The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Weekly Performance Review, Episode 4by Brian Towers -- 01/30/2007
In the fourth episode of The Apprentice: Los Angeles, we finally saw the Arrow team pull out a victory. Of course, what we really saw was a lot of tent life, as less than TEN MINUTES of the planning and execution of actual task was aired! So again, I have rather limited information on which to base evaluations. Although an evaluation of camping skills may be more in order, instead it’s time for “Performance Reviews” of the remaining applicants!
This week’s task involved the creation, promotion, and selling of a new chicken dish for the El Pollo Loco chain. Judging was based on gross sales of the new product, so “creation” was the least important of the three.
To their credit, neither squad seemed take excessive time coming up with a product to offer. But why did every member on both teams need to be involved in this process? Surely some multi-tasking was possible. For example, someone on Arrow could have been getting their balloons, making the ever-present trip to Kinko’s, or learning to work the registers sooner.
With no other hidden tricks, this was a marketing task, pure and simple. Normally, there are three things that would determine the winner in such a task – location, location, and location – but that topic didn’t seem to come up.
I thought it interesting when Kinetic’s project manager, Heidi, described Arrow using phrases she no doubt saw as put-downs. It turned out that these traits won the task for Arrow. I’d have to say that Arrow acted the more “Trump-like” this week.
Probably the best thing Arrow did this week was to change Trump’s opinion of them as losers. Was Michelle’s departure an “addition by subtraction?” We’ll see if the same works for Team Kinetic next week.
It was nice seeing Arrow finally get inside the mansion, and we know they’ll appreciate it a lot more after being in the tents for so long.
Aaron: When Surya was sent to team Arrow, Aaron did well to make sure the team greeted him warmly so he wouldn’t feel like an outsider. Smart move. I see Aaron as a skilled leader who has, through mutual respect, taken charge of this team.
In the task, Aaron did a good job of motivating his team. Heidi was right, this is a more emotional group and they are more likely to respond to a pep talk.
One good move Arrow made was to mount fancy decorations and impressive signage that made customers feel this was a special event. Even if we don’t know who had the idea, Aaron was responsible for approving it.
I reward Adam’s fortitude in taking what he recognized as a big risk by sending off two team members to get bulk sales. Had it failed, he would probably have been sent home. The same result would have been probable if he had listened to Surya and recalled them before the sale was made.
In the Boardroom, Aaron correctly identified the key factors in this project as price and quantity, and Trump liked that. He also identified the significance of finding out who was in charge of sales in the final Boardroom. However, a little later on Aaron was chastised by Trump for not contributing. Since I’m not sure where he could have gotten a word in edgewise, I’m not going to adjust his rating… this time. Aaron gets an EXCELLENT rating! Next week, he needs to increase his Boardroom presence.
Frank: With Tim, Frank secured the bulk order. Enthusiastic throughout, Frank earned a GOOD rating this week.
This was the first episode in which Trump didn’t make a negative comment about Frank. Hey, no one in the game is having more fun than Frank is right now.
James: We saw James working hard and loud, as usual. One time he was roadside, soliciting the business of passing motorists. I’m not sure how much business he drew in, but it had to have helped somewhat. Perhaps he should have donned a chicken suit?
More significant were his convincing efforts at the point-of-sale, so it’s a GOOD rating for James.
Nicole and Stefani: As well at working the cash registers a little later on, the two women primarily created the product to sell. Stefani seemed to have a greater role, but it’s a SATISFACTORY rating for both.
Tim: Tim had the idea to try for bulk sales. Risky, but he was thinking outside of the box and I reward that. Then, with Frank, the sale was closed on the order that won the task for Arrow by such a wide margin.
A little earlier, we also saw Tim being very effective at the sales counter. He gets an EXCELLENT rating.
Surya: I thought it bold that Surya volunteered to change teams, but being chosen to change teams over two others is always a feather in one’s cap in this game and exactly the type of thing Trump notices. In the Boardroom, Trump even gave him credit for influencing the victory when in actual fact, he didn’t.
I was initially worried for Surya, when one of his first activities on arrival in Tent City was to give a “Business 101” lecture. Too much, too soon, and it might have created resentment from the MBAs among the existing Arrow members. One notes that many of the things he mentioned were not actions exhibited by his former team this week.
Surya’s fear that Tim and Frank were misallocated resources led him to request that they be called back. That conservative thinking might have cost them the task, had Aaron agreed too readily. Nonetheless, Surya’s rating is SATISFACTORY.
This episode was a general failure for Kinetic. As Sean commented, their marketing and point-of-sale efforts were weak. Despite being named Kinetic, they just didn’t sell with the same energy as the other team and I thought a sense of urgency was missing.
No one on Kinetic recognized that they had some key marketing information. Derek and Marisa were outside the drive-through, offering free samples to people. Now, we don’t know which contestant put forward that idea, but it ought to have worked. That it didn’t should have indicated that people obviously didn’t care for the taste of the sample much, and possibly they could have modified the mix a little – though it might have been too late for that.
That wasn’t a pretty Boardroom, and I have a feeling that all the hearts and roses and good feelings of the first three episodes are about to be discarded. Members of Kinetic were talking over each other so much, I bet Trump felt he was watching a live episode of The View! Oh come on, you know he watches!
Aimee: I liked it that Aimee volunteered to change teams. That took guts, because the teams are very different in their makeup and she had to know she might not fit in over there.
Aimee insisted in the Boardroom that she mentioned their product twice to 99% of the customers. I got the distinct impression that Trump didn’t buy it, but he didn’t question it either. So, she received a pass on that one.
