Friday, January 23, 2004

In episode number three of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, we got one step closer to our 15-week TV PhD in Trump-onomics. Last week’s donnybrook saw the men’s Queen Of Denial, Sam, earn a much-deserved Trump-A-Dump. The guys of Versacorp are now 0-for-3. And after Sam’s departure, The Apprentice is down to 13 contestants. Sam delivered high entertainment value with his wacky antics, but as a leader he was bizarre to the max; part Mussolini, part Bullwinkle Moose. And, he was certainly not Apprentice material for The Donald.

Episode Three Update

Versacorp’s third straight defeat to the women’s Protg team was so lopsided that Donald Trump asked out loud whether he ever again hire another man again. The teams had to negotiate the best price for 5 commodity retail items. The women shaved 22% off the retail prices of 5 pounds of squid, an ounce of gold, a Polaroid camera, a pack of cigars, a Big Bertha golf club, and wax job on both legs (and one team member actually had to get waxed). The guys only saved 9%. The women spent most of their effort and got most of their savings on the two highest-margin items, the Big Bertha, retail $419, which they got for $300, and a leg wax, for which they saved $50, or half the retail price. The men spent most of their time on the lowest-margin item, gold. Upon Protg’s victory, they won dinner at the famous 21 Club in Manhattan, sitting at Donald Trump’s father Fred’s special table.

Episode Three: Lessons Learned

Lesson One.

Some personnel decisions are easy. Sam’s firing was inevitable. Calling him “unprofessional” is too generous. Any good beat cop would tell you to fire him just to keep his co-workers from committing an act of workplace violence. We knew he wouldn’t last early on when he talked over Trump in a meeting and later completely undermined his team by literally falling asleep on the job. And finally, in episode three, the men had enough. They made him their team leader and forced him to either put up or shut up. Advice: Sometimes the best way to make a termination decision easy is to put your target right in the line of fire, where it is much easier for your target to catch a bullet.

Lesson Two.

In negotiating, it’s all about giving the other party what they need in order to get what you need. The women got the driver for 25% off by “offering” the retailer his cost plus 10%. They got the gold for less than cost by chanting the gold-seller’s name and dancing provocatively, which gave the gold-seller enough feel-good vibes to make up for the cash loss he took. Advice: Win-Win is still the secret to negotiation but by the standards of Trump-ism: emotional capital is often legal tender too.

Lesson Three.

We re-learned the lesson from last week, “never negotiate with underlings.” Donald only deals with the boss, and so should you. To get the best retail prices, they picked small stores where they could negotiate directly with the boss. The men picked big brand-name stores where they only negotiated with clerks. The men went to the retail giant Golf World to get their Big Bertha, a big national gold merchant for their bullion, and a spa-like national chain for leg waxing where they got their wallets ripped along with their leg hair. Advice: Wal-Mart may have “low everyday prices” but if you want to negotiate, you might do better with the owner of the corner store. The key: Go to the top to get prices at the bottom.

Now there are 13 of the original 16 left. As the two teams get smaller, it becomes more about whether each individual can hit The Donald’s pitches. Everyone will get up to bat. But in the end, only one will be enough of a hitter for Trump. Like many good decisions in business, Sam’s firing solved the “Sam” problem.but it also cleared the way for Trump to expose other Apprentice-candidate problems, so watch out everybody. The show and lessons have only just begun. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is a workforce analyst and advisor on employee and employer relations. He is publisher of HRO Today Magazine ( and Chair of the HRO World Conference ( Please email Jay with your questions and comments at

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