BBC

The interviews from hell

Credit was due though to Kathryn’s remarkable composure during a merciless interview process which reduced Brittany and Steph to tears and made even Harpreet’s lip quiver as she sold out her sister.

Kathryn’s false claims about designing her products, her lack of knowledge about manufacturing and sustainability and her unrealistic business plan, were all ripped apart. However, the only time she seemed to wobble was when Mike Suter said he’d brought the rights to the company domain names she wanted.

Surely if she was that committed to her business idea, she would be pursuing it regardless of whether Lord Sugar wanted to invest or not. After all, you can always go to the bank for a loan.

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Does she really want to get her nails dirty in the manufacturing and ecommerce business? She wouldn’t be the first Apprentice candidate to use the series as a vehicle to an influencer or media career. Let’s hope she’s more Kardashian than Katy Hopkins inspired.

She’ll be put through her paces next week and we’ll see how committed she really is.

Harpreet’s sister act was her downfall

In contrast there is no doubting the serious intent of Harpreet Kaur. Unlike any of the others, she knows her business and has been successfully running two outlets over the last five years.

She planned to open one a year – perhaps a bit slow for Lord Sugar, but it showed that she had thought about the effort and care it needed, which was much more reassuring than the pie in the sky forecasting of the other candidates.

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Harpreet was a strong candidate but came undone (Photo: BBC)Harpreet was a strong candidate but came undone (Photo: BBC)
Harpreet was a strong candidate but came undone (Photo: BBC) | BBC

She’ll need to jettison some of that micromanagement and start delegating though if she wants to expand the business.

There was also no doubt about the ruthlessness with which she would pursue her business goals. When Lord Sugar discovered her sister was her joint partner, he fired her without a second thought.

I think that if the sister wasn’t involved Harpreet would breeze this.

However, it does complicate things for Lord Sugar when the sister has decision power, could sell their share, or by leaving, inadvertently disrupt what has helped make the company successful so far.

It’s going to be an interesting final.

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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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