After being picked to attend the final Boardroom, Aimee was identified as “a great sales person” in the Boardroom by PM Heidi. That mixed message tells me that she ought not to have been pulled in there in the first place. After all, she was one of three who performed the same function with (as we saw it) no perceptible difference in success. However, since she was unlikely to be fired, the experience gained may actually help her in the long run.
For her rating, I must look at what was perceived as a less-than-spectacular result in a sales-oriented task and say she NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.
Angela: When Heidi discussed with her team whom she might bring back into the Boardroom, Angela was not there. She needs to make sure these kinds of discussions don’t take place without her. In fact, she’s been pretty much invisible all series. However, it’s NO RATING for Angela one last time.
Derek: Both Derek and Marisa were charged with developing the marketing materials. Both diverted effort to come up with different names for the product, and it was Derek who put forth Marisa’s favorite, “Bravado Bowl.” Derek even built slogans for these new names. At least twice, Derek was present and supportive when Marisa called Heidi with her suggestions.
So my question is: How the heck did Derek skate by so cleanly when everyone was dumping on Marisa?
Derek told us later on that during the task, Marisa was focusing on points of lesser significance and that she didn’t know how abrasive she was coming across. True, and he even tried to rein her in before the third phone call, but Marisa was having none of it.
Derek’s rating must be NEEDS IMPROVEMENT. Although his skills in avoiding the blame were nearly flawless, error avoidance is a better plan.
Jenn: Lucky Jenn, she was one of three cashiers yet avoided the final Boardroom somehow. In the first Boardroom she did a nice job of deflecting attention from shortcomings at point-of-sale to marketing miscues, an area the corporate execs had already identified to Trump as the reason for the loss. But with the so-so results at point-of-sale, NEEDS IMPROVEMENT is as high as I can go.
Kristine: Kristine came up with the recipe that the team decided to sell. All of Kinetic said they liked it, although Trump and, apparently, a goodly portion of the L.A. public did not. But for making the effort, I applaud her. It was one of the few examples of someone on Kinetic showing initiative this week.
Kristine also escaped the wrath that befell her fellow cashier Aimee. Lucky her, for coupled with the negative recipe (in Trump’s mind) noted above, she was a better Boardroom target than Aimee. Her rating has to be NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, essentially for the same reason as Jenn.
Muna: Muna has a problem. In the Boardroom, when Marisa claimed a conspiracy was afoot, Muna was alone in insisting it was not so. This was because Muna was not around for the earlier discussions. It’s a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT for Muna, she needs to stay in contact with the core group on her team because three weeks out of four, it’s the “outsiders” going home early this season..
Heidi: I liked it that Heidi was the first one who volunteered to change teams. Perhaps she knew a loss was inevitable and it was time to shed the PM role before things blew up in her face. If so, that was quick thinking. Unfortunately, that’s about where the good times ended.
I can appreciate the name of the product isn’t all that important, and that Marisa’s phone calls were getting annoying. I ask, if the name is so insignificant and the marketing team thought they could do better work with a different name, why didn’t Heidi let Marisa have her way on this one?
Heidi presented an arrogant demeanor in the Boardroom with all those self-satisfied smiles and deliberate eye-rolls. The Boardroom is a serious place and must be treated accordingly.
Heidi got away with another one in this episode. When asked if Aimee was in charge of sales, she admitted no one was… yet she didn’t catch any flak for it! I’d not have let that gem pass by; it showed her resource delegation was improper.
Heidi’s decision to pull Aimee into the final Boardroom instead of Kristine makes no sense. Kristine had taken some hits from Trump already, but the only person attacking Aimee was Marisa.
Heidi got some recognition from Trump for having won in her previous two efforts, but I think reality caught up with her tonight. The team was under-prepared and responded with insufficient effort. As I cannot recall anything that went right for Kinetic, I’m going to rate her as UNACCEPTABLE. Now that she’s a worker bee, we’ll see what she’s made of. If you have her in the Yahoo pool, I’d be worried.
Marisa: Marisa’s first fixation was on the name of the product. At least three times she called Heidi to distract her with the same idea. That was bad enough.
Then, Marisa had the idea of having two people in chicken suits promoting the new product. She felt it had merit, because the chain has a chicken as a mascot. Initially appealing, I now doubt it would help unless you could get costumes that creditably matched the mascot. Otherwise, it could be confusing for potential customers. Given the short timeframe for the whole project, it might not have been possible to go and hunt for a proper costume in time.
Watching Marisa rant on and on about either the product name or her chicken costume idea reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill: “A fanatic is someone who won't change his mind and can't change the subject.” Alas, too true. Marisa is a fanatic!
In the Boardroom, Marisa took a real beating from her teammates. Anyone asked to comment added to the laundry list of her shortcomings. The problem for Marisa was, all of them were true!
Probably Marisa’s biggest problem was the oral communication skills she exhibited in the Boardroom. She repeated the same point several times. She didn’t get out certain key information (such as ideas of hers not involving a chicken costume, if any). And, she talked over Trump and Sean. Those were all fatal mistakes.
Earlier this season, Marisa resented that Heidi was getting all the kudos for the team. I suspect she likes to be the leader, rather than a follower. For that, her inability to get past the small stuff, and her poor Boardroom performance, Marisa’s rating has to be UNACCEPTABLE. Hopefully when she sees this show she can see what others were trying to tell her and change her style for the better.
Did Trump make the right decision? Well, Marisa did poorly, but so did Heidi. Tough call, but I cannot disagree with how things turned out.
That’s all for this episode. Please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are at the address below. My question of the week for you is, now that you’ve seen everyone in action (sort of), who do you think The Donald will pick as his Apprentice?
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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 in generally unsuccessful attempts 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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