The Apprentice Final Review – Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

And so it’s finally come down to this. After twelve weeks and sixteen candidates we have our finalists, and call...

Deryck O'Byrne

Contributor

the apprentice final

And so it’s finally come down to this. After twelve weeks and sixteen candidates we have our finalists, and call it the Battle of the Babes, War of the Women, Blonde vs Brunette or Businesswoman vs Doctor, even Irish vs English (I know she’s Northern Irish, but come on! Throw me a bone here!), one way or the other Lord Sugar will be partnering in business with a lady this year. In many ways it’s almost a shock one of them  has made it. While Luisa was always a strong candidate, although at times her strong personality and talent for rubbing people up the wrong way could more than once have seen her heading out the door, Leah was, for most of the process, quiet and almost unobtrusive, turning out to be the dark horse of the contest. Yeah, despite the fact that she’s blonde, I know.

Luisa in fact is on record very early in the process as almost insulting Leah’s profession, and now she finds herself fighting her in the final. Even at this late stage it’s really hard to see which way this will go, as Lord S has issues with both candidates’ business ideas. Not the girls themselves: they’ve proved beyond all doubt at this point that they have earned the right to sit in the final Boardroom. But there are certainly questions over the business each is offering a share in to Lord Sugar, and this will surely factor into his final decision.

And what better way to tease out those worries than by making the final task revolve around those very same businesses? Lord Sugar tells the two ladies that they are to setup a presentation for their new business, which will then be pitched to industry experts. Naturally, they’ll need help, as ever, but in a change to recent years this time Lord Sugar does not bring back all or some of the fired candidates, but allows each of the finalists to phone the ones they want and assemble their own team. Leah seems to get everyone she wants — Myles, Francesca, Alex  and Uzma , while Luisa is somewhat disappointed to find that some of the ones she wants have already been taken by her opponent. She rings Jason, despite the fact that she does not really want him, but she’s running out of options. This is not a great start for her. Jordan is conspicuous by his absence; whether he was not asked or simply did not wish to return to the scene of his humiliation is unclear. Luisa does get Neil though, and that’s a plus. Natalie and, well, Zee, make up the rest of her team.

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Leah is looking for a name for her business, and is keen to use the word “skin” turned backwards, which becomes Niks (the “k” is the wrong way round) while Luisa goes through several names but eventually settles on “Baker’s Toolkit”, at Zee’s suggestion. The boys try to change Leah’s mind on her brand name, Alex saying to her “You don’t do branding; listen to the two guys who do”. But she is fixed on it and not prepared to change. Luisa, despite negative feedback on the usage of pink and the whole thing being too girly-looking, forges ahead with her feminine look for her brand. This may return to haunt her but she’s not going to change it. Both women, it is clear, are very stubborn and confident in their own ideas.

Rather ironically, Luisa ends up in the same situation as Jason in the design task, just prior to his forced abdication, where she spends so much time designing her logo that the task is slipping away. Jason can’t resist a little grin at her discomfort: oh you!

The next day it’s time to make the video presentation, and Leah’s nerves look to be fraying slightly. She’s very abrupt, very bossy, very sharp. I suppose you can’t blame her: this is after all different to any task she’s undertaken up to now. On this hangs her entire future. Luisa sets up a family scene, though neither of the child actors look impressed that she is to be their “pretend mother”. Nick is impressed with how her team are supporting her though. Paradoxically, Leah, who had the pick of her helpers, is treating them rather badly and the atmosphere is tenser and colder than on Team Luisa.

Market research proves that again “Niks” is not a good choice. A lady mentions that it sounds too much like cuts — nicks on the skin. Personally, I think it sounds more like she’s offering a lingerie service — knicks? Knickers? Ah… Sorry, drifted off into fantasy for a moment there. Where was I? Oh yeah. Not to mention the other connotation of niks, being “nix”, which is always seen as negative. Finally, she takes note of the market research and calls her company N-I-K-S, but I still don’t get it. People don’t read backwards, so the “clever” idea of the name being skin backwards I really don’t see working. But this is as far as Leah is prepared to bend … Sorry, drifted off again!

