Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The One With Corporate World And The Pink Flamingo (or The Apprentice Does Away Days)

C'mon, Mr Hewer, gizza kiss
We're six weeks into "the process" (and they've said "the process" six bazillion times thus far) and the task call comes at 6am.  With three sixes already in this post (albeit one of them totally fictitious), will this task be devilish fun?  Or will we just have to make do with Alex, the vampire of bonhomie?  Time will tell.

Anyway, the ludicrously-shaped (though probably achingly cool) phone's still ringing.  Shall we let them answer it?  They do!  But there's no squealing this week; they're old hands now.  And they're off to Guildhall, City of London.

Natalie doesn't want to be in the boardroom again.  And Rebecca's desperate to be PM.  But Luisa doesn't rate her.  Coincidentally, I don't rate Luisa.  And will Myles win, yet again?

The task this week is to put on a corporate away day for two paying clients.  They'll be judged not only on the profit they make, but also on the customer satisfaction.  Oh, well, that'll be fine - Apprentice candidates never fuck up relationships with clients, do they?  And it's bwahahaha o'clock, already!

Shugs mixes up the teams - Myles moves over to Endeavour.  Is that the end of his run of success?  He makes Leah project manager for Endeavour (leading Myles, Neil, Prince of Darkness, Natalie and Kurt).  Francesca is project manager for Evolve (leading Luisa, Jordan, Rebecca and Jason).

Apparently the company away day market is worth one billion smackers a year.  But Luisa seems set to scupper the task from the off - whilst the self-defined "Mrs Corporate" Francesca waxes lyrical about how this task is made for her, Luisa says she hates corporate life, she's really anti corporate, it's boring, the people are dull.  That's happy news for Francesca, isn't it? And won't Shugs be delighted with that attitude?

Neil's ideas are based on his experiences of corporate away days.  He wants to do a schooldays sports day, including a sack race.  #weakpunalert Let's hope his ideas don't get him the sack, eh?  Sorry.

Leah wants to go back in time and do a history day.  Neil thinks everybody has been to school, but not everybody likes history.  Neil - you dick - what sort of criteria is that?!  Not everybody liked school either!  Then they start talking about wearing school uniform, St Trinian's style, and Lead pouts and almost voms on the table.  I think she isn't keen.

Meanwhile, over at Evolve, Francesca's going glam - talking about themes such as Vegas, Bond, Moulin Rouge.  But the others are talking about...back to school.  What's wrong with these people?!  Luisa really likes the back to school theme.  Is that because Francesca didn't suggest it?

So, Evolve try to come up with activities for their SCHOOL themed day.  One of the first suggestions is wine tasting.  Now, I remember going to school, but I don't remember the wine tasting lessons.  Maybe I just went to one of those boring teetotal schools (though there was a Thunderbirds and Diamond White after school club - I'm sure many of you had similar at your educational establishment).

The client budgets are £5,000.  But Evolve choose to spend almost £1k of that on a chocolate-making session - when Luisa does cupcake-making sessions as part of her day job.  Luisa slates Francesca to Jason as they're en route to the chocolate folk (not ACTUAL people made from chocolate - that just wouldn't work, would it? #meltymelty).  She does an impression of Francesca, not taking responsibility for anything or using a decisive tone of voice.  Funnily, she sounds just like Luisa doing it.  Except slightly less of a total bitch.  Anyway.

Endeavour are still endeavouring to come up with a theme.  Neil says Leah's proposed lawn games and archery history day is boring and pushes for schools.  It's four versus two in favour of schools, but Leah overrides the team vote and goes for history.  That's either exceedingly brave and sensible, or the kind of decision that makes people unravel and ooze all over the boardroom floor later.  Which will it be?  Karren's unsure of the logic of the decision.  Ah, an early steer as to the answer to my just-asked question then.

Half of the teams are arranging activities - the rest are meeting the clients.

Evolve have got as their client.  Their ethos is five star quality for three star prices. Amazingly, Evolve's ethos is five star fuck-ups the for five star prices, so they've nowt in common.

Endeavour are running late to meet Barclays UK Retail Banking.  Myles is "not trying to undermine" Leah by totally disagreeing with her and pushing for a school theme again.

Karren is deeply unimpressed by their lateness, as Leah makes up some bull about traffic, when it was really indecision over theme.

Barclays go through the intended outcomes for the session - improved listening and communication skills.  If the team-building away day works, they'll roll it out to 35,000 people.

Leah then keeps saying classic majestic medieval escapism a lot, whilst her clients look at each other, incredulously.  They're not keen.  They're so not keen that they tell Leah, Myles and Natalie to go away and keep the objective in mind as they come up with something.  Something else.  Something...good.

But Alex, Neil and Kurt are booking the archery.  And they got it for £320, not £400.  But it's irrelevant, because, ironically, they need to keep "good communication and listening skills" in mind as the focus for the day's theme.  And therefore, Leah's changed it to "army".  Do they still use bows and arrows in the army?

Luisa and Jason are in the chocolate shop.  They'll teach the delegates to make their own truffles, for £795 for the first 12 people, then £70 per head after that.  So, interestingly, it gets more expensive per head after you've got the first 12 people through the door.  Bizarre.

So Luisa decides that she'll run a cupcake workshop.  And then she tells the chocolate lady (not actually made of chocolate, do keep up) that she'll run the cupcake workshop, because it's cheaper than paying for a chocolate workshop.  And then she asks the chocolate lady if she can buy some piping bags from her.  Presumably, she'll charge £795 for them, and give Luisa the cheeky mare a kick up the backside on the way out.

Jordan, Rebecca and Francesca then go and buy things for the cupcake workshop.  And instead of the £150 Jordan had budgeted, they spend £284.

Leah's playing hardball in a cash and carry, driving prices down.  But then the phone rings and she answers it with the frankly prickish phrase "Speak to me".  #fgs  Then Alex does swearing and Leah does huffy and Neil and Kurt try to calm Alex down and, frankly, Leah had better keep her neck covered up later, because of the biting with the vampire fangs thing.

The upshot of all of that is the boys in the car don't think they've got enough activities and they'd like the management of Barclays to do sumo wrestling.  Leah thinks it's distasteful, but she says she'll go for it if there's nothing else, but they're not wrestling, they can just "touch each other".  Now, I don't know about you, but I really don't want to see the management of Barclays "sumo heavy petting" much either.  Well, I say "much".  I mean AT ALL.

Natalie and Jason are on two planks of wood, holding bits of rope, and both trying to jump in the air in unison and get their "skis" off the ground.  They, obviously, fail miserably.

But they book the activity, for £310, not £350 (woo!) and Luisa says it'll look like they've delivered something high quality.  Er, OK.  Bits of wood, and some jumping.

End of day one

And they're back at the house, dissecting the day's events.  For Leah, it's a bit of character assassination before bed - Neil says she didn't listen - or something, I wasn't listening.

Francesca's setting up a timetable for the day, and Rebecca's keen to end their event with a motivational speaker.  For £600.  But the others think they can do that themselves.  Of course they can.  They just need to read from their Apprentice applications and say "never be such colossal fucknubbins as us and you won't go far wrong.  OK?" then do a cheesy grin, double-thumbs it a bit and then jig off into the sunset, a la Morecambe and Wise.  Honestly, what could possibly go wrong?

Neil wants to be the motivational speaker for Endeavour, because he's been a football coach.  Leah says yes.

Day two

Leah's team are in Hertfordshire (maybe even in fucking Tring, that old favourite Apprentice destination, who knows?).  Ah, no, it's Cheshunt - and they rock up at the gates of Theobalds Park, agreeing it looks amazing.

Neil and Myles sit together and talk about improving communication and listening skills by saying and repeating and writing down the phrase "communication and listening skills".

Natalie and Kurt are cooking.  Because food is "such a big part of it".  Well, yes.  The bit to fill them up when they're hungry.

Evolve are kitting out a marquee with props which cost £300, including a pink flamingo, which gives Nick Hewer the evil eye.  Or maybe that's the only eye it has, given that it's plastic.  And a prop.  Nick's not keen.

Rebecca and Jason are in the kitchen, with Rebecca saying it's the most effective use of their skills.  Well, they'll have a lot of prepped vegetables by the end of the morning, that's true.  Not sure whether Lord Sugar wants to go into business with a Victor the Vegetable though.

Then Evolve's clients arrive.  And eat biscuits.  And drink tea or is it coffee?  Jason's being mother and he's not doing a great job.

Over at Team Endeavour HQ, Neil's being bossy to the bank managers.  He makes them say good morning to "Sergeant Neil" and they're unimpressed, despite the polite laughter.

Then Alex is introduced - he's in full army uniform, with black stripes on his face.  He's "Corporal Alex", apparently.  The clients look as dismayed as if he'd been introduced as "Corporal Punishment" and then they march to the first activity, some also with the black stripe facepaint on, some making do with embarrassed looks of mild horror.

Over at the marquee, Evolve are making tea and coffee and leaving their clients to talk amongst themselves.  It's a shambles, to be frank.  Nobody knows what's going on.

Luckily, Francesca then introduces the day.  And it's still a shambles, to be frank.  Nobody knows what's going on.  She says there's one goal - success at work, success in themselves and success in life.  And happiness.  For the love of all that's holy, some CLARITY, woman! But, no, Francesca starts talking about how she used to want to be a policewoman when she was at school.  It's cringingly bad.

