Lord Sugar’s business partner Alana Spencer divulges how Claude Littner knows everything about candidates in the penultimate episode – and why hiding the truth is futile
The interview stage of The Apprentice makes it seem like every candidate has serious flaws in their business plans and begs the question why they’re even on the show. In fact, it was one of my most terrifying and nerve wracking experiences when I was in there. They make you feel very exposed and no matter how much faith you have in your business, you can’t help but doubt yourself when questions are being fired left right and centre. After all, these aren’t just any interviews. Everyone makes mistakes in the real world but in The Apprentice interviews, you simply can’t afford to. And if you panic and try to hide them like many of the losers last night, you can be sure interviewers Claude Littner, Claudine Collins, Linda Plant and Mike Soutar will sniff them out and have you sent home.
The most glaring example of this was Dan and his hangover cure business plan. Nearly every interviewer exposed a lie in it, such as when Mike found Dan claimed he sold one million products globally on Amazon, yet his business plan cited only 47,000 in the last year. Then Linda exposed Dan for not having a global business like he said but has only sold in three countries total, which was also quite embarrassing when this led to him admitting he didn’t know if Australia is part of Asia. And who can forget Claude’s grilling, who not only admitted he was surprised Dan made it to the final five but uncovered he omitted all competitors from his business plan, making it seem like he has a monopoly with his product. While I’ve praised Dan for having the ability to blag it before, it simply doesn’t fly in the interviews.
Just being honest from the start could have given Dan a chance at making the final. After all, the interviewers admitted he performed well in the tasks. But ultimately, Lord Sugar didn’t want to endorse excessive drinking by investing in hangover cures, yet alone his untrustworthiness, so Dan’s fate may have been sealed from the start.
Sabrina’s idea was definitely more PG – a mini-tennis events company for families. However, it had problems of its own. Perhaps the biggest one being, as Claude identified, Sabrina doesn’t actually have her own venue but has contracts to host events at other people’s, making her less in control of the business. Mike made the resulting problems clearer when he unveiled that out of around 69 of her tennis tournaments, 30 had been cancelled thanks to a lack of staff resources or court space. In fact, Sabrina admitted she over-publicised tournaments compared to what she could physically carry out.
That in itself perhaps shows she of all people really needs Lord Sugar’s investment to get those pieces in place and establish her brand, rather than waste the cash like some candidates. But most of all, Sabrina could make the most of Lord Sugar’s guidance. She was just so innocent and wide-eyed throughout the whole process and that really showed last night, especially when telling Mike her tennis tournaments stood out from competitors because they were “fun”, with goody bags being handed out to those getting involved. And to Linda, she even admitted expecting her business to shine when rivals retire, rather than talking tactics. She’s so young and has so much time to go on and do great things but, for Lord Sugar, it was probably a bit too much naivety for him to work with.
At least Sabrina wouldn’t be nearly as difficult to work with as Khadija, who got hounded for her aggressive attitude by pretty much each interviewer. Claude highlighted a particular moment during the tasks where Khadija told Sabrina to shut up, yet she defended even that.
That behaviour also seemed to result in an overbearing business plan for her cleaning company, with intentions to go from £72,000 turnover to £1.45m in just one year, despite Claude exposing she’s not made much in three years. Her plan got torn apart even more when she got to Linda and Claudine, who couldn’t believe she wanted to put £24,000 to a London office without even conquering her home territory of Peterborough yet. Although she’s definitely got passion and clearly wanted to show Lord Sugar she’s not going to sit on her hands, being too far-fetched will make any investor lose confidence compared to being modest yet honest. In the end, however, her aggression probably sealed her fate more than anything. After all, Lord Sugar has to ideally work with the winner for life.
With those three out for the count we’ve got our finalists, Camilla and Sian. But although there’s just one episode left, they both still have a long, long way to go. Camilla, for instance, got blasted by Claudine for using market imagery way too sexualised for her nut milk brand. And given Camilla was criticised by Lord Sugar for doing the same thing when she project managed and designed Christmas chocolates, she clearly hasn’t learned her lesson. In the sneak peek for next episode you can see she’s made an effort to clean her image up but given the interviewers also raised the issue that she’s only been in business for three months, there may be a lot more for her to work on.
Sian, on the other hand, has a big demographic issue. One thing constantly on the interviewers’ minds, particularly Linda’s, was the fact Sian wants to charge £50 for a swimsuit from her swimwear brand to university students, who aren’t notoriously loaded. But perhaps more of an issue than that is the fact she intends to blow the entire £250,000 winners’ investment on marketing, which is something Lord Sugar certainly didn’t seem happy with. Also, having sold 400 products so far with plans to increase sales by 3,000% to 17,000 at the end of next year, Sian has the same problem as Khadija when it comes to setting unrealistic goals.
I can see why Lord Sugar chose Camilla and Sian to be in the final though. Camilla’s nut milk brand definitely hits an emerging market, with vegan products rapidly growing in popularity in recent years. And Sian’s swimwear business is something very new for Lord Sugar to get into – and if I know Lord Sugar, he loves the chance to explore new markets. It’s now all about which one of the finalists take on board his and the interviewers’ feedback seriously enough. They’ve basically given them the recipe to sharpen up their propositions to the point where serious money can be made, as well as delivering something Lord Sugar would be proud to partner with.