The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Weekly Performance Review, Episode 1by Brian Towers -- 01/09/2007
In this series of articles about The Apprentice, I will be focusing on the business actions of each player. Toward that end, I’ll be giving a capsulated “Performance Review” on the applicants each week. Warning, a few comments on game play just might sneak in there, too!
I’ll begin by defining the rating categories I’ll be using again this season. The three positive ratings of EXCELLENT, GOOD, and SATISFACTORY are pretty self-explanatory. I use the phrase NO RATING for those invisible ones that probably haven’t messed up, but didn’t do anything to catch my eye either. However, since on this show you ought to be trying to stand out and not staying under-the-radar, that’s why I have this separate and slightly lesser designation. It’s kind of like SATISFACTORY without the visibility; think of it as a “C-minus” grade in high school.
I use three more ratings to report negative activity. NEEDS IMPROVEMENT means that there are one or possibly more areas that need to be improved, but there’s realistic hope that the situation can be reversed. UNSATISFACTORY means big problem(s) have surfaced and overall, the job seems out of reach. And UNACCEPTABLE means multiple and/or repeated failures… usually reserved for the one getting fired, or one who ought to have been.
That’s it – seven ratings, possibly modified on rare occasions by the adjectives VERY or ALMOST if I’m feeling particularly whimsical. That’s similar to the minor differences between, for example, a “C” and a “C-plus.”
Enough with the preliminaries; let’s get on to our first set of reviews of the season!
There were actually two tasks this week. The first was unofficial; it was to erect a big camping tent. Primarily, it provided players with some basis for their choices while selecting teams later on. Secondly – and for exemption from the Boardroom process – they washed cars. I guess supplies were made available for free, as this task was measured by gross sales revenue alone. In each task, some players stood out while others just stood around. Let’s look at each person in turn.
I note the teams don’t have “official” names yet, so I’ll identify them by the project managers’ (PMs’) names. Not that it matters, but I note there are seven women and two men on this squad. Heidi’s group worked very well as a team and, as Ivanka noted, they worked harder. When they opted not make negative comments about each other at the reward dinner at Spagos, they showed professional respect that is rare on this show. Overall, this was a team victory.
As is usual for the winning team in an early episode, there were several who fulfilled the role of “effective worker bees” whose efforts just never made it past the editing process. Therefore, I have NO RATING for Aimee, Jenn, Marisa, Muna, and Surya this week.
Angela: Every season Trump picks his favorites, though sometimes it’s for the oddest of reasons. Olympic athlete Angela is the fair-haired one this time out. We’ll see if it’s warranted, but since she wasn’t especially visible, for now the rating is SATISFACTORY.
Derek: Derek was the very first one picked to be on a team. Trump notices these things. We’ll see if it was a smart choice and also assign Derek a SATISFACTORY rating.
Heidi: Heidi started the game strongly, taking control of setting up the tent. All seemed to be going well until she allowed noisy Frank to usurp her role. It was disconcerting that she yielded control so readily, and that the others switched their attention to Frank without much more than a raised eyebrow or two.
As one of the initial PMs, Heidi started by addressing all the main points of the carwash task, but just not very well. Knowing her area and getting the topless guys for promotion was a good move, though marks are lost when one tries to pick up Ivanka. The need for readable signage was addressed, and although the results appeared to be of rather questionable quality, one cannot argue that the business was drawn in.
More importantly, the initial allocation of resources was poor. She did recover well in moving people from sales into labor once the lineups got overly long, but customers were getting rightfully upset at having to wait an hour for a car wash. Also, not offering the detailing options that could have generated more income might well have cost them victory at the end, had the other team not been so clueless. It’s my understanding that these are the cash cows for most car wash operations.
Celebrating at the hot tub after the task, Heidi made a smart move when she told the team that she noticed that there was no one complaining to her and thanked them all for their cooperation. That helps not only by passing out some free kindness, but now who would want to be the first complainer?
