The Apprentice 5: Who Will Win?by Betsy Wasser -- 05/29/2006
A few episodes back, Sean commented that he and Lee have very different backgrounds. Sean is 11 years older than Lee. Lee is from New York; Sean is from London. Lee is Jewish, whereas Sean is half Arab. Despite those differences, the two of them have worked well together. Well, no more. Lee and Sean are now the final two, and will be going head to head to see who will be Donald Trumpís next Apprentice. Letís take a look at these two men, their records so far, and predict who will win. Iíve made these predictions every season since the first, and so far the only time I was wrong was when I predicted Tana would beat out Kendra Ė who knew Tana would choke so horribly in the final task? Will I be right again?
Lee Bienstock, 22, business analyst, Brooklyn, New York
Record as Project Manager: 3-1
Boardroom Appearances: 5
Ever since Andy, young candidates have had a tough challenge on The Apprentice. Their teams donít take them seriously, perceiving them as inexperienced. Trump questions whether or not theyíre up to the task of managing one of his companies. Lee is now the youngest candidate to make the final two, having managed to escape those pitfalls. How has he done?
From the very first episode, Lee stood apart from the crowd. He was the one who questioned whether manager Tarekís strategy had a big idea, a problem that lead to the teamís loss. Nevertheless, Lee made a tremendous effort in this task. Instead of donning a Samís Club polo shirt like the rest of the team, ,Lee wore a suit and offered ďbusiness consulting.Ē It was a smart idea. Dressing up gave Lee an air of importance that, looking as young as he does, would otherwise have been lacking. He worked with three other teammates focusing on sales. The sales group must have done well, because despite the fact that Gold Rush didnít have as clever of a concept as Synergy, they only lost the task by three memberships. Lee showed that he is an effective salesman and knows how to play to his strengths.
Lee volunteered to be Project Manager on the second task. Although his team won, he struggled at first. He spent a long time getting a group consensus on what the text message should be and was accused of leadership by committee, always a no-no in Trumpís eyes. He also had his team spend a lot of time researching the best locations to work from until Lenny finally got frustrated with him and demand that they stop researching and start getting people to text. The impressive thing is that Lee realized that he was wrong and followed Lennyís advice. The team got up bright and early and secured a superior location near the TKTS booth in Times Square. There, they were able to capitalize on a captive audience and got a decisive win. Lee made some initial mistakes at first that were significant, but he was smart enough to listen to his teammate and change direction.
In the fourth episode, it was Leeís advise that helped steer the team in the right direction. Gold Rush was challenged to design a billboard promoting a new cereal. Lee urged the team to select a simple concept. They did, especially compared to the jumbled mess that Synergy came up with. It was a solid suggestion, and helped the team win.
In the next task, Lee ran into trouble. Project Manager Dan noted that every time one of the viceroys appeared, Lee would rush over to him or her to update them on the situation. The team perceived him as less interested in working and more interested in positioning himself in front of the right people. Trump accused him of being a politician in the boardroom, an accusation that heíd echo many more times in the fuure.
Lee had problems again in the Boysí and Girlsí Club task. He was the one who suggested that the room have a music theme, an idea that was later criticized as being too narrow. He did prove himself to be a team player when Project Manager Lenny struggled with the presentation. Lee jumped in and helped him out. That was great, though Bill and Carolyn wondered in the boardroom if the team had made a mistake by letting Lenny present in the first place. Lee explained that it would have looked weak if the PM hadnít been the one presenting. Instead of focusing on that, Lee (and the rest of Gold Rush) should have chosen the person who would have been the best presenter.
Lee was very concerned after that task that his good friend Lenny would be fired. He spent time trying to coach Lenny on how to answer questions, going so far as to come up with a cheat sheet of words and phrases that Trump likes to hear. Clearly, Lee has done his homework. Will it be perceived as his being a smart planner, or will it come across as calculating? Itís hard to say.
As expected, Lee defended Lenny vehemently in the boardroom. Lee said he believed in Lenny. Carolyn was less impressed, asking if Lee was Lennyís lawyer or something. Trump, however, said that he admired Leeís loyalty.
