2005-01-22

Apprentice 03 - Net Worth: The Street-Smarts


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I believe that there is much to be learned about human nature, business and success from NBC and Donald Trump's hit show "The Apprentice." Therefore I'll be blogging along with each step of the "16 Week Job Interview."

Just a month ago, Kelly Perdew wrapped up Apprentice 2 as Donald Trump's newest employee. Now we commence the third 16-week job interview and Donald Trump is mixing things up. Where previous versions have started out men vs. women, this season pits a team of high school-educated, "street smart" hopefuls against eight college-educated, "book-smart" contestants. To add fuel to the fire, Trump announced at the opening that collectively the high-school educated team earned 3x what the college-educated team was earning. Both teams seemed unable to let go of this in the early going.

It should be noted that the previous two Apprentices were both college educated. And, while there have been some successful high school-educated contestants; Troy in season one and Stacy in season two, it was clear that the lack of knowledge and refinement that comes with a college education ultimately was their undoing. Education alone won't do it, however. Both Perdew and Bill Rancick, season one's winner, were pitted against better educated foes late in the game. Both rode their combination of education, street smarts and experience to victory.

Notes on the Street-Smarts:

The high school educated group represents one of the more remarkable bonding episodes in reality television. I'm not suggesting that the group instantly became fast friends. More likely they are buoyed by a mutual desire to stick it to a very hate-able book-smarts group. Whatever the reason, the street-smarts were able to quickly settle down, follow the direction of a leader and cooperate.

When they initially met to work on their group name, John, a Tech Firm owner stepped forward to suggest some very basic ground rules designed to help the group get along and navigate as smoothly as possible, future board room skirmishes. Usually in such a situation, anyone stepping up for any reason will prompt a rousing chorus of "you're not the boss of me!" Again, mutual animosity for their opponents is probably the prime mover here, but kudos to this team for quickly figuring out that the shortest distance to their goal will sometimes involve setting aside ego and falling in line.

Hats off to Real Estate Broker, Brian, for coming up with this team's cheezy, typical reality show early moment with his "I'm a straight shooter" speech. Why is it that whenever a new group gets together on a reality show, someone feels the need to "warn" the group that they are going to tell it like it is. This is usually code for "I'm going to be a loud mouth, and I'm trying to color it noble terms in advance."

Rallying around Trump's recognition of their superior income, the group chose the name, "Net Worth." Then they settled down to mock the Magna love-fest in progress in the next room.

RIght now things look good for Net Worth. They did a great job of coming together. The strength of their bond? Only time and a trip to the board room will tell. Given how disarrayed team Magna is, it might be a while.



Individual Street-Smarts: (note: evaluation of individual players' chances assumes that they have been portrayed accurately, but also recognizes that exaggerations may well be edited into the show to boost entertainment value)

Unlike Magna, at this point Net Worth has no "no chance to win" category. As mentioned, this group showed an uncanny ability to grasp the route to success. There were no insurmountable obstacles in evidence during week one that would rule out any of the Net Worth members. In addition, much of the first episode was spent on Magna making it hard to evaluate all but the key Net Worth players.

Probably not:

I suspect that Tara is probably too weak for an executive position with Trump. During one tableau, she mentioned how she had had doubts, but was reassured when the Donald shared how the "net worth" of the street-smarts was 3x that of the book-smarts. In actuality Trump was comparing the income of the two groups. This is a rather basic knowledge error for someone pursuing a high level business position.

In addition, Tara's job is listed as "Senior Government Manager." I don't know what this is so I'll reserve permanent judgment, but it brings to mind pictures of a desk jockey rising through the ranks to become head desk jockey. Merit is often a foreign concept in government work.

Sales Executive Tana (not Tara), is outspoken in an annoying way, and struggles with the big picture. She had some good observations and some worthless input. The point is, she had a lot to say which is good to a point and trouble after a while. These reality situations are set up to give you plenty of rope to hang yourself with your own mouth. It's only a matter of time until she says the wrong thing to or about the wrong person.

Sales people are a unique breed. They are the people who can get ahead in business without having a broad knowledge of the workings of their own organization. They spend long hours hawking their product and are judged on one thing: their ability to generate revenue. In Apprentice, sales people like Nick and Troy in season one have done well. Their ability to size up people and negotiate helps them to steer clear of trouble. However, their lack of experience in other areas of the organization ultimately dooms them.

Strong Potential:

From the outset, John showed solid business and people skills, a potent combination in this game, as he led Net Worth to victory in the Burger King challenge. Obviously a lot can change in 15 weeks, but if I had to put my money on one player at this point, it would be John. One question regarding anyone on Net Worth: have they picked up enough knowledge in their business life to overcome the formal education deficit.

Although we got to see less of him, Chris seems bright and personable. And actually, early on, it's not a bad thing to not have been heard from a lot. After one episode the only contestants you remember are those who led, talked too much, or did something incredibly stupid. Past winners Rancick and Perdew were efficient with words. They didn't run off at the mouth, but also weren't silent. When they spoke it added something to the task at hand. Besides, Chris is a Real Estate Investor, and they are near and dear to the Donald's heart.

Potential but Flawed:

We got to hear plenty from Brian, the brash Real Estate Broker with the Brooklyn accent. He has the raw energy and fearlessness that can contribute to success. Unfortunately he lacks anything resembling discretion when it comes to his mouth. In the name selection process his ideas centered on the idea of "brass balls." For winning, Trump treated Net Worth to a private dinner in the basement of Club 21. Brian asked about the validity of the story that Trump paid off the mortgage of a couple that stopped to help his chauffer change a flat on the limo. When Trump confirmed the story, in this elegant setting, Brian exclaimed, "That is f****n' awesome!" Shortly thereafter he raised a toast to "not being the first one sent home." By the look on Trump's face, either the wine was bad or he was non-plussed by Brian's harsh demeanor.

Can't Tell:

As mentioned, we didn't get to see enough of this team to learn much about the supporting cast. But Kristen, Angie, and Audrey contributed to a solid team victory which suggests at least some potential in each of them.


Perhaps it's just the harmony, but for now Net Worth is by far the more likeable of the two teams. Go Net Go!

Next: Week One: Net Worth Shines in Burger King Mission
Also on Apprentice 3: Apprentice 03 - Magna: The Book-Smarts

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