Before the Boardroom, Heidi told her team she was going to try and get the weakest candidate on the other team to stay. One inside however, Trump let her know he had seen that probability coming, and Heidi did well not to lie and pretend it was otherwise. Sitting in that third chair has its own pitfalls, and Heidi dodged those hurdles well.
Overall, Heidi’s effort is a GOOD rating.
Kristine: Kristine had one sharp moment when Trump asked them how the tent-raising went. She said, “There were too many cooks in the kitchen.” I think speaking out freely and being noticeable at this early stage is a smart move. SATISFACTORY.
Frank’s team had most of the face time this week, so I was able to scrape up a comment, however minor, for everyone. This team consists of more men, outnumbering the ladies six to three.
I think it says a lot about this team that in the Boardroom, on more than one occasion no one could remember who made certain decisions or performed certain acts (or at least they said they couldn’t remember). For example, they never gave Trump a final answer on who set the initial price point. To me, that says they were flying by the seat of their pants from the get-go.
Aaron: We only saw Aaron once that I remember, and he did well to support his PM to Ivanka when Frank was out buying a Sharpie. Wait, he also supported Frank in the Boardroom. Loyalty is always a positive. That’s all I have though, so he gets a SATISFACTORY rating.
Carey: At the carwash, Carey seemed to be the first on the team to recognize the need for proper signage and actually do something about it. He might have considered making the purchase on his own, though.
Also, although it took him a couple of sentences to get it out, Carey was the first to suggest that both Martin and Frank should be fired. His rating is GOOD.
Frank: As a PM, Frank made many mistakes. Let’s limit ourselves to addressing the trio of project planning, resource allocation, and vocal communication.
Frank’s first mistakes were in his lack of project planning. When he and Aaron went rushing off to Kinko’s so quickly to get those flyers printed, he left without performing the most important and basic initial tasks of a sales project: price setting and resource deployment. Also, Frank didn’t seem to consider how they were going to deliver flyers to vehicles that were whizzing past at 40 MPH. What, in L.A. they couldn’t find a nearby mall with a big parking lot? (Though even if they could, their time was limited, and it’s not clear if that would have helped.)
Let’s consider his resource deployment. Not only did Frank rush off with Aaron, but later he also went off-site with Carey at a time when Ivanka came by. Neither absence was valid; a project manager needs to stay at the project. These are not proper tasks for a PM, and, if performed at all, both ought to have been assigned to a team member.
One mistake he made in this area I will cut Frank some slack on – the choice to use Martin in sales. Since no one really knew each other yet, Frank had to assume that when Martin said he could sell, he wasn’t lying. However, he correctly caught full flak from Ivanka for assigning responsibility for the project’s primary task (sales) to Tim.
Now, let’s address Frank’s limited communication skills. He needs to find a way to cut way, way back on both his volume and his intensity. I don’t know who’s buffering Frank from the important people in his real job, but they deserve a raise… a big raise.
Right off the top, Frank stuck his nose in unnecessarily and took over on the tent-building task from Heidi when there was no reason to do so. Then, his loud voice was such a distraction to Trump that The Donald felt obligated to shout at him from an upstairs window. The crime may have been minor, but Frank had already accumulated a black mark against himself and the show had barely begun.
During the task, Frank seemed a little more in control (vocally), but it didn’t last. As Frank and Tim discussed the upcoming Boardroom, Frank got so fiercely loud that all the others could easily overhear their conversation. This unawareness of surroundings revealed information that ought to have been kept secret from the other team. The next time the task was reviewed, at least the other team was away at Spago. But goaded by Martin, Frank was getting so vociferous and animated that I was getting a Survivor Shane flashback!
In the Boardroom, Frank continuously threatened his own position by talking far too much without actually making many of his points. When he kept talking as the team went outside to await the final private discussions, Frank’s continued pleas smacked unpleasantly of desperation. And when they returned, Frank was talking quickly but not effectively. For example, after Tim was sent out, there was no reason to keep addressing Tim’s actions, and this was assuredly not the time to extol James’ skills, either.
