The Apprentice 3: A Look at the Final Fourby Betsy Wasser -- 04/28/2005
The candidates on The Apprentice 3 have reached an important milestone. Alex, Craig, Kendra, and Tana have made the Final Four. Usually at this point in the season, the candidates undergo a round of job interviews and the field is narrowed to two. This time is different - we'll have one more task, then the candidates will go to interviews to determine the final two. Nevertheless, this is a good time to analyze the performance of these four candidates. Who has shown leadership? Who has made big mistakes? Who has the best win/loss record? Then, I'll predict how each candidate will finish and who will be the next Apprentice. For the past two seasons, I've correctly predicted the winner, but I've been wrong about the candidate who came in second. Will I get it right this time around? Let's look at the four hopefuls.
Original team: Book Smarts
Last job: Lobbyist/lawyer
Record as PM: One win (Graffiti), Two losses (American Eagle, Staples
Trips to the boardroom: Four (Burger King, Pizza, American Eagle, Staples)
A few weeks ago, Donald Trump said that Alex had been a star until he joined the Net Worth team. Alex has indeed done a number of impressive things so far. In the Burger King task, while project manager Todd sat in a booth and did paperwork, Alex did most of the actual work as restaurant manager. That showed early initiative, and although the team didn't win the task, Trump determined that Alex did a good job. He volunteered to serve as project manager for the graffiti task and immediately found himself a bit out of his element. He knew that he didn't know much about urban hip hop culture, and instead of throwing up his hands, he took action and asked several neighborhood residents what they'd like to see in the ad. That gave him a focus that helped him win the task. Even more importantly, Alex never lost sight of the fact that what he was creating was, in fact, an ad. He included the E for Everyone rating, for example, which got good feedback from the focus group.
In the Home Depot task, after Craig asked him to support his box idea, Alex threw himself behind it and changed his negative attitude. His teammates followed suit, and all of them supported the idea they originally hated. Indeed, Alex seems to have the respect of his team. They listened to him when he changed his attitude about the Home Depot project, Net Worth chose him to join their team, and Bren and Chris clearly loved working with him. Alex has also served as project manager three times, more than any of his opponents. The fact that he's survived the boardroom in a season in which Trump tends to fire the project managers speaks well for Alex. And as Bill Rancic pointed out in his book You're Hired, trips to the boardroom aren't necessarily a disadvantage, as they give you more face time with Trump.
However, Alex has had some major misfires so far. He didn't support project manager Craig on the Home Depot task until he got a talking to about it. In the pizza task, his teammates noticed that he spent a lot of time flirting with attractive customers that he should have spent working. He was in charge of interior photography of the car in the Pontiac task and failed to get more than one usable shot of the inside of the car and didn't get the one specific shot of the logo that he was supposed to.
In his two recent performances as project manager, he showed some serious weaknesses. In the American Eagle task, some of his ideas were really bad - for example, he wanted to add a pocket to a jacket to hold a laptop, an uncomfortable and impractical plan. He also showed a real lack of organization. Angie, for example, had a list a mile long of things to do, while Chris had nothing to do but recover the credit card, and Alex himself had one item on his to do list. The chaos really caused problems when the team almost didn't make the presentation on time. They arrived at the nick of time, but Angie was flustered and gave a shaky performance. As project manager of the Staples task, Alex was frankly lucky not to have been fired. He made the bad decision not to meet the Staples executives in person, and the bulky, impractical table that was the losing design was 100% his vision.
Original team: Street Smarts
Last job: Shoeshine business owner
Record as PM: Two wins (Home Depot, Staples)
Trips to the boardroom: Two (Graffiti, Mini Golf)
The two times Craig served as project manager, we really got a chance to see what he's made of. In the Home Depot task, he came up with the idea of building a storage box and having customers decorate it, getting the entire family involved. It was a simple and effective idea that the customers loved. Home Depot liked the idea enough to use those clinics in their stores. And Craig managed to pull it off even with his entire team mocking the idea. To his further credit, Craig didn't just sit back and do all of the work himself. He talked to Alex and Bren, asked for their support, and got it. That was good leadership.
