The Apprentice 4 Weekly Performance Review, Episode 6by Brian Towers -- 11/02/2005
This series of articles primarily focuses on the business actions of each player on The Apprentice. Toward that end, I’ll be giving a capsulated performance review of each applicant.
I’ve been asked what my various ratings are. Well, the positive ones of EXCELLENT, GOOD and SATISFACTORY are self-explanatory. So is NO RATING, for the Kendra-like invisible gnomes that probably haven’t messed up, but didn’t do anything praise-worthy to catch my eye either.
NEEDS IMPROVEMENT and NEEDS WORK are the same (so I’ll try to stick with the former). They mean that there are certain areas that need to be improved, but there’s realistic hope that the situation can be reversed.
UNSATISFACTORY means big problems have surfaced and overall, the job seems out of reach. UNACCEPTABLE means multiple and/or repeated failures… usually reserved for the one getting fired, or one who ought to have been.
On occasion, adjectives like VERY might slip in there. That’s similar to the minor differences between, for example, a “C” and a “C-plus.” Got it? OK!
Right off the top this week, I saw something I really liked. When the teams were reformed, it seemed like every person had some brief, positive comment to make about the new alignment. Team building starts at the beginning, and teamwork was one of the strongest advantages the old Excel had. Now, on to specifics.
The Donald finally figured out how to make a winner out of Capital Edge… he arranged to have four sixths of them original members of Excel!
I’m an avid golfer myself, so secretly, I was rooting for this team. Despite their obvious lack of knowledge about golf (“swing the balls”) they put together a well-run event that focused, correctly, not on golf but on sales.
Markus: Markus was the first one to correctly state that choosing the sport of golf was their best chance to win. This week he didn’t seem to be annoying anyone and was contributing. I’ll call his work GOOD.
Adam: I thought the other two men nominated to change teams were obvious choices, but I wasn’t sure who was going to be third one named. We’ll find out more about Adam next week, as he’s the last one standing yet to be a PM.
This week, he seemed to be holding his own making sales in the clothing department, so I’ll deign him SATISFACTORY.
Alla: Alla stepped up to be the PM, but since she was going to get that assignment anyway, no bonus points there.
Her decision to retain Randal was a solid one, but her decision to keep Felisha may have been based more on friendship. However, she’s in a minority on her own team, so keeping a buddy to watch your back is not unforgivable.
Alla did a lot of other things right, too. She quickly agreed with Markus that golf was the right sport to target, even though there was a risk factor because none of them play the game. That’s accepting a reasonable risk, and I liked that a lot.
She also dealt with high-maintenance Clay as well as she could. This might be a problem developing and we’ll file this away for future reference.
Most importantly, she allocated her space very well and her people primarily to the task of making sales. I’ll assign her the rare rating of EXCELLENT.
One note – Alla added 34% and 74% and came up with 111%. Is that the new math?
Clay: There were more negatives than positives for Clay this week. I will give him his due for the great job he did on sales. There were some flaws apparent to any golfer, but he was engaging and enthusiastic – everything Jennifer said she could be, and wasn’t. However…
Clay was given the task of designing the layout, but he had to be relieved of it when it became apparent his design had major flaws. When he was trying to explain his vision, Markus and Adam could hardly bear to listen. Further, harping to the camera about being challenged and overridden by Alla was not professional.
Clay admitted he has a hard time listening. He needs to work on that skill fast, because he is absolutely correct on that point.
His continuously negative outlook also needs to be fixed, and from within. By questioning every decision, is he trying to cover himself in case things go wrong? As it is, he’s just wasting time and resources. This aspect of Clay was discussed in cameos by both Alla and Randal.
I don’t think Clay can fix all these things up fast enough to last much longer. His rating is UNACCEPTABLE.
Felisha: Felisha was the greeter, and it did seem she was making people aware that this was some kind of special event and directing them to the appropriate area. However, when she tried to convince a guy wearing a hand cast that they could train him how to hit a ball with one hand, it lost them a bit of credibility for me. Felisha did well and earns a SATISFACTORY rating.
Randal: Randal wasn’t very visible this week – NO RATING.
Excel: Teams need to listen closely to their instructions so they know exactly how they will be judged, and stay focused on that solitary objective. Sometimes the events are about gross sales, like the Bally Fitness event. Sometimes it’s net sales, or increase in sales (like this week). And sometimes, it’s not monetary, but subjective. Sometimes it’s about customer satisfaction (like the Tech Expo), and sometimes it’s about impressing a client the most, like the Zathura, Lamborghini, or Dairy Queen tasks.
This team lost focus of what the true objective task was. It changed somehow from a raw sales challenge into a community fair. Carolyn’s directions were very clear, she said the task would be judged by “the biggest percentage increase in revenue.”