And so the day of the presentation dawns. Luisa sets her area up like a nightmare from Barbie: pink and purple everywhere, which surely will make any males in the audience a little uncomfortable. Nick is concerned that while Leah is running through her pitch, Luisa is more interested in icing cakes. He feels this could be a problem for her. The pitch in anything like this is almost always key.

His fears turn out to be realised, as Luisa stumbles a little, losing her way in the pitch, but she recovers reasonably well. She handles the few questions admirably, but once she gets off stage she breaks down in tears, convinced she has lost. Neil loses no time consoling her — get in there Neil! Can’t blame the guy. Leah on the other hand is cool and professional in her pitch, perhaps too cool. Francesca helps get her pitch going with a rather sexy dance which displays her talent for the art. Leah however may have alienated some of the industry experts as she disagrees with any who challenge her vision. She’s obviously very passionate about her business, and knows her stuff, but you need to listen to criticism.

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Now there’s nothing more that can be done, and all will be decided in the Boardroom tomorrow. First of all Lord Sugar asks how the fired candidates who have returned to help the two finalists worked with them, and they all praise their team leader. He wonders why Luisa ignored the feedback from the focus group with reference to the usage of pink, and to be honest she hasn’t really got a good answer. He also worries that the actual end-user is blurred and ambiguous, though he does admit that he didn’t see any real stumble in her pitch, telling her she did quite well. Jason says he was “very touched” that Luisa called him: luckily he doesn’t know that he was last choice!

Lord Sugar compliments Francesca on her dance, and on being able to use her talent to help out her PM. He remarks that the name of Leah’s business sounds more like something that his male advisor would call a wine bar he had opened! Nobody’s getting the lingerie angle here, people! Quite surprised. If this was Trump then okay, we’d be talking about panties, but English people say knickers so why is nobody seeing the connection? Maybe it’s just me. Lord Sugar points out that people who get cosmetic surgery done tend to stick with their preferred doctor, so it may be hard to break that chain with a new company. He suggests that the business should be called “Doctor Leah”, but with characteristic stubbornness, she says she doesn’t like that name.

With thanks the previous candidates are dismissed and the real business of the final Boardroom gets started. Lord Sugar tells Luisa he is worried that, with three other businesses already going, she will find it hard to concentrate on the new one and give it all her attention, but he also wonders if it’s a good idea for him to get into a totally new area of business that he has never been involved in before, and that could have pretty serious legal repercussions should anything go wrong. “Eat one of her cakes” he says of Luisa, “all I can be accused of is making people fat.” It’s a valid concern, and Leah knows it. However, Leah points out that her business will make him a lot more money than Luisa’s will. More profit for more risk, would appear to be the mantra.

As usual, Lord Sugar tells them it’s a tough decision he has to make. Why does he always say that? Has it ever not been a tough decision? Has there ever been an occasion where two finalists sat before him and he said to himself this is easy? You’re faced with the best of the best, in terms of this contest, so naturally it’s a hard choice. Both ladies plead their case, though it’s perhaps telling that while Leah has an exit strategy for her business, Luisa does not see herself selling up.

There are pros and cons on both sides, but in the end it’s a combination of taking a chance and good old-fashioned, naked greed that swings it in Leah’s favour, and she is selected as Lord Sugar’s new business partner.

 

So after twelve weeks we finally have a winner. Perhaps unexpected, something of a surprise, a dark horse, but in the end it’s the woman from Northern Ireland who has fought off all comers, and who stands unopposed as the winner of the Apprentice 2013, and we all congratulate her, and commiserate with Luisa, who came so far only to fall at the final hurdle. But you’d have to admit they’re both excellent role models for the businesswomen of the future, a credit to their professions and their families, and in one way, both winners.

But as was said in the Simpsons, in another, real way, only one is the winner, and the Apprentice 2013 is Leah Totton. Very well done to her.

Thanks for sticking with me through the reviews of this series of the Apprentice. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and no doubt if (if?) there’s an eleventh season I’ll be back to chronicle that. For now, the chairs are empty, the cab contract is finished, and the Boardroom is closed for another year. Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you go, now: Lord Sugar isn’t made of money, you know!