In the Staples challenge, Craig used Kendra's suggestion of using stackable organizers to come up with their organizer caddy, an idea, again, good enough for Staples to use. His team's presentation was funny and effective, and it was a clear win for them.
He has also performed well in other tasks. In the graffiti task, Craig understood that the challenge wasn't to promote a social agenda, but to sell a product, though he couldn't convince project manager Tara of that fact. And after a rough boardroom that left Audrey feeling offended and alone, Craig brought his team together to try to work things out. After that team meeting, John nominated him to be the project manager because he had the fewest personal problems with his teammates. When Audrey insisted on taking charge, Craig stepped back and agreed to let her be project manager. Audrey put him in charge of marketing, and his strategy was to undercut Magna. Though that idea wasn't nearly as good as Kendra's idea to market to people taking lessons at Chelsea Pier, it was a solid plan. In the Fuse challenge, he handled the negotiating with Tana and appeared as the on-air talent. Finally, in the American Eagle task, he solved the problem of the paint on the track jacket by covering it up with White-Out, a smart bandaid solution to a bad mistake.
Craig does have his share of issues, however. The biggest is that his coworkers have said repeatedly that he is not an effective communicator. Craig gave a speech before volunteering to be project manager in the Home Depot task, and Tana was literally unable to tell us what he meant. He wasn't able to explain to his team why he thought his box idea was a good one - he just told them to do it. It wasn't until the team saw his idea in action that they understood what he wanted to have happen. Craig has also been accused of being condescending by both Audrey and Kendra. Both women said that Craig talked down to them as if they were his kids. As Tara pointed out several weeks ago, if people keep bringing up the same issue about you, it's not them - it's you. Craig's inability to explain things without talking down to people is a real communication problem. If Craig can't communicate well and makes it to the interview stage, he's doomed.
Craig's fellow candidates seem to have a perception that he's not a hard worker. In the Pontiac task, Chris commented that there was no way Craig was going to stay up all night to get the brochure done. And it turns out he was right - Craig (along with Tana) insisted on going home to get a good night's sleep. Trump expects dedication, and that kind of behavior could hurt Craig. Craig was also the very last of the candidates to serve as project manager. Trump is looking for a leader and risk taker; someone who waits until the last minute to take charge won't impress him.
Craig's other potential Achilles heel is his conflict with Kendra. The two of them, very simply, do not get along, and it's become increasingly apparent that Craig's knee-jerk response to Kendra will be to shut her down or disagree with her. When they were choosing pizza toppings, Kendra said, innocently, "Everybody likes pepperoni." He chided her to "avoid generalities." We all know that Kendra doesn't believe that literally all of the people of the earth like pepperoni pizza; she just meant that it's a popular topping. Yet Craig seemed to really want to put her in her place. He did the same thing when Kendra said that offices tend to use file folders when they were designing their organizer in the Staples task. Yes, I'm sure there are offices in the world with no file folders, but they are prevalent enough such that they should be considered in the design. And in the Pontiac task, although Kendra explained that they'd be showing a different emotion on each page, Craig repeatedly said that the brochure didn't have a theme. He's not a dumb guy, so I can only imagine that he simply wasn't listening to Kendra because he doesn't respect her. Finally, in the Staples task, when the team was brainstorming, Kendra said that she'd like to have focus groups. Craig shut her down, saying to write it down instead of talking out loud.
The Craig-Kendra conflict is starting to reach "this town ain't big enough for both of us" proportions, and I think that if it continues to escalate, Kendra will be the one to come out on top. While she clearly doesn't like or respect Craig (just as he feels about her), she seems more able to put their differences aside to focus on the task at hand.
Original team: Book Smarts
Last job: Real Estate Broker
Record as PM: Two wins (Fuse, Pontiac)
Trips to the boardroom: None
Kendra is a favorite candidate among my readers, and indeed, when she's good, she is very, very good. She was in charge of marketing in the mini golf task and did an outstanding job. Kendra came up with the idea of marketing to kids taking lessons at Chelsea Pier. That was a good plan in and of itself, but she took it one step further and and negotiated exclusivity for Magna, effectively shutting out Net Worth. Her team won, and it was apparent that Kendra's marketing was a big part of that, since many of the customers who came to their mini golf course had Kendra's coupons with her.
