2006-02-28

Apprentice 5-1: They Never Learn!


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It’s funny: During the opening episode of an Apprentice Season most of the candidates come across as polished and professional. A little too arrogant? Maybe. Deserving of a slap? Maybe. But they seem capable. Thirteen weeks later they're all buffoons and it’s a good season if you respect more than two of them.

Trump let the candidates introduce themselves and then selected two PM's: Tarek because he introduced himself as a member of Mensa and Allie because she is a Harvard B-School grad.

The new format worked and this new crop of candidates performed well in their opening mission. There was no tentative posturing. No taking hours to think of a team name. They hit the ground running in their quest to boost Sam’s Club memberships.

By the way, the teams collectively took about three minutes to come up with their names, and it showed. This season Synergy Corp. (someone thought it would be a cool combination of “energy” and syn, umm, syn … it wasn’t clear but I’m guessing that the word they were looking for was synergy – because it’s a word all by itself!), and Gold Rush Corp. Hey, team names are over-rated.

The Omarosa Watch: Early candidates for most-hated … Synergy: Brent the chubby, nasal, attorney who doesn’t let his brain get in the way of his mouth. Gold Rush: Tarek who couldn’t help repeatedly reminding everyone that he’s Mensa. His mediocre effort as PM might have slid by had he not undeservedly and unnecessarily dragged two extra team members into the boardroom.

This task was Marketing 101. The teams were given blimps to help get out the word on their Sam’s campaign. The key decision was how to draw prospects. Synergy offered free manicures and massages. As part of their sales effort they used tangible incentives, such as swiping customers cards and informing them how much they could have saved with an upgraded membership.

Gold Rush relied on brute salesmanship. OK, they gave out Sam’s tote bags, empty Sam's tote bags, to the first 485 customers who came through the door. But their main thrust was the hard sell.

Another key underscored by Trump in one of his “back from the commercial” interludes: You’ve got to know when to pull someone. In unexpectedly cutthroat moves for a first challenge, both PM’s put their perceived dead weight in the blimps for the day: Synergy – Brent, and Gold Rush – Lenny and Summer.

Synergy beat Gold Rush 43 memberships to 40.

PM Tarek quickly circled the wagons and got Gold Rush to back firing Summer. Lee wasn’t going for it though. He didn’t like talking behind Summer’s back and blamed Tarek for the team not having something creative to lure prospects. On to the boardroom where we see that …

These candidates never learn! They get in there and suddenly start acting like they’ve never seen a prior episode of The Apprentice or have any clue who Donald Trump is.

Summer was a clear culprit, yet Tarek put himself in the crosshairs by also bringing in Lenny and Lee for no reason that he could articulate. In fact, in the closing moments Trump was laying into Tarek so much that Lee and Lenny were LOL.

Then just as the Donald was going for the kill Summer started interrupting! Bad move. Very bad. Not only was she delaying the death blow, she was prodding an already riled up Trump. Finally he turned and fired her.

But his venomous parting shots were reserved for Tarek. “She saved your ass by her own stupidity!” And then to Carolyn and George, “Tarek is totally over-rated!”

Tarek needs to lay low and help his team muster some wins. He won’t survive repeated trips to the boardroom. And he’d do well to steer clear of the word “Mensa” for a while. It is now a punch line.

Editor’s aside: I was in Mensa for a while. Tarek exemplifies why I let it lapse. As a body they seem bent on reminding the world how smart they are and how stupid everyone else is. What they fail to realize is that they are among the least fun people on earth to be around.

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