The Apprentice: Los Angeles Ė Why Aaron Lostby David Bloomberg -- 02/13/2007
Aaron was a successful project manager two weeks in a row. But then he crashed and burned. Still, doesnít having a good track record usually count for something in the Boardroom? So why did Aaron lose?
Aaronís case is a perfect one for this column (although I would argue that all cases are perfect for this column!), because itís not immediately clear why he was fired. That is to say, there appears to be a good reason, but it would also seemingly be contradicted by his previously-winning ways. So letís take a tour through What ĎThe Apprentice: Los Angelesí Applicants Should Have Learned to get to the heart of the matter.
The first rule is where we quickly run into the contradiction that is Aaron. It says contestants need to show leadership. It also says if you do this well, future problems will likely be overlooked. So where did Aaron go wrong?
In the first task when Aaron was project manager, he only had to oversee two people. He did at least volunteer to lead, which put him ahead of everybody else on his team, but it wasnít exactly managing a large group of people on a complicated task.
In addition, he was up against Michelle as the other project manager. She was so bad that Don Jr. said, in a segment that was aired in the Extras, ďFor Aaronís team to lose, the bus would basically have to explode. People would have to be running out on fire.Ē Indeed, she was so bad that she quit, thus earning herself a spot in the Reality TV Hall of Shame.
And to top it off, we didnít really see Aaron doing a whole lot to lead his team. James came up with the tour concept; James came up with bringing the Laker girlsp; James took another bus tour to come up with things they should and shouldnít do; James did the beginning of the tour until Stefani rescued the team by stepping in. Aaron didÖ what, exactly? Well, in the Boardroom, James said Aaron listened well. Sure he did, because he didnít appear to have anything to say!
What about the second task he led, in Episode 4? Well, Stefani created the product and named it (which was a big issue, as we saw Kinetic go down in flames in part because their name didnít describe what was in the product). Aaron did order balloons and signs. Woo! Also, Frank and Tim went out for bulk orders; itís not entirely clear whose idea that was, but Aaron allowed them to stay out rather than pulling them back in. He considered that a bold move Ė I consider it simply a basic thing to do on The Apprentice.
In short, neither of Aaronís two previous wins were exactly triumphs of management strategy. He did not show leadership Ė he simply didnít lose for them. Itís similar to what people were saying about Bears quarterback Rex Grossman in the playoffs and Super Bowl Ė if he just managed the game and didnít screw up, theyíd be okay. For the Bears, it worked right up to the big game; for Aaron, it worked for two tasks.
Even in his third task as project manager, itís not like Aimee was a real go-getter who crushed him. Indeed, her own teammates werenít exactly calling her ďhoneyĒ (sorry). But still they managed to rally and overcome Aaron and Arrow.
We didnít get to see the footage telling us who was telling the truth in the Boardroom. Did Aaron assign Surya to be in charge of marketing? We didnít see it, but that doesnít mean it didnít happen. Then again, Surya was so emphatic about it, continuing even after Aaron was fired and getting emotional about Aaronís alleged lie, that I tend to believe him.
So if we go to that, it means Aaron didnít delegate marketing. He didnít take a role in sales, going so far as to try to avoid it. And Nicole noted that he didnít plan well. While James claimed Aaron had a laid-back management style, I would call it a non-management style.
OK, letís leave the first rule for now and move to the second. It says to stay cool under fire. Well, Aaron was certainly cool during the challenges Ė a bit too cool, as weíve already discussed how laid-back he was. I think he stayed pretty cool in the Boardroom as well Ė Iíd say he was just right there.
But what about the third rule, having a backbone? That was certainly one thing Trump complained about Ė that Aaron didnít provide any opinions or, indeed, even really say anything when he sat on Trumpís side of the table after the previous task. While I understand that Aaron might have been hesitant, he had been in the Boardroom twice when Heidi sat in that chair, so he knew what to expect. His excuse about not being told what to do simply doesnít stand up.
We didnít see much preparation for the Boardroom, but we did see Aaron talking about wanting to take Surya. I think this was a bit of scheming on his part because Surya was the new guy, and it was likely easier to get the rest of Arrow behind the idea. Surya did some counterplotting of his own by enlisting the aid of Aimee. But in general, I think Aaron found out that the fourth rule is true, and scheming and plotting donít usually work. Yes, Aimee was helpful to Surya in pointing out some of his better points, but she wasnít the only one supporting him, as both Tim and Nicole suggested that Aaron should have been fired.
Iíd like to examine why it is that Tim and Nicole were the two who most vocally suggested Aaron should go. To do so, letís skip to the eighth rule. That one says applicants must be creative, but not insane. While we donít know for sure whose idea it was to send people out looking for bulk sales of honey, Iím going to guess it was Aaron. Why? Because I think Tim and Nicole are smarter than to try to sell honey to gas stations. And also because I believe this lies at the heart of why they pointed at Aaron. I mean, who buys honey at a gas station? That may be one of the strangest things Iíve ever heard, and definitely goes beyond ďcreativeĒ to the ďinsaneĒ category. Aaron had two of his best people out wasting their time. Maybe he thought it was another bold move like the bulk sales for the chicken bowl, but it wasnít Ė it was just silly.
Moving back to the fifth rule, we see that contestants are supposed to play well with others. Aaron didnít have any problem here that we saw. After all, why would there be any conflict when he really didnít tell people what to do?
Sixth is to focus on the long-term. Frankly, Iím not sure what Aaron was focused on. It wasnít sales. It wasnít marketing. It wasnít leading. Sometimes he seemed to be focused on outer space. And as weíve discussed, when he had a chance to make a positive impression on Trump that might help him out in the long run, he sat in the Boardroom and barely uttered a peep.
The seventh rule reminds players to understand the challenge. The honey task had two main focuses: sales and marketing. Being a one-day challenge in a supermarket, marketing would have had to be something special to get them in and buying honey. After all, itísÖ honey. Thatís where the difference lies between this task and the chicken bowl one. They seem superficially similar Ė the idea was to sell as much of one particular product as possible. But they were allowed to be creative and make their own new product for the chicken bowl task. Here, no matter how they packaged it, it was still honey.
The key factor here was sales. They had to convince people they wanted honey, that they needed honey. This meant attracting attention specifically to the salespeople and getting the honey off the shelves and into customersí baskets. Kinetic did a good job of this, with both Derek in the beekeeper suit and Angela making use of her Olympic status. ArrowÖ didnít. What made it worse was that Aaron didnít even want to be a part of sales, and heís a salesman!
Since we already addressed the eighth rule, letís look at the ninth. This actually leads nicely from the previous point, as it says you canít be one-dimensional. With a background in sales, the worry might have been that Aaron would focus too much on that. Ha! No problem there. Unfortunately for him, he didnít make up for it with performance somewhere else. He didnít show us marketing, business savvy, or leadership. So that would be zero dimensions instead of even one.
The tenth rule brings us to using common sense. I think weíve pretty well hit on all the nonsensical things Aaron did Ė such as sending people to gas stations to try to get bulk sales, and not wanting to do sales on a sales-oriented task even when he wasnít doing anything else.
As you might have noticed, we spent the most time talking about Aaronís lack of leadership. Yes, his team won twice when he was project manager. But winning isnít everything (as I suspect Aimee will find out next week). Aaron never showed himself to be a good leader. He gave little or no direction, and some of the decisions he did make were rather bad ones. To add to his lack of leadership, he really didnít seem to do anything else, either! That is why Aaron lost.
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David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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