Kendra's team also won big in the Fuse task. She was in charge of the new Magna, with Tana and Craig added to the team. Because she didn't know the two of them well yet, she went with them to meet the first artists to see what kind of negotiating they could do - very smart. When she saw that Tana and Craig were doing well, she left them to do their job. Even then, she didn't drop the ball completely, and asked the two of them to check in with her and run their ideas past her.
Marketing seems to be a real strength for Kendra. She and Tana sold large orders to businesses in the Domino's task, an idea that paid off in a win. She also teamed up with Tana to poll customers in the American Eagle, Staples, and Pontiac tasks. Kendra clearly understands how important it is to get in the mind of the customer, and given her team's success in those tasks, is good at it.
Kendra impressed viewers most of all with her performance in the Pontiac task. While teammates Tana and Craig slept, Kendra stayed up all night and put together a spectacular brochure that wowed the Pontiac execs so much that they decided to produce it. It was a huge win, and she pulled it off almost single-handedly. She wanted to win, and she did whatever it took to make it happen.
However, in the Pontiac task, Kendra also showed signs of weakness. She wasn't able to convince her team of the importance - and necessity - of pulling an all nighter, so she wound up doing all of the work herself. It paid off in the short term, but over the long run, it shows a lack of leadership. If it really was necessary to stay up all night to get the job done, Kendra should have done a better job of convincing Tana and Craig to do it.
The most interesting thing about Kendra is that she's had a strategy since the beginning that, so far, seems to be working. She explained that she made the decision to sit back, stay out of the limelight, and let the weaker candidates get fired before she made her move. And stay out of the limelight she did - until the golf task, the only thing we really saw Kendra do was stand up for Danny in the first task, saying Todd should be fired for not being able to control Danny. She was also the last member of Magna to serve as project manager. Kendra has not been to the boardroom a single time. Will her under the radar strategy pay off? It's hard to say, since no one has tried it before. She definitely kept herself safe so far, and there's no disputing how well she did when she decided it was time to shine. But does Trump want to hire someone who would take such a conservative strategy? Will she come across as avoiding risks? Is the winner of The Apprentice really going to be someone who decided to lay low for so many weeks?
Original team: Street Smarts
Last job: Sales Executive
Record as PM: Two wins (Airstream, American Eagle)
Trips to the boardroom: One (Dove)
Tana is another reader favorite, and fellow candidate Angie seems to be a Tana fan as well - she gave a "go Tana!" in her final speech. From the beginning, Tana has shown herself to be creative, personable, a hard worker, and an incredible saleswoman. In the Burger King task, it was Tana who came up with the winning idea of giving away a trip to Las Vegas. She also had a friendly and effective sales technique that convinced quite a few customers to try the new burger. In the hotel task, she was in charge of customer service. Tana was at the front desk greeting customers with a smile and welcome packet. When some of the hotel guests complained to her, she attempted to smooth things over by offering them breakfast. Free food can go a long way in making things better. In the Domino's task, Tana was the one who came up with the meatball pizza flavor and its catchy Italian name. And as I mentioned before, she and Kendra worked together on several challenges doing market research that allowed the team to pinpoint exactly what their customers needed.
Tana first lead her team in the Airstream challenge. She was the one who came up with the creative and unique idea of having a casting director meet actors. Once the trailer was set up, she was able to explain the service they were offering to people on the street very clearly. The task wound up being a big win for her team and went off with relatively little friction, impressive given some of the big personality clashes Net Worth had in the previous challenges.