That means, customer satisfaction is not a factor. No one was filling out questionnaires indicating their satisfaction or if they were likely to return to Dick’s in the future. So although a free batting cage is going to attract people, maybe it didn’t attract buyers.
The choice of baseball as their sport surprised me a little. Although they might be able to sell some MLB jerseys, the clothing sales cannot compare to those of golf. I played fast-pitch softball for fifteen years as an adult (I admit, not very well), and you don’t buy spikes or gloves all that often. So that leaves what… bats, balls, and… radar guns?
Brian: Brian was exempt this week, yet he worked hard anyway and was identified as one of the three best sellers. He “was nervous” that the batting cage was drawing away from the sales, something I’m not sure the other guys ever figured out. Brian gets a GOOD rating.
Rebecca: Rebecca’s idea of the sport to promote was… soccer? It may be growing, but it’s still small potatoes in North America. Since they weren’t likely to sell any team uniforms in that one day, all that’s left is the admittedly lucrative shoe market, some balls and maybe a few whistles. This was not a good suggestion.
However, Rebecca was the sales leader of her team this week, and for that I will increase her rating to GOOD.
Marshawn: Marshawn was identified as the second best seller, so she also gets a GOOD rating.
I note that Marshawn seems good at identifying problems every week, but I never see her fixing anything. If she’s making suggestions, the others aren’t listening. Her turn at PM is coming up again soon, so she’ll soon have a chance to be more evident and influential.
Mark: Mark got sandbagged this week, I don’t think he deserved to be fired at all. Although he didn’t make sales, he was working on the task the PM assigned him to. Should he have spoken up? Perhaps. We didn’t actually see a lot of Mark, so the only rating I can give is SATISFACTORY.
James: James finally stepped up and got visible – and not in a good way. He has to be largely (though not completely) responsible for the task getting so far off track so quickly. He was having fun… but that’s not why they’re there.
James touted himself as a salesman almost as much as Jennifer did. Yet despite promising to float from station to station to help close sales, this did not happen.
The biggest problem with the batting cage was its size and location, dominating their square footage and limiting foot traffic. For me, this was his biggest failure and it DID impact sales.
Where he also failed was that he needed to get those people through the line much faster, even if it meant skipping most of the batting clinic. Customers standing there for fifteen minutes and not buying, that is not productive. When he said “Ho-ly cow” as one kid swatted a hit, I was unsure if this was to evoke images of “Harry Carey,” or “hari kari…”
He definitely deserved to get called back into the boardroom and be dressed down, but fired? Not by me, though I would say James definitely NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.
Josh: Wow, where to start? After seeming to be in a good position in the game, Josh fell apart this week. Let’s start with the rating – UNSATISFACTORY. It would have been worse if he hadn’t been so strong in earlier weeks.
Somehow Josh lost focus on what the task at hand was. In case he forgot, Bill Rancic said it best, it’s “converting customers into sales.”
The batting cage took over the floor and forced major changes to the layout at a late stage. Because he mismanaged the space allocation, sales became more difficult because the merchandise was no longer the focal point of the event. The cage also consumed a lot of effort that was essentially unproductive to the task at hand.
His allocation of his people was poor in that salesman James did no selling. James’ superior understanding of the equipment should have led to additional sales. It should have been planned that people rotated jobs, to alleviate boredom. Also, on the day of the event, what role did he assign to himself?
On the plus side, he did organize a fun event for the kiddies. Too bad this wasn’t the criteria this week!
Jennifer M: Jennifer’s luck ran out this week, and she sank her own ship. She deserved this trip home for actions both this week and previously.
When she boated about her sales prowess, Josh took special note of it and when she didn’t deliver, she was doomed. Jennifer, a real sales superstar can sell in any environment, not just one to your liking.
Jennifer’s ignorance of what the radar guns are used for (to measure the speed of pitches) interspaced with her bragging about being able to sell eight quickly… priceless. I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt!”
Her decision to introduce a food vendor into the equation (because money spent there did not count) was a bad idea. Additionally, it took time away from other, more worthy activities.
She didn’t do the best job in the boardroom, either. Josh derailed all her objections in a clinic of how it’s done. Her quick shift to shouting mode lessened her credibility as well. When he said to her, “You’re lying,” and she had no comeback, we knew she was done.
It was a sales event. She didn’t sell. Jennifer’s rating must also be the dreaded UNACCEPTABLE.
In an unrelated note – how funny is it that the other players are waiting for the Excel people to return from the boardroom… yet no one’s coming back? I bet they sat up for hours and hours! Ha!
Well, those are the performance reviews for this week, one of the best ones of the series. I’ll be back next week with a fresh review of our remaining candidates’ activities.
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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