The Apprentice – Did Lord Sugar Choose Wisely?


For the past two months, the seventh series of The Apprentice has employed me into at least one hour a week sat in front of the television. Lord Sugar’s search for a business partner certainly was entertaining; in numerous cases it led one to question how some individuals even managed to fill out their application, let alone get accepted onto the show.

It is difficult to find something positive to say about the candidates who failed to make it into the final; most of them did have their moments, but ruined them with their mistakes. Things could not have got much worse than when the candidates took a trip to Paris, to sell British products. With Susan questioning whether the French cared for their children; Leon conscientiously wasting space; Melody refusing to share her leads, undertaking incredibly flawed market research (asking people in a metro station if they drive) and refusing to see anyone else’s point of view; all under the feeble leadership of Tom (who offered La Redoute a minimum order of 10 units); it is not surprising that the other team won.

So why was Tom the right choice for Lord Sugar?

Firstly, I think that the right four made the final; the other candidates, some much worse than others, were not as strong and so there is no question that Tom, Helen, Susan and Jim had the most to offer Lord Sugar. When it comes to the final four, however, each candidate was fairly equally matched. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic, but the problem that Lord Sugar faced was which one was least flawed, or which one’s flaws he could most effectively compensate for.

Jim is a strong salesperson, something he had proved more than once throughout this series; however his business idea was lacking in research, which was something his ‘gift of the gab’ could not save him from. He tried far too hard to impress Lord Sugar with his business proposal and lost sight of what he really wanted – a business to make profit.

Susan runs her own successful business, but again the research behind her business proposal was significantly absent of research. It is unfortunate for her, as Lord Sugar has mentioned more than once that he has always wanted to invest in the lucrative cosmetics industry. Her Achilles-heel was the assumptions which she made, rendering her business plan worth less than the paper it was written on.

Helen was an incredibly good candidate; organised, motivated and with an incredibly good success rate throughout the process. It is a shame that she chose to present her concierge-type business plan, as opposed to her bakery proposal which she used at the last moment when she realised she had made a mistake. It would have been really interesting to see how the final would have panned out if she had chosen to present her other proposal.

Tom also runs his own business and has proven that he is also motivated. Alongside this, he is an inventor and has managed to get his product on the shelves of one of the world’s largest retailers. Just like the other three, his business plan was flawed, especially financially, but there was a small amount of potential. As an employee he certainly was not as strong as Helen and if Lord Sugar was looking for an Apprentice there is no doubt that Helen would have won. However, there must be a reason that Lord Sugar gave Tom far more chances than anyone else…

The thing that set Tom apart from the other three is the fact that he is an inventor. Lord Sugar is a successful businessman and so will naturally be good at organisation and finance, which are Tom’s weaknesses. It makes perfect sense for Lord Sugar and Tom to work together, as they would benefit from each other’s strengths. Helen may be a perfect employee, but she would not be as strong at providing original ideas – which is where the most money can be made. There is also the advantage of new inventions and further innovations that Tom may bring to the table later on in the partnership; when considering the long-term, this put Tom in an incredibly strong position.

I believe that the partnership will be successful. One only has to look at the final task, in which the remaining candidates started a fast food restaurant, to see how Tom’s inventive disposition worked well alongside Helen’s organisation and structure. I am sure this will not be the last time that we hear of Tom and Lord Sugar’s partnership, especially if Tom conjures up another successful product.


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  • Matthew Lymer

    A good piece on a great show. I fully agree that lord sugar would fit in well with tom; the both of them  bringing different strengths to their overall partnership.

    I found myself highly disappointed however by his extreme lack of financial accuracy; seen in one respect by his blatant inability to state the costs of his actual products for sale.