Ah bonjour mes amis! At times last night it felt like I was watching an episode of 'Allo 'Allo, but I'm assured it was definitely The Apprentice. Some of the French accents on show would even have made Steve McClaren roll his eyes.
This latest episode was basically about export. The candidates had to select a product and sell it to French retailers. Export has played a huge part in Bulldog's growth over the past 18 months, so I was intrigued by how the teams would approach this challenge.
Tom and Susan were project managers this time around and in my review of the first episode I backed both of them to make it to the final. I've been really impressed with their contributions throughout the series and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be the last ones standing. However, there were mistakes made on each side this week that stemmed from bad preparation.
Export is the same as doing business in the UK really. You have to know your customers, your competitors and your consumers, so research is key. We launched Bulldog overseas for the first time in January last year in Sweden and before we got to this point, my team and I spent months doing research. Months weren't available to the candidates last night, but there were some really straightforward pieces of information that would have given either team a huge advantage.
I actually found myself laughing out loud (LOLing if you like) at Melody's commitment to research despite talking to only four people. Here's a thought: it's probably not a good idea to speak to people at the Metro station about whether they'd buy a car booster seat. It's a bit like asking an elephant grazing the African bush if it would like to buy some ice skates. Nope, no to the ice skates? Are you sure I can't interest you in two pairs? Frankly, I'm surprised that more wasn't made of this in the Board room.
We found out later in The Apprentice You've Been fired that Leon had actually worked for La Redoute, the major retailer in this task, years before. This would have been even funnier than Melody's "research" if it wasn't such a ridiculous thing to forget. He should have asked that elephant.
Launching with a big retailer can give a brand huge credibility when entering a new market. When we launched in Sweden we were very lucky to do so with two of the leading retailers in the country. This acted as a real selling point for other partners. In this instance, Melody and Leon completely let Tom down.
Leon had a terrible task all round. It's fine to let a team member play to their strengths, and Melody is clearly fantastic at sales, but he just didn't contribute. His excuse that he couldn't communicate because he didn't speak French was pretty weak. Jim, for example, clearly (and I mean clearly) couldn't speak French but he got by perfectly well on Susan's team.
In the end it was Leon who was fired last night and Lord Sugar definitely made the right call. Leon was pretty much M.I.A all task so it was the right time to say au revoir.
Read Simon Duffy's other reviews from this season of The Apprentice: