And so it begins. Less than five months since the last series left our screens The Apprentice is back in our living rooms, and I must admit I'm genuinely excited about it.
As far as I'm concerned, the most intriguing part about this series is the change in prize for the eventual Apprentice. Gone is the usual £100,000-a-year job in Lord Sugar's business empire. Instead Lord Sugar will invest £250,000 in their business idea. I can only assume that the staff at Amstrad HQ have become weary of the yearly arrival of Lord Sugar's business-jargon spouting chosen one.
This is a welcome change to the show's format and my big hope for the series is that this shift to a more entrepreneurial prize will allow the more dynamic and creative candidates to progress further and be given more time to flourish. This new prize will of course have what Lord Sugar calls its "knuckers", but ultimately the more entrepreneurial spirit that this show can inspire in viewers the better.
On the face of it, last night's episode was a classic Apprentice task based on simple business skills. The candidates had to buy fruit and veg inside a set budget, manufacture a product and sell it to customers in London. As always, a seemingly straightforward task threw up more than its fair share of challenges.
From the off you got the impression that the girls team had a greater grasp of what was needed. Yes, with quotes like "don't tell me the sky's the limit when I've seen footprints on the moon", it was hard to love Melody, but I thought her team did a good job managing their budget, calculating the quantities needed and certainly kept an eye on their cash.
There were challenges though and it can't have been easy managing someone like Edna. I actually think Melody did pretty well to fashion some kind of team structure amongst people she'd only just met.
The stand out candidate for me from the girls was Susan, and not just because she owns a natural skincare company! We only got a few glimpses of what she could do, but already she demonstrated good business judgement and sales skills. It's also important to remember that she's only 21 and already running her own business.
The boys' team seemed pretty much doomed the moment team leader Ed, who's an accountant by trade, decided he wanted nothing to do with the finances. It's fantastic if someone in your business wants to explore different areas, but one of the key challenges when managing a team is assigning the most qualified person to the most relevant task.
When you're not even applying this simple rule to yourself you're going to seriously struggle. Combine this with a man management style that consists of barking out vague orders like a Sunday league manager with a bad hangover and you've got problems.
In fairness, a few team members made life quite tricky for Ed. This was particularly true of Leon who seemed more than willing to let him fail. As a start-up business it's really important that everyone's willing to muck in, so there's no way you'd ever want a guy like this on your team.
The main shining lights for the boys were Gavin and Jim. Both of these guys seemed to have a bit of business sense about them and I think they'll go far in this competition. Thomas, the inventor, was also intriguing and could definitely be a dark horse.
I'm sure this will come back to haunt me, but what the hell: my prediction for the final two is Thomas and Susan. Does anyone agree or is it too early to say?