Tana really rose to the occasion in the Fuse task. She negotiated some truly impressive donations from the musicians she met with. Craig was with her, but Tana seemed to be taking the lead. Her success was especially impressive given the fact that, as a 37-year-old mom from Iowa, she was out of her element talking to rappers. Tana did her best to adopt their slang, and although we all laughed, her dorkiness was endearing, and you can't argue with the results. In that task, Tana, was also the on-air talent and impressed Donald Trump. Her incredible salesmanship and natural charm were quite evident on this task.
She took charge of her team again in the American Eagle challenge. The contrast between her team and the other team was huge. They were focused, having polled AE customers about what kind of gadgets they liked to use. They had a simple, recognizable logo on all of the clothing. Tana called her line of clothing "Wearable Tech," and sold it as a "line extension" for American Eagle, showing that she was able to see the big picture. And Tana made great use of her team, putting Bren in charge of what was a very strong presentation. Perhaps even more impressively, she put a stop to a brewing argument between Craig and Kendra before it became a distraction.
Tana's nerdy "aw, shucks" attitude has worked for her so far, but will interviewers think that she's just not very smart? After all, this is the same woman who called Uma Thurman "Uma Thurma" and coined the phrase, "It's not rocket scientist." If Tana misspeaks at the wrong time in front of the wrong person, it could cost her dearly.
The biggest negative Tana has demonstrated was in the Pontiac task. Kendra wanted Tana and Craig to stay up all night to get the project done, and Tana simply refused. She said that she needed her sleep. To make matters worse, she added that because she had an exemption from the previous task, she didn't need to work as hard on the task at hand because she wouldn't be fired no matter what. That is a terrible attitude. Trump definitely wants an Apprentice who will work hard, no matter what the circumstances. Slacking off isn't acceptable, ever, especially when you're trying to make a good impression.
Since the show started, I've received emails from readers saying that no way will Trump hire someone who doesn't have a college degree. Other people have said that because the past two winners have been men, Trump will want to hire a woman this time around. I can't say what's in Trump's head (otherwise, I could explain the hair), so I'm only operating on what we know for sure, which is that Trump wants to hire a smart, talented, hardworking person. So who is it going to be?
Right now, Alex is a one-man team. I suspect Trump will let him pick someone from the other team to join him, and I bet he'll choose Kendra, both because she's good and because of old Magna loyalty. If, on the other hand, the other team gets to send someone to Alex's team, Kendra and Tana will give Craig the boot. The two women work well together, and getting Kendra and Craig away from each other is to everyone's advantage. Who will be fired next? My gut tells me it will be Craig. Of the four remaining candidates, he has the most working against him. He doesn't communicate clearly, has a tendency to talk down to others, and is perceived as not being a hardworker. Craig will come in fourth place.
That takes us to the final three, and to the interview stage. As far as I'm concerned, Kendra is a lock. Her record is very strong, and she hasn't made any real mistakes. That brings us to Alex and Tana. There is a chance that Tana will say the wrong thing, come across as a hayseed, and blow the interview. But I think that it's more likely that Tana will charm the executives with her friendly attitude, positivity, incredible sales ability, and will beat out Alex to the final two.
Now things get tough. Who is the better qualified candidate - Kendra or Tana. Tana admitted that she didn't work her hardest in the Pontiac task because she had an exemption, and that is a huge black mark on her record. And chances are, she will have to stay up all night to get the final task done. I don't think that staying up all night will be an issue this time around - Tana will do it if her own job is on the line. As for Kendra, her biggest negative is that she didn't make her full effort for the first several weeks, opting to fly under the radar to protect herself before making her move at endgame. In the end, I say the advantage goes to Tana. She didn't make a full effort on one task. Kendra didn't make a full effort for weeks. One thing that Bill and Kelly have in common is that the two of them worked their absolute hardest on every single task, took risks, and stood out from the beginning. Nobody every said, “Wait, which one is Bill? There’s a Kelly on this show?” they way they might have with Kendra in the first several episodes. Kendra's own play it safe strategy will be her undoing and will land her in second place. Tana had better plan to pack up her family and try to figure out how to fit two kids in that Solstice convertible, because she will be the next Apprentice.
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. Kendra, Alex, and Craig fans can send her hate mail at email@example.com.