Alana Spencer: Lord Sugar wants scalable businesses over amazing candidates

Winner of 2016’s The Apprentice, Alana Spencer, reveals how Lord Sugar loves candidates getting passionate about their business but isn’t a fan when they break into tears

Alana Spencer: Lord Sugar wants scalable businesses over amazing candidates

You can ace every single task but by week nine or ten, Lord Sugar’s really thinking about business plans. How you sell and present on shopping channels like last night is irrelevant if you’ve got a proposition that’s going to make him millions – so long as it doesn’t involve TV sales. However, as he mentioned, Lord Sugar also wants to invest in small businesses to turn acorns into oak trees. And although one of this week’s losers may have shocked viewers considering how well she’s performed, Lord Sugar knew she would cope just fine without his guidance and investment.

Having said that, candidates won’t need to face that comparison if they win tasks. While it was a close one, Sian took the right risk selling high-value items as project manager of Typhoon and led the team to victory. Although the buyer of the diamond ring backed out, generally, if what you’re selling is worth more, you don’t have to stress over selling as much as possible.

However, when Sabrina complained about the risk taking Sian’s confidence once again trod over her. While I think Sian genuinely didn’t agree Sabrina’s ideas were correct and wanted to lead from the front rather than be spiteful, Sabrina always gets ignored and put down. I feel for her and I think the nation does too but now it’s week nine, she needs to develop ways to get her voice heard. The series is a learning process and it’s great to have a journey in there but you must visibly improve. Next week, before the final five, she must step up and be heard whatever it takes. As some advice, if the whole world is struggling to hear your opinion, the problem may be the way you’re delivering it rather than everyone else.

Nonetheless, she can sleep easy until next week since her team won. That’s in large part thanks to Dan and Sarah’s presenting skills on the shopping channel. I’ve never bought from shopping channels but I presume people do it to be part of what the presenters are doing, otherwise they’d pop down the high street. That means hosts must have internal chemistry and Dan and Sarah showed quite a good dynamic between each other as you could tell they obviously get on. It was of course still quite cringeworthy to watch but that’s a given with tasks like this.

Moreover, being able to convince people you know what you’re selling is an incredibly important skill and Dan’s now shown twice he can do it. Of course, you have to be genuinely good at something for Lord Sugar to invest in you but being able to blag certain elements of business is invaluable.

However, Dan and Sarah made a big, big mistake in forgetting to bring their cleaning product for the promotional video. Not only did it cause significant delays to the point where they had 30 seconds to film but it resulted in such a bad quality video that the production company refused to air it. In that situation, it’s all about working with what you’ve got. The two still could have recorded a few clips cleaning a car, turning around and saying something clear and concise about the product to the camera. Instead, Sarah just spewed verbal diarrhoea.

Although the losing team, Collaboration, conversely turned around a good promotional video, they had all the wrong people in all the wrong places. Khadija said she wanted a chance at fronting sales but I really don’t understand why project manager Tom didn’t make Jackie and Camilla present instead. Considering Jackie’s sales success in previous tasks, she especially seemed a much more likely choice. If you’ve got around 15 minutes to pitch, you want the best sales guys up there. Like I highlighted last week – if you win as a team, no one goes home.

However, Collaboration was doomed from the start given Tom had the least relevant experience yet was effectively forced to be project manager. By the look of it, Jackie really threw him into it like she did with Jasmine on the first week. She’s very forceful and was just doing everything she could to get to the final five but it was a shame to see Tom launched into the leading role with absolutely no experience.

Considering Tom has been the project manager of three losing teams, it’s easy to see why Lord Sugar suggested Camilla, Jackie and Khadija plotted to give Tom more responsibility just to get him fired. I don’t think they sat and had a conversation about stitching him up but at the back of their minds, they all knew he was at risk. In fact, when I was in there everyone got a sense of who can easily be fired. And while I don’t think any of them are malicious enough to actively think ‘let’s get Tom out,’ they would have known that if they lost, they’re a lot safer than him.

Ultimately, that was the case. Tom was immediately fired without even being brought back into the boardroom to defend himself which personally, I don’t think he deserved. He had some bad luck in there and although he didn’t blossom through the process, he’s got a business on the outside and obviously tries really hard. While it’s a bit of a slap in the face being told you can’t bring people back into the boardroom, he definitely was the right person to go this week. In fact, he probably should have gone a couple of weeks ago.

But the night didn’t end there. In the series’ first double firing, Jackie also lost because her business was too big to make the most of Lord Sugar’s help. Like all good businesspeople, Lord Sugar makes no secret he wants to make money. He even said to me when I was brought into the boardroom that he’s not interested in businesses that can’t make money, to which I started crying. But if Lord Sugar was doing this just for the money he would have kept Jackie, because with her skills she could take the investment and go to the top. Then maybe after hitting £10m turnover, she’d ask for help to reach £100m. However, it’s not purely about money for Lord Sugar. He wants to help people who need that leg-up in a combination of financial and personal gratification and Jackie simply didn’t need it.

To be honest, I’m really struggling to think who’s next to go. I would have said Sarah but she did a really good job on sales this week. And Khadija showed she genuinely cares for her business after getting emotional in the boardroom. After all, Lord Sugar loves passion – although he doesn’t particularly like tears. Ultimately, however, next week is the final chance for candidates to iron out any flaws and prove they’ve grown throughout the process, because the interview stage will show no mercy. 

Alana Spencer
Alana Spencer

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