The Apprentice 2: Why Pamela Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/12/2004
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Pamela went from being the star (at least in her own mind) of Mosaic to the scapegoat of Apex. And, of course, she was fired. How did this happen? Why did Pamela lose?
As always, we will seek our answers in that blueprint for business, What ‘Apprentice 2’ Applicants Should Have Learned. And we will begin with the first rule: Show leadership.
There is no doubt that Pamela showed quite a bit of leadership. Indeed, the main reason she wasn’t fired the first time her team (then Mosaic) lost was because she had volunteered to switch from the women to the men and to lead the men’s team. When she took control of Apex this past week, she quite literally took control. In previous challenges, there was some doubt as to who was really leading the group, but there was no doubt this time. In the final discussion between George, Carolyn, and Trump, George noted that Pamela was definitely a strong leader.
But Trump noted that perhaps she was too strong. She didn’t listen to the others, and she kept making the wrong decisions. Admittedly, there is a portion of the rule that says, “Don’t let other strong personalities overwhelm you. If you’re going to be blamed for a loss, make sure it’s a loss that you created!” Pamela certainly created the loss.
But there was one thing that was missing. The sentences immediately following the quoted portion talk about how Kwame took responsibility when his team picked Meghan, the weird artist, in the first challenge. Pamela refused to take any real responsibility for the loss. She even went so far as to call it a “tie.” Trump didn’t like it, George didn’t like it, and I don’t like it. The guy who is .01 seconds too slow in the Olympics doesn’t get to share the gold, he gets a silver. The person on eBay who bids one penny too low doesn’t get to share the item up for auction. And Apex, although only ten dollars and change behind Mosaic, didn’t avoid the Boardroom. It wasn’t a tie. Apex lost. Period.
Also, I really question whether Pamela truly was a good leader for another reason: throughout the entire episode, she kept referring to the rest of Apex as “them.” It was never “us.” It was as if she was still viewing them as another team, rather than herself as part of that team. If she could not view herself as part of the team, how could she truly lead it?
Moving on, the second rule is to stay cool under fire. Pamela definitely did well at this – so cool she was cold, in fact. She remained calm during both the challenge and the Boardroom.
She also followed the third rule in standing up for herself. When the others blamed her for the price, she claimed nobody had opposed her on it. When Stacy pointed out the legal issues, Pamela claimed they were minor. Unfortunately, standing up for yourself is not necessarily going to get you out of a large hole you’ve been digging.
Fourth is the rule to not be one-dimensional. This one doesn’t really apply to Pamela, because both times her teams failed, she was the Project Manager. So, really, Trump was looking directly at her leadership skills rather than, for example, sales or what have you.
The fifth rule says to be loyal. Once again, it didn’t really come into play here, so let’s move on to the sixth rule, which says to not show your hand. Pamela didn’t really have a hand to show, so it didn’t matter to her. But the whole rest of the team joined forces in an effort to blame her, and to some extent it worked. It makes sense that they would all oppose her, since she even called the others “them,” as mentioned above. But she apparently didn’t see it coming.
How did Pamela do in terms of the seventh rule? Well, she definitely held to the second part, about staying professional. And she did generally play well with others. But there were also a couple times when she really went after people and didn’t need to. For example, she called out Stacy on the pricing issue. Why? What was gained by that? As far as I could see, nothing – other than maybe embarrassing Stacy or showing the others how much power Pamela had. Pamela wasn’t awful, but in a situation where you are new to the group, playing a little bit nice wouldn’t be such a horrible thing.
We’ve already mentioned how Pamela insisted that Apex had “tied” rather than lost. This is a good example of failing to follow the eighth rule, focusing on the long-term. OK, they lost. Pamela should have admitted it and gone from there. The last thing Trump wants is a person who makes excuses, and that’s what Pamela appeared to be doing. But she was so focused on this one losing task that she failed to see the big picture.
The ninth rule says to think outside the box, but not too far. Pamela went big with the price, thinking that just getting people to buy was the key. But she went too far. She priced It Works! at $27.23, despite the suggestion by others that it be $19.99. When QVC hosted an Apprentice special on Monday night, they priced the same product at $17.62! That’s one heck of a difference! It might not be thousand-dollar lemonade, like Sam tried to sell in the first series, but it certainly would have prevented me from buying. A bunch of sponges for over $27? What, are you kidding? Apex is lucky they had any buyers at all!
Indeed, when Pamela and the Mosaic team returned to QVC to pitch their respective products on Monday night, the lower-priced It Works! set outsold the grill by about a $20,000 margin! Obviously, there was a larger audience watching because it was an hour dedicated to The Apprentice, but there is no inherent reason I can think of that those people should be more likely to buy the sponges over the grill. The fact is that the set being sold for a much more reasonable price brought in more buyers, just as Carolyn said it would have.
Finally, did Pamela use common sense? I would point back to the price and say “no” right off the bat. I would also point to the “we tied” bit and say “no” again. And the third strike here is that Pamela failed to bring the one person who might have saved her into the Boardroom – Sandy. While we didn’t see it in the original airing of the episode, we did in the Saturday episode and we saw some in the Yahoo extras. Sandy was in charge of set design, but the general consensus among the QVC folks – and possibly Trump & Co. – was that she was mostly useless. She said that if she had been given more to do, she would have. Of course, regular readers know that Rob made the same excuses and that was one reason he lost. If Pamela had brought Sandy into the Boardroom with her, she might have had a chance of surviving. But she was so tuned into Stacy and Maria that she failed to listen to the criticism leveled at Sandy and thus didn’t bring her along.
Pamela came charging into her new team – or should I say “their” team rather than “her” team – like a bull in a china shop. She wanted to show that she was a great leader and could whip them into shape, but she only succeeded in making enemies out of everybody. I don’t deny that Apex needs some serious leadership, but the way Pamela did it only set herself up to fail. If she was going to come riding in as the savior, she had to take the blame as the failure.
Even so, Pamela only took official responsibility for one item – the price (and that was after relieving Stacy of that same responsibility because she didn’t like Stacy’s answer). Pamela priced it over 50% higher than the price QVC would later assign to it – a tremendous markup on an item that is little more than just a bunch of sponges – thus essentially pricing them right out of the market.
Pamela went into this task with the wrong attitude. She was going to rescue the damsels in distress. When she didn’t, she made excuses. Pamela didn’t listen to her own staff, made poor decisions, was overly domineering, didn’t use common sense, and really took responsibility for only one thing: price – which is what killed the team. That is why Pamela lost.
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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