In the next task, Lee really stood out. He worked with the 7-11 manager to remove all of the sandwiches other than the Píeatzza that the team was promoting. He tried to negotiate a bulk sale of 1,000 sandwiches. True, he failed, but Trump later agreed that if it had worked, it would have been spectacular, and that Leeís idea was worth the effort. Even more importantly, Lee was the one who spoke up- more than once- to encourage Project Manager Leslie of setting the price point too high. Synergy won the task in large part due to their competitive pricing, so itís easy to argue that Lee was right in this case. Still, the accusation of Lee being a politician came up again. Leslie said that Lee has a tendency to argue against the team so that heís in a good position in the boardroom if they lose. Trump later told Lee that he was very close to being the one fired.
Lee then volunteered to lead the team again in the next task, designing brochures for Ellis Island. Gold Rush slaughtered Synergy in this task. Just as they did in the Gillette task, they got up early and got the best location. They were able to out maneuver and out sell the other team easily. But how much of that victory can Lee claim credit for? Everyone said that Gold Rushís brochure was better, but Lee delegated all of the work for the design and copywriting to Tarek and Michael. Gold Rush had a single big sale, but that was thanks to Charmaineís efforts. In fact, Lee made things more difficult for her by giving her 65 pages of leads without any kind of filtering or targeting. Still, I canít overstate the importance of the location, though was Lee really responsible for it?
In the Hair Cuttery task, Lee was 100% right when he suggested that they spend more time on marketing and less time arranging shampoo bottles. But he was really not helpful on the task at all. He spent most of his time flyering cars with Tarek and talking smack about Charmaine. He complained that putting out flyers wasnít effective, but he never came up with an alternative. And when Charmaine called to ask how things were going, he lied and said they were great. Then after the team lost, he tried to manipulate everyone else against each other. In the boardroom, Carolyn criticized him for giving political, rather than honest, answers.
Leeís biggest failure as Project Manager came in the task about which he was most confident. Surely he and his all-male team, with exclusive rights to the Rutgers cheerleaders, would win the tailgating task, right? Wrong. Leeís strategy was to create a huge spectacle- a money grab, an eating contest, and of course, the cheerleaders. He and the rest of the team did get a huge crowd, but they didnít focus nearly enough on the actual selling. Synergy beat them with simple selling. Michael was fired for being willing to give up the cheerleaders, but it was Leeís ineffective strategy that lost the task.
Lee improved a great deal in the next task, in which he and Sean designed a display for the X Box 360. He was a great team player and was the one who ultimately decided to put up the display, even if it did have to be held together with duct tape. He was able to adapt quickly to make the best of a bad situation.
Finally, in the most recent task, Lee served as project manager for the fourth time. He and Sean had a decisive victory, but again, how much of it was Lee responsible for? The two of them worked as a team to talk to the hotel staff about their uniforms, but Sean took the lead on just about everything else. On a team of just two people, itís hard to be a leader, but Lee didnít seem to lead much at all.
Leeís record has been really spotty. It is impressive that heís served as project manager four times, and his 3-1 record is nothing to sneeze at. But how much was he really responsible for those three wins? Lenny pointed him in the right direction in the Gillette task, he delegated a lot in the Ellis Island challenge, and Sean really was the star in the Embassy Suites task. His overall team record is poor- 8 losses- and heís been to the boardroom a stunning five times. Thatís especially bad when you consider that Lee did not participate in two of the thirteen tasks to date because of Jewish holidays.
Lee has a reputation as being a politician, of saying what people want to hear and of trying to position himself advantageously. He spent much of the cruise ship task talking to the viceroys. He has trouble giving direct answers in the boardroom. He actually has a cheat sheet of things Trump wants to hear. In business, politics are important, no doubt. Will Trump see Lee as smart or slippery?
Lee has done some very smart things in his time on the show. He sold very well in the first task, had all of the right ideas in the 7-11 task, and recognizes the importance of an early start and a good location. He also has a reputation for being loyal, a trait that Trump admires.
Sean Yazbeck, 33, recruitment consultant, London, England
Record as Project Manager: 2-0
Boardroom Appearances: 1
Sean was easy to spot in the crowd of Apprentices, both because of his accent and his way with the ladies. As a member of the strong Synergy team, he hasnít spent nearly as much time in the Boardroom as Lee. Thatís not necessarily an advantage- he hasnít had as much opportunity as his opponent to learn about what makes Trump tick. Does Sean have the stuff to win? Like we did with Lee, letís look at how he has done so far.