Then, when Trump overreacted to Frank admitting that Martin had exceptional education (which he does), Frank did not know how to extricate himself. My first tip would have been to stop talking! At the end when Trump was about to fire Martin, Frank kept talking over him. I got the feeling The Donald was about to change his mind.
I think Frank may fare better as a worker bee in future weeks, but he was terrible as a PM. Although I do try to cut the first PM a bit of slack, in Frank’s case the rating must be UNACCEPTABLE. Trump did admit he sees something he likes in Frank, so that’s a plus and maybe he can last a couple of weeks, but wow, his path is straight uphill.
James: Young James showed great enthusiasm through the whole carwash task and did a good job of “up-selling” once the customers finally arrived. For this he receives a GOOD rating.
Martin: Alas, Martin probably should have tried out for a different show, perhaps Jeopardy, where standing about and showing off your book smarts is more likely to be rewarded. Our first exposure to Martin is asking to hug Trump and use the john in the middle of the initial introductions. The Donald even commented to next-to-speak Aimee, “Do you believe what you’re standing next to? I can see where he’s coming from already!” Not five minutes into the show, Martin put a target on himself.
Martin was next found acting as an unwanted supervisor while the tent was being erected. It was so noticed that he was the very last one picked for a team – a point Trump found fit to announce to everyone. Many might consider it a bad omen that, twenty minutes in, Martin has twice received negative comments from his potential boss.
It was a very bad move when Martin announced, “I’m tired!” to Ivanka and some of his teammates during the carwash. Ivanka sharply called him on it in the Boardroom.
I must ask, why did Martin volunteer to be in sales? He had to know that in this group he would have inferior selling skills. Does anyone else think it was so he wouldn’t have to get wet and dirty?
Pre-Boardroom, Martin did well to put the focus on Frank in discussions. His ability to manipulate Frank was rewarded, as Frank reacted badly.
This brings us to the Boardroom. Initially, Martin was doing fine here by again putting the spotlight on Frank’s deficits and letting loud Frank hasten his own demise. But then it went bad. When Trump calls you “a pompous ass,” and Ivanka disagrees with everything you say and calls your arguments “rhetoric,” it’s definitely time to shift it up a notch or three. This Martin was unable to do.
Martin was the master of his own demise and his rating must be UNACCEPTABLE.
Michelle, Nicole, and Stefani: I’m going to address these three together, as they seemed to be in on the same activities. All three tried to attract carwash business at the side of a busy street initially, and had little or no success. They worked hard, but fairly ineffectively.
Nicole even said (back when she still had a voice) to Michelle, “We need, like, a sign.” However, unlike Carey, not a one of this trio actually took steps toward making a sign! Being aware of a problem yet implementing no solution earns the trio a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating from me.
I will give some props to Nicole for being the first to vocalize that Martin (only) ought to be the one going home. However, it’s not enough to change her rating.
Stefani made a comment that living in the tents was like living in a third-world country. How wrong is that? Since I don’t expect she was showing off her mastery of hyperbole, I’m going to modify her rating to NEEDS IMPROVEMENT AND A REALITY CHECK.
Tim: Tim had a very good week. In the carwash task, when Frank inexplicably ran off to Kinko’s, Tim stepped up and filled in as the functional PM. He also did well marketing at the carwash. Whatever Frank’s problem with Tim’s sales management was, it wasn’t evident to me.
For his work, Tim gets a GOOD rating. He may have come out better had he not let Frank air all their dirty linen within earshot of the others.
Did Trump make the right decision? I think Martin had no chance to become The Apprentice, but Frank’s poor leadership was the primary reason they lost and he ought to have been the one fired.
Next week, the show runs at 9 PM ET/PT for an hour on Sunday night. Here’s a wee spoiler about next week’s challenge and reward. To see the spoiler, drag your cursor between the brackets. Don't do that if you prefer to remain spoiler-free! [ They’ll be designing swimwear for the beach, and the reward involves time with Hugh Hefner! ]
That’s all for this week. It’s a new season, you must be full of opinions out there. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts at the address below.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other recent Apprentice articles:
Brian lives in Toronto where he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machine to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email!
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