I’m generally a fan of The Apprentice. During the last series, I started writing (on this blog) a post about how I was considering stopping. I never posted it, but here’s a very brief excerpt:
“We don’t as a society, respect and reward con-artists. Whatever happened to selling a quality product?”
It was a happy post (clearly!), mostly about how everything was to do with money, and none of these teams would survive longer than the two-day “task” if they had to attract repeat business from satisfied customers.
Last night’s episode saw two teams create new biscuits. I love biscuits. Always have.
I’m sure that as you get older, you’re meant to appreciate things like Loyd Grossman cooking sauces, but no – I’m nearly 30, and the biscuit aisle is still what attracts my attention. Even when Tesco separate out the chocolate from the biscuits (like they’ve done in my local just-refurbished store), I’m still inexplicably drawn to the biscuits.
I went through a stage of occasionally watching Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. It’s a shit show, I know, but I actually quite liked Ralf Little’s character. He’s a biscuit obsessive, and in a halloween special, is killed by a large biscuit. It’s probably the way I’ll go.
So, two biscuits created last night. In fact, of all the talk, only two ideas caught my attention in the whole show. Both were by Tom. He came up with a concept of an “emergency biscuit” which fell decidedly flat (although it would make a great advert, I think). He also came up with the idea of ‘a biscuit within a biscuit’. Incredible. Not part of one and part of another. One whole biscuit, inside a different type of biscuit.
I’m still excited, thinking about it now. Imagine the possibilities.
Recently I experimented with this idea myself. I took this photo on 12th June 2011.
Tom’s idea went forward, although with a load of other crap added from various team members (chocolate on only one half?), and they had an awful roleplay tagged into their pitch which was cringeworthy to say the least.
Due to the pitch, no real thought given to the target market, and that they were pitching a budget biscuit at a high-end market, that team lost the challenge. Instead, it was won by a team who put a bit of chocolate on a shortbread biscuit in the shape of a star. Original? Hardly.
The winning team also assessed that they were going to sell £2 premium biscuits to children, as “an after school treat which could be eaten any time” (what?) under the name “Special Stars”. They promised all sorts of things they couldn’t possibly ever deliver on (Harry Potter film tie-ins), and the retailers all went with the boring team.
So why do I want Tom to go?
Precisely because Tom is brilliant, is why he has to go. He can’t work with Sugar. Sugar knows how to make money, but he’s not great at spotting new products. He was huge in the 1980s. He made hifis, computers, and all sorts of budget products. But they weren’t new products, or groundbreaking products – just cheaper versions of existing things. Have a look at Amstrad’s company profile yourself.
I used to be a Sky customer, and I think it was generally agreed that if you wanted a decent Sky box, you hoped that the one in the bundle would be a Pace or a Panasonic. If your free Sky box was an Amstrad, you had got the raw end of the stick.
Don’t forget the Amstrad e-m@iler. That wonderful device that is now in *every* home. It’s up there with the Apple Newton and Microsoft Bob, as something nobody really took to.
Sugar dismissed the iPod as being a fad, for goodness sake.
Viglen? I read something recently that Sugar wrote himself, proclaiming that the innards in modern computers are all the same, so the government might as well buy from Viglen, instead of Dell – to employ people in Britain. Doesn’t seem that compelling a reason, to me.
Tom is a crazy inventor. Alright, he’s created a curvy nail file, but he’s also worked on products for early detection of cancer. If he’s going to work with anybody, it needs to be someone who understands that wild all-over-the-place mentality, and that it’s about improvement, not just money.
Maybe it’d work better if someone like Dyson was putting up the money.
They’ve made a new blade-less desk fan which is no more powerful than a conventional fan, not really any quieter, and quite a lot more expensive. What’s the point? Because it’s possible. Because it’s cool. Because you can do things like this, with it.
You imagine what sort of meetings their R&D departments have, to come up with things like that? That’s the place for Tom.
Edit – 19/07/11
Well this requires an update, doesn’t it. A couple of days ago, Tom became the winner of The Apprentice 2011. Who saw that coming?
Some people suggested on Twitter that the first 11 weeks were superfluous, as the last episode ended up being a bit like Dragon’s Den – with the candidates producing business plans, and being grilled about their figures, in order to get a cash investment of £250,000.
When it came down to it, the business ideas let most of them down. Susan’s was wildly optimistic, Helen’s a bit difficult to create, Jim’s problematic in a time of recession, which left Tom. Tom’s idea being about combatting back pain in the work place. As it happens, Sugar didn’t like Tom’s idea either, so – in what I think is a massive bending of the rules – after choosing him, started talking to him about the bloody nail file, and spinning it off into other colours/sizes/options.
When you sit and think about it, it isn’t that unlikely. Sugar has made all of his money selling products, whether Sky boxes, hifis, computers, or them e-m@iler telephones. Two of the candidates chose to pitch businesses featured around services instead, and Tom has proof of taking a product from idea to mass-market. Tom wins. It’s the easiest outcome for Sugar.
I still hate the fact that Sugar started the series off by saying something along the lines of: “people ask me – ‘is it still possible to start a business in this day and age, with no money, like you did?’ and I say – ‘Yes'”, and then to prove you can start a business with no money, stumped up £250,000 startup investment. Fail.
And whatever Sugar says, I’d still buy the emergency biscuit. And I’d buy the biscuit within a biscuit, too.
Well done Tom though. The nicest guy in The Apprentice 2011.