So, for the very last time for 2011 we piece together our thoughts on this year’s The Apprentice for the (unofficial) HR Zone Apprentice blog…


Ah well, like most weeks our prediction that was sent out on Twitter yesterday afternoon was wrong; Susan is fired, along with catchphrase Jim and stand-up Helen, while the inventor Tom is hired.  


Whilst Susan didn’t get hired, Lord Sugar did indicate the possibility of going into some venture with her and Tom. Helen comes second, because she disappointingly doesn’t have a saleable product, and isn’t an entrepreneur, yet (despite winning nearly every task – all of which were created and designed to coax out business talent and entrepreneurship – go figure).  She works hard, and, as stated by Lord Sugar, would have won, if the criteria was about finding an employee, as opposed to becoming a business partner with someone who could tell jokes on the spot.


After a nearly faultless ride through to the final, watching Helen’s desperate swerve to avoid a crash when she realised her business plan was shockingly bad, was rather disappointing. We talk about Focussed Thinking here at Muika Leadership, where was Helen’s thinking focussed at that crucial moment?

Tom only became the front runner in the boardroom, when he was prompted to talk about his marketing skills with Walmart, which demonstrated Tom working in an innovative way (well, you are an inventor, Tom), and also doing so in a forceful manner.  He stepped out of the box in his approach to Walmart, and showed his inventive skills married to business acumen. Interestingly, the successes of many businesses come about, when individuals focus their thinking on what they can do to ‘stand out’, and specifically how to negotiate and influence, recognising that the power lies within them.


This was the first time we had seen his true colours. I’d love to think that Tom has been keeping that little gem of a story hidden away until the last minute, waiting for his moment, seizing his opportunity to wow Lord Sugar with the killer blow. Alas, I think if Tom read this he would produce that wide-eyed forced smile that screams, ‘I’m out of my depth’.


There certainly wasn’t much evidence throughout the series that Tom was going to be hired, or indeed in the final episode, when an interviewer said his business plan was obtuse, and a referee had said he was a starter, but not a finisher. The most striking aspect of Lord Sugar’s final choice was that he absolutely slammed all possibility of Tom’s actual business plan. However, Tom offered Sir Alan Sugar the potential for the creation and invention of commercial products, which would increase his profits. 


In the end, Sir Alan Sugar went back to his basics, which was all about creating products. Will Tom be successful? Possibly as a sole inventor, but he has not shown any signs that he has the focus to lead a team, clearly the man in the chair has different ideas. In terms of talent management, Lord Sugar has a job on his hands, he’s seen a potential in Tom that the others couldn’t offer him, and he now needs to manage that potential effectively so it can shine through as the business progresses. 

Karen Murphy

Muika Leadership – Focussed Thinking leadership development