Endeavour are playing lawn games - bowls, to be frank.  Or maybe boule.  I dunno, it's a load of balls.  But the client feedback is good - Endeavour have decided that they'll play the game blindfold, so that the person doing the bowling (or the bouling?  I neither know nor care) needs to listen and the people doing the guiding need to communicate carefully. Neat.

Neil takes all the credit for the success of the event.  Again.

And then it pisses down.  Which sort of puts the mockers on quoits.

Evolve, meanwhile, are doing the wooden ski coordination activity with their clients - and Nick Hewer says they're having a lot of fun.  It's also not raining there.

But Endeavour don't have a plan B for shit weather.  Oh, dear.  So their clients are in a hall drinking tea and coffee.  And standing about.  Then Leah tries running a conflict resolution workshop.  But she'll be using this experience as an answer to the old favourite "tell me about a difficult situation you faced" example at interviews forevermore, as the blank looks and folded arms are all the feedback she needs from her audience.

But, waiting in the wings...what's this?  It's the SUMO WRESTLERS!  Well, it's Neil and Myles, demonstrating, apparently, what can happen if conflicts aren't resolved in the workplace.

Because, of course, that's an all too common experience, isn't it?  Somebody doesn't answer your email query - so you go and draw a ring of chalk on the ground by their desk, each strip to your underpants and thrash it out - literally.

The clients are deeply unimpressed.  They shake their heads off with negativity (which is a shame, really).

Over to Evolve, for the Rebecca and Jason show.  They're leading a wine-tasting event, though neither of them is an expert in wine.  But they do know which is the most expensive, which is apparently the way you always tell which is the best wine.  And that links in with the company aim to do something five star for er, something about prices, mutter mutter, says Rebecca.  Weirdly, the clients seem to see through her spurious bullshit patter (goodness, what an astute lot!).

The other half of the lot are making "very funky" cupcakes with Luisa, letting their creativity run wild.  With marshmallows and bought cupcake bases.  OK, whatever floats your banana split, I guess.

Unfortunately, nobody on Evolve seems to have thought much about a common theme thread to run through the day and it does rather appear to be coming apart at the seams, even though the activities have been, as one participant puts it "a lot of fun".  But there's nothing about business objectives, however much Francesca tries to waffle about "what it means to them" and "their experiences".

Rebecca and Jason have, to nobody's surprise, made a massive fucking mess of the wine tasting and forgotten how to count, to write and to remember which wine they poured in which glass.  Maybe the next task will be some sort of rocket science.

Luckily, back with the army at Team Endeavour, the rain has cleared and they're doing some archery.  And Neil and Myles are doing sensible client engagement in a focused and mature manner.  Good lord.  Am I still watching Apprentice candidates?  They're asking each of the branch managers what their biggest business challenges are at the moment and making jottings of their answers.  Karren has noted herself that Neil and Myles have worked out that they need to link each task to the business outcomes the client has asked for - the sensible chaps.  She looks impressed.

Francesca's team finish the day with a professional motivational speaker and there are giant heaving sighs of relief all round (mainly from the clients, that they don't have to listen to personal history anecdotes from Francesca).  And, indeed, their professional chap is deemed "the best bit of the day".

But Endeavour have gone the homespun homily route and they've got Neil doing their motivational speaking.  Will he be much cop?  He gets quite the round of applause - and some lovely feedback from one of the clients who says Neil's really stood out for him as warm, engaging and having the ability to relate to everyone at a personal level.  Praise indeed!

And it's applause all round and some whooping, etc.  

So, boardroom time

#weakpunalert Will Evolve be caked in disaster?  Or iced with glory?  Will Endeavour have hit the bullseye, or will they have to wrestle with their consciences about the decisions they made?

Shugs starts with Endeavour.  Leah didn't find being a project manager easy.  Lord Sugar mocks her ability to run a vote in the brainstorm - what was the point of doing it if she was going to ignore the outcome?

And then they were late to meet the CEO, as Karren pointed out, and flannelled their way through the description of the themes.  Unimpressive.

Lord Sugar isn't impressed with Leah's ability to be decisive, basically because she can't do it.  As a doctor, he says, this is a worry - then he says something about giving him an enema and my ears panicked and turned inside out so I could stop listening.

Anyway, my hearing came back into focus at the time Shugs was being incredulous about them then going for an army theme, and asking how this panned out.

Was Alex bullying the clients, as the pantomime colonel?  No, he was getting the best out of his troops - sez he.

Lord Sugar is horrified to hear that they put sumo wrestling suits in front of the biggest bank in the country - but they did.  Jordan laughs so hard at this he almost sucks his knickers up his bum in his effort to remain silent.

Neil gives a very sensible account of their objectives - listening, communication and to improve teamwork and says he gave a personal account he hopes they found motivational.

