- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

In the first season’s episode of Donald Trump’s NBC reality TV show, The Apprentice, we saw 18 brilliant, young, good-looking Apprentice wannabees put their best foot forward. For one contender, Rob, it was foot-in-mouth. Tongue-tied Rob ended up getting the Trump-A-Dump, hearing the inevitable “You’re Fired,” and going from the suite to the street. The premiere show of the much-anticipated Apprentice 2 of working America’s best-ever on-the-job tutorial featured the four main features of Season One. For one, Trump’s henchmen were the same: the Ice Queen Carolyn Kepcher and the world’s harshest grandfather figure, George Ross. Second, the Board Room was still the scene of the mandatory show-ending firing ritual. Third, the Donald is still the best professor in this business school. And fourth, we have three great lessons-you-can-use at work today, tomorrow, and forever.

We saw the tension start to build from the first moments when Trump carved the squad into two teams: the men’s team, Mosaic (which, in a gender-bending twist, was led by female Pamela), and the female team Apex, led by bald-headed Bradford. In a switch from season one, mixing the X and Y chromosomes in these two large teams set up a complex tension that made the night’s contest even more interesting and realistic.

Episode One Update

The two teams were assigned to design a toy for industry giant, Mattel. Red-pant-wearing and Elvis-style cane-carrying Raj, the most flamboyant of Pamela’s Mosaic boys, came up with the idea of “Crustacean Nation,” a variable-appendage morphing toy. Bradford, leading the women of Apex, listened to the noisy input from his team and decided he knew best. The reason for his insistance was based on his understanding of the customer, 10-year old boys, since he had once been one. As the only male on the team, Bradford was convinced that a remote-control, crashing convertible sports vehicle concept would win. Bradford’s Apex team-members, perhaps too star-struck to contest his ram-rod management style, lined up and followed.

Overnight, the Mattel design team turned both concepts into prototypes. In head-to-head focus groups of real live kids, Mattel tested both ideas. The toy-testers liked Apex’s action-packed car much more than Mosaic’s leg-swapping bug. Apex took the prize, dining with Trump and his newly-announced fianc Melania in their opulent Trump Tower flat. Mosaic team leader Pamela brought recent Harvard grad Andy and salesman Rob into the Board Room for the firing finale. Pamela, who admitted she was unable to relate to Mattel’s customers, kids, spatted with Trump’s Ice Queen and startled parent, Carolyn. While Trump called the six-foot blonde Pamela “hard-edged,” and young Andy “a project,” his worst criticism was reserved for the dim-witted Rob. Rob’s worst mistake was in saying he was under-utilized because nobody asked him to contribute. This lame-brained defense helped The Donald paint a big target on Rob’s back and fire the fatal arrow.

Episode One: Lessons Learned.

Lesson One

Volunteers get extra credit. Both Bradford and Pamela volunteered to switch sides and become leaders of the opposite team. True Trumpologists will recognize this common theme from last season. While Pamela was plenty vulnerable to being fired, she was spared largely by the weight of the fact that she volunteered for her team leader role and did not insulate herself by adding a third to the Board Room..

Lesson Two.

Don’t wait to be asked to step forward. And, for goodness sake, do not use the following statement as an excuse: “I failed because nobody asked me to contribute.” Nothing makes The Donald more irate, simply because no single alibi is quite as lame. Rob fell back on this ill-advised chestnut twice in Episode 1, to his great detriment. Future Apprentices, beware this defense. Trump’s world is a victim-free zone.

Lesson Three

Think like your customer. Pamela narrowly averted an elevator trip to the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue when she admitted being disconnected from Mattel’s market—toy-buying children. She was unable, even for a moment, to tune in to her customer’s mind-set. Veteran Trump-watchers will remember this gaffe, which will almost certainly come back to bite Pamela in future episodes.

Next week, look for some more gaming the system by the show’s two wackiest contestants, Raj and wild-eyed Stacie J who displayed anxious behavior while awaiting news of their win or lose. Almost certainly, both these contestants will get the Trump-A-Trash in future issues. But in the meantime, we should get some high office entertainment value out of them. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles and careers. You can listen to Jay Whitehead on web-radio every Tuesday 5pm to 6pm EST when he hosts Won on Won with Whitehead on www.businessamericaradio.com. This week the guest will be former Apprentice candidate, Nick Warnock. Email your questions and comments to [email protected]

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