The Apprentice 2018: good leadership can still turn around a bad product, says Alana Spencer

Alana Spencer won a business partnership with Alan Sugar in The Apprentice 2016. Now, she says where the candidates are going right and wrong this season

The Apprentice 2018: good leadership can still turn around a bad product

When I was project manager in the candy task on week three, I went into the bathroom and had a full-on cry because the pressure was too much. The pressure of The Apprentice is high and knowing how to work and manage it is important. Think about it: you’ve been thrust into an environment with loads of people you don’t know, everyone is highly competitive, a lot of people are playing games and you don’t want to fail. Ultimately, not being able to manage the resulting emotions is what lost Frank his ticket this week.

Although the product the winning team had made looked a complete shambles, they had good leadership. Ultimately, in a task where people are having to work out costings, get products out, go to different locations and talk to customers, you need a good leader and Camilla made the right decision leading from the front. That was a big part of why they won.

Kayode was also a big, big factor. Sometimes, project managers make the craziest mistakes of not putting salespeople in the right place but Camila obviously avoided that with Kayode. He’s very well-suited to sales and with people like that you want to get them out there to sell. He was impressive, he’s got charm and he’s got something about him. I think he could be one to watch. I even said in a tweet that if it doesn’t work out in The Apprentice, Kayode should come and be an ambassador for Ridiculously Rich.

Sabrina is one to keep eyes on as well. Obviously she has good ideas – going in and drumming up business at the tasting session was a great call. But she seemed to be quite underestimated. For example, the candidates kept talking over her and putting her down which is quite similar to what happened when I was in there. She needs to speak up a bit more, find her voice and put forward her opinion more strongly. I’m hoping she’s on the path to really do some great things.

In the losing team, I got the impression Tom was trying to cover his back a little bit by putting fundamental decisions to others. Obviously, if you’re not making a crucial decision then you’re less likely to be fired when they go wrong, so his potential tactic was to get everyone involved and spread the blame. I can see why you’d want to do that but it also risks being called out for lacking leadership.

However, I think the ideas the losing team had were actually very good. Chilli and chocolate, sweet and salt, they’re really popular flavours at the moment and I could see exactly where they were going with it. But putting sriracha sauce on a doughnut like Jasmine came up with just seems absolutely mental and a very stupid thing to do. That’s not only spicy but also quite a garlicky sauce. If they put just a hint on then it would have potentially worked very well.

Although, out of Tom, Jasmine and Frank, Lord Sugar probably made the right decision to fire Frank. Lord Sugar gave a bit of an ultimatum in the last episode and nearly got rid of him but made this his second chance. I was in that boardroom quite a lot but if you’ve been in the firing line twice in a row, it certainly increases your chances. For that reason, he was probably the right person to go. However, I do think it’s very unfair to criticise someone for getting emotional like Tom did with Frank, because we’re all only human by the end of the day.

Now, the people that need to look out are the ones sitting in the background and not doing very much. Because the stakes are heightening, it will show more. Potentially that means Kurran, Rick and maybe Sarah as well, who I haven’t seen much of yet. Some of them have shown glimmers of good stuff, they’re just not featuring much. Indeed, sometimes you don’t see people emerge until the end who are actually really good and have just been keeping their heads down and cracking on. But candidates need to start showing themselves at every opportunity.

My advice to candidates for next week’s episode is to realise how important teamwork is. It’s a shame to see Camilla and Sabrina squabbling as it particularly happens with the girls every year, including in my year. In the beginning, the girls struggle to get on straight away but eventually develop friendships that can last a lifetime. If your team wins, no one goes home. That should be the kind of thing on everyone’s mind. 

Also, candidates need to learn that if they’re given advice by Lord Sugar, Karren or Claude, they must take it on board. They give you these little signs when you’re in there and you can either choose to take them and try to improve or not and face getting fired. For instance, this episode Alex was called out by Lord Sugar for staying in the background, when he said “Hello, what do you do?” Alex must now take the hint and think ‘ok, now I need to show more.’ 

Ultimately, if you go on to win you do have to start a business with Lord Sugar and he very much gives you advice in the same way he does in The Apprentice – he’s just straight up and honest. He’s also pretty often right, so it’s good to listen now and show you’re adaptable. 

Alana Spencer
Alana Spencer

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