Time will tell.  It's over to Evolve to talk cupcakes and wine.  Why was there wine tasting at a school themed day - were they trying to get the delegates pissed?  What business message is there in a cupcake?  Unless you pipe one on, I guess...  But they didn't, they just heaped them with marshmallows.  Anyway.  Jordan has gathered himself and he says their themes were communication, collaboration and creativity.  That was apparently what they delivered.

But what was Francesca like as a team leader?  Rebecca thinks she was very good.  But Jordan says "weak management and non-existent strategy" and Luisa agrees.  Francesca declares this "a proper surprise".  Goodness.

It's figures time!

Team Endeavour

Bank paid £5,000 for the event.

They spent: £2,170.50.

The bank have asked for a partial refund of 25%, because they felt the structure collapsed at times, with no rainy day contingency plan.

Profit: £1,579.50.

Team Evolve paid £5,000 for the event.

They spent: £2,654.19.

The client asked for a refund due to the almost entire lack of business sense, amounting to £1,250.

Profit: £1,095.81.

So, Leah's Team Endeavour have won.  And it's a sixth successive victory for Myles!  Karren says the client was very impressed indeed with Neil.  The treat is a luxury spa pampering session.

But Francesca's Team Evolve need to think about the almost complete lack of business sense on their task - and with the dire warning that "at least one of them will be fired", they leave for the greasy spoon cafe of despair.

Alex, meanwhile, is getting his vampire eyebrows waxed.  And then the winning team sip tea in unison as they sit on loungers by the pool.  Ah, bliss.

Back at Bridge Cafe, there's talk of buck passing.  Or not doing it.  But if they'd not had the motivational speaker, they'd have won, according to Jordan, because he cost £600.  He's clearly gunning for Francesca and Rebecca.

And Francesca talks about going down decisively in flames.  Positive mental attitude, I love it!  Um...

And they're back in the boardroom...

The feedback's not good.  Were they blagging it?  Did they, as one delegate wrote, take them as mugs?  Francesca talks about one goal.  Who knows.  Then she talks about putting in creativity to make something great, and everyone coming together to do that (on the subject of why they iced cupcakes as a task).  Karren asks her if she believes what she's saying, if she can hear herself.  It's not looking good for the one with the eyeliner.

Why didn't they do the motivational speaking themselves?  It would've saved them £600, after all.  Jordan and Luisa smugly say they would have done it - but they didn't offer on the day.

And then Luisa bangs on about how she doesn't like the corporate world and attracts a scathing comment from Karren, who says she'll find it difficult to get investment from a bank with that attitude.

Jordan did a shit job as a finance director.  But Rebecca's ideas cost them £900, with the wine tasting and the motivational speaker.

Who's Francesca bringing back?  Shugs warns her not to play favourites - so she brings back Luisa and Rebecca.  And Luisa gets her claws out instantly, perhaps scared her corporate loathing is fresh in the minds of Lord Sugar.  She worked her best, she did one of the core tasks, yada yada.

The Apprentice magic formula decrees that it's time for Lord Sugar to talk to Karren and Nick now.  Nick points out that if Rebecca can persuade Francesca to take the wine tasting and the motivational speaker, perhaps there's something about her that she's not shown them in the boardroom yet.  Karren sense an animosity between Luisa and Francesca (doesn't take a psychic to pick up on that one!).  But then isn't there just animosity between Luisa and everyone?  She'd start a fight in an empty room.

As if to demonstrate this, one of the first things Lord Sugar does when he gets the girls back into the boardroom is read from Luisa's application.  She's apparently "very unforgiving" and "when she flips, you don't wanna be there".  She whines on about how she's misunderstood because of the way she looks and how she works better with men.  But Shugs can't have a business partner who alienates people.  And Rebecca calls her obstinate.

Rebecca's very quiet, other than that comment.  She's given up an awful lot to be in "the process".  But what does she contribute?  Shugs says she's been good at selling on other tasks.

If Luisa's argumentative nature is her real personality, she can go home now.  But if it's because she's working with people who don't speak much sense, that's a different story.

Shugs put Francesca in charge because she had corporate event experience.  But this task was a disaster.

However, it was Rebecca who Lord Sugar felt he hadn't seen much from - and his instinct was to fire her.  So he did.  Bang.

He warns Luisa he has his eye on her.  I wonder if it'll make a difference?  Or if she'll brush her hair at any point in this process?

Warm hug from Rebecca to Francesca as they walk past her back to the house, brief courtesy hug for Luisa.

Back at the house, Jason thinks two people are going, Jordan thinks Francesca's going.  They're both wrong.

Neil motivates the remaining candidates by saying there are only nine more to be fired before he wins...and there's laughter.  For now.

Next time, it's something about camping.  And selling.  And Alex is sitting in a chair with a lid (not called Foldo).

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