The Apprentice 4: Why Josh Lostby David Bloomberg -- 10/31/2005
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover this week, thanks to Donald Trump’s wonderful idea of firing four people. It makes sense to start with the man most responsible, project manager Josh. What went so very very wrong? Why did his team do so poorly? Why did Josh lose?
Even in a week with four firings at once, we will hold true to the task of looking back at What ‘Apprentice 4’ and ‘Martha Stewart Apprentice’ Applicants Should Have Learned. As I said, Josh was most responsible for the loss and thus deserved firing the most – let’s find out why.
The first and most important rule tells applicants to show leadership. Here is where I have my first big problem with Josh – and indeed with Donald Trump as well. Let’s start with the former.
Josh admitted to Mark in a discussion before the Boardroom that the whole team was rowing together but they might not have been going in the right direction or even using the right type of boat. Might?!
Josh didn’t take responsibility for the fact that he was the captain of the boat. If it was the wrong boat, he takes a good chunk of the blame. If they were rowing in the wrong direction, he takes a good chunk of the blame. Josh led his team down the wrong path.
I think that path began when they decided on where they would focus – baseball. Yes, James likes baseball. It’s the great American game, after all. But this was a task about selling and baseball was the wrong sport to choose. We’ll go into that more in our discussion of the seventh rule.
Once the ideas were put into action, Josh did what too many Apprentice candidates seem to be doing these days – he handed out jobs and sat back, ready to blame others for their failure. For example, let’s all laugh at Jennifer not selling any radar guns even though she said she could sell them all. That’s great, but it won’t help win the task.
Josh should have been supervising on the floor. If he saw that Jennifer was hawking hot dogs instead of selling bats, he should have pulled her off the task and switched what she was doing. If he believed that Mark would have been better off selling rather than plunking baseballs into a machine, he should have switched him out. If James should have been closing deals instead of giving batting tips, he should have been told to do that. Thus my earlier comments about how Josh is the one who most deserved to be fired. Put simply, his leadership, such as it was, was pathetic.
However, Josh did well in terms of the second rule, staying cool under fire. He knew he was in trouble heading into the Boardroom, and he knew what he planned to do – blame Jennifer. When the Boardroom questioning came, that’s what he did, and he stayed calm and rational while doing it. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t enough.
The third rule says to have a backbone. This didn’t really come up during the task, as people were not arguing with Josh much about the plans. Maybe they should have done more of it! In the Boardroom, Josh certainly stood up for himself well. But again, it wasn’t enough to overcome his leadership failure.
Josh showed us once again why the fourth rule holds true: Scheming and plotting usually doesn’t work. He planned with Mark to hold Jennifer accountable and told Mark he had nothing to worry about. Mark was the smart one, noting he was still worried.
Planning to target Jennifer was probably Josh’s best move – really, his only move other than essentially throwing himself on his sword. But all the scheming in the world wasn’t going to get him out of this one. Unfortunately, Mark became collateral damage.
Josh didn’t seem to have any problems with the fifth rule, which says to play well with others. Even the sixth rule, about thinking long-term, didn’t really play a role here for Josh. Indeed, Josh could have used a dose of good short-term thinking to get him through this task!
That brings us to the seventh rule. I promised you earlier that I’d discuss one reason Josh and his team went so wrong, and now is the time. It all began with the selection of baseball as their focus. Yes, baseball is a great sport – kids love it, parents love it. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie. But there is only so much you can sell for baseball, and this was a selling task.
I coach little league baseball and have kids involved. Each of my kids has a bat – the youngest with one passed down from his older brother, so I didn’t even buy one for him specifically. Each has a glove (one is a lefty and the other a righty, so I couldn’t do hand-me-downs with the glove). They have a pitch-and-catch (where you throw the ball at a big net-like contraption and it bounces back). One has batting gloves. So what more is there to buy them? If I had taken my kids to the Dick’s store where this event was going on, my kids might have wanted to go in the batting cage – then again, they might not have wanted to wait in a long line when we could have just gone to one of several batting cage operations in town.
If there was a good sale going on (and we saw nothing indicating they were allowed to change the prices), and if my youngest wanted them, I might have bought him batting gloves. In a couple years, I might buy the lefty a bigger mitt – but I would have gone to the store with that specific goal in mind, not simply thought of it while waiting in line.
I don’t think I’m all that different from most parents – at least from looking at the other kids on the team I coach. So where does that leave Excel? In a very bad place. How do they draw people into buying things in such a situation?
If we look at Capital Edge’s choice to go for golf, we see that it makes much more sense in terms of sales. None of the team even played golf, but they knew that! Heck, I don’t play but I know that. In golf, it seems there is always some great new thing being advertised. Golfers always need new golf balls and new tees. While in baseball players really only use one bat, there are many different types of clubs, each with some company claiming their new brand is the best ever and will help them hit the ball farther or more accurately or whatnot. It is much easier to make a sale in a situation like that.
If the goal of the task were to get long-term customers, Excel would have done better than they did, as I’m sure many parents were happy that their kids got to try the batting cage and receive some advice. But that wasn’t the goal – selling items that day was – and Josh, as leader of Excel, failed to understand that.
The eighth rule says to be creative, but not insane. It was very creative to put the batting cage in the store; it was similarly creative to set up a baseball diamond with each base selling a different kind of merchandise. But all that creativity was lost when the cage overtook everything else and forced the merchandise to the side. Marshawn understood that this went over the line from creative to insane; Josh apparently did not.
The ninth rule didn’t really apply here, as Josh was not fired for being one-dimensional. The tenth, however, says Josh should have used common sense. Much of what we’ve already discussed falls into this category, but there is more, too.
Common sense dictates that if you have a line of people waiting to use a batting cage, and the goal of your task is to sell, your employees should be hitting up that captive audience. But we saw none of Josh having people do that. Instead, he just let things go and then complained about it later.
Common sense also dictates that if people aren’t selling in a sales task, they need to be switched out. Just as Trump (or, in this case, Carolyn) noted that project teams at Trump’s organizations get shuffled if they aren’t working, Josh should have shuffled his team as well.
Common sense also tells us that a loss that involved the first decrease in sales for a company means the project manager was going to get fired. Trump noted that it was “embarrassing,” and it was. Trump thought Josh choked, and he did. Bill thought Josh was responsible for the loss, and he was. Carolyn couldn’t believe Josh had so few people selling in a sale task.
Josh failed to understand the point of the task – or if he understood it, he failed to take any action to show it. He failed miserably as the project manager, leading his team to the worst defeat ever. He tried to blame Jennifer – and certainly she deserved a portion of the blame; she even deserved to be fired too. But in the end, this “embarrassing” loss could truly be blamed on Josh. That is why Josh lost.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Apprentice 4 Episode 5 recap:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
Be sure to sign up for our e-mail update so you can stay informed about new articles on the site! And take a look at the rest of the site. You can find all of our recent articles on this show at our The Apprentice page and take a look at our sections on Survivor: Guatemala and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. You can even buy reality show stuff at our Reality TV Store!
For more news about The Apprentice, be sure to check out SirLinksALot: The Apprentice!