From the beginning, Sean has had, as Allie put it, ďa prescenceĒ about him. His smile, accent, and natural charm made him a successful seller in the first task. He also proved himself an effective salesman in the third task. He worked hard to learn as many features as possible that he could impart to the Chevy dealers. Seanís way with words, however, failed him in a big way in the fourth episode. He and Project Manager Tammy wisely decided that Brent should not be the one to present to the Grape Nuts executives. Unfortunately, Sean himself did a terrible job. He stammered, stuttered, and later admitted to Trump that he got really flustered. Might he have trouble under pressure in the final task?
Sean served as the project manager of Synergy in the Arbyís jingle challenge. His strategy was to adapt his management style to the individual members of his team, and it really seemed to work. Everyone got along well, and they even seemed to have a good time working on the project. He created a positive, collaborative atmosphere, something that is crucial for such a large group. Additionally, he brought his entire team with him to meet with Arbyís executives. That way, everyone was on the same page, and the team got the critical messages that Gold Rush missed.
The next episode was the Boysí and Girlsí Clubs challenge. Officially, Sean wasnít in charge- Michael was. But he, along with Andrea, stepped in to get the team to ďstop pissing aroundĒ and get to work. Many times on this show, when the Project Manager is floundering, team members will throw up their hands and just plan on using this against the PM in the Boardroom. Such was not the case with Sean- he worked hard and did what he had to do to get the team back on track.
All appearances for the 7-11 task pointed to Synergy losing. Project Manager Andrea alienated most of her team. Their promotional item of hats was not as strong as the coolers that Gold Rush was offering. But two key things went right. For one, the teamís handing out flyers the night before actually drove some traffic in. Sean spearheaded that initiative. Even more importantly, Synergy priced their sandwiches right- not too high, not too low. And it was none other than Sean who chose the price point.
Synergy did lose the next task of selling Ellis Island brochures. The team turned against Andrea- all except Sean. He said he wouldnít claim that Andrea didnít sell unless he had evidence of that. In fact, Andrea claimed that she sold the brochures well. We will probably never know if this is the case or not. But we do know that a huge part of Synergyís loss came from a late start and poor location. As a result, Sean blamed Project Manager Allie for the loss and said that Andrea was stronger. This set off a bad chain of events for Sean. Allie and Roxanne were furious with him and spent much of the next task and much of their time at the suite talking about how he should apologize to her. Sean stood up for himself and never did that, a sign of strength that Trump might well admire. Still, strong as he was, Sean wasnít stupid. The first chance he got, he defected and joined Gold Rush.
Sean volunteered to lead the team again in the X Box challenge. His display concept was really strong- he used the 360 degree circle format to create a round display with graphics on the floor and ceiling, along with a wrap. He and Lee were also smart to price everything clearly and to have related items set up in their display area. The problem he ran into was with a vendor he hired delivering items late. Thatís a tough break, one thatís sometimes hard to avoid. Sean handled it as best he could, imploring the vendor to get him a floor as fast as possible, then when it looked like the ceiling would be late, Sean did his best to adapt, requesting any ceiling to go with the floor. Unfortunately, that didnít work out, so with Lee, Sean created something pretty hasty. Despite the horrendous looking display, Sean made the best of things and gave a solid presentation. It was impressive that Gold Rush won this task and is a testament to the strength of Seanís concept.
In the most recent task, Lee was Project Manager, but Sean appeared to be the real leader. He took the reigns in designing the uniforms, selecting fabrics, and even coaching the models. Ivanka was impressed by his knowledge. Without a doubt, it was Seanís superior design strategy that won the task. Lee was in charge in name only.
Seanís biggest weakness is that he hasnít been challenged nearly as much as Lee has. Sure, he has a perfect record as Project Manager, but he has lead half as many times as his opponent. Additionally, Synergy was a much easier group of people to work with than Gold Rush. Itís certainly not bad luck to be on a good team, but we really havenít had a chance to see Seanís stuff yet as we have with Lee.
Lee has an inconsistent record on the show, but at the same time, we havenít seen nearly as much from Sean. This season more than ever, I think the final task will be critical. Whoever organizes their event best will win. Itís hard to see who that will be, but Iím going to predict that Sean will prevail. He has shown himself to be an enthusiastic, organized, and competent leader. He is a very effective manager, and other than his rift with Roxanne and Allie, has good relationships with all of his former teammates. Lee has had some great ideas, but heís also made some big mistakes. He has a good record as Project Manager, but Iíd argue that those wins werenít necessarily on his own strengths, but rather the strengths of his team. Sean will be the next Apprentice.
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. She can be reached with any comments at Betsywasser@Gmail.com.