- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

In the first episode, we saw the best side of high-school-educated entrepreneurship when the NetWorth team beat their college grad Magna rivals in the Burger King competition. But in episode two, we saw the flip side of the burger bunch. NetWorth gave us TrumpTV’s ugliest-ever performance. The high schoolers lost badly, and behaved even worse. To be sure, this week’s hotel renovation task was tough, inflicting even the winning Magna team with a weird-but-true sleep-deprivation desertion by a team member. This week’s hotel heartbreaks gave us great lessons about the downside of forgetting to eat or sleep, quitting, comebacks, and the business value of both teamwork and fun.

The task sounded simple enough: on a $20,000 budget, refurbish a seedy Jersey Shore hotel. The winning team would have the highest customer satisfaction scores taken when the guests check out using Yahoo! online surveys. The questionnaire included ratings on both the room conditions and customer service. Simple task, but lots of drama. And boy, were these hotels ever noisy.

Episode Update.

For the first-time in the Apprentice journey, quitting has played a huge role. Unfortunately, so did yelling. Ever-abrasive New Jersey native and real estate entrepreneur, Brian, picked himself as NetWorth’s project manager by out-screaming his teammates. In record time, belligerent Brian’s nasty manner and phobia about agreeing to a plan or a budget frustrated his team beyond the breaking point. Kristen, the team’s finance manager, was horrified at Brian’s lack of budget discipline and they went after each other like rabid beasts. So isolated by his teammates, Brian hired contractors to complete the hotel renovation. Even alone, Brian made bad decisions, spending money on new toilets rather than replace the disgusting carpets. Despite best efforts at customer hospitality, the nasty carpets combined with team’s constant screaming and fighting to yield a low satisfaction score of 2.92 on a 1-to-5 scale. None of NetWorth’s guests at the Surfside Motel seemed to care that the toilets were new.

Magna picked an even-tempered team leader, Michael the real estate man. Michael’s team worked around the clock on the Sea Garden Motel, but it was still unfinished when the guests arrived. The pressure got to Verna, who was in charge of the budget and front desk greeter. Sleep-deprived and hungry, Verna quit the team and ran away, suitcase in tow. Trump’s ice queen Carolyn retrieved Verna from wandering the streets, resulting in a tearful comeback with her worried teammates. In the end, Magna sealed victory by focusing on fun rather than fixtures. The team’s self-appointed Chief Motivation Officer Danny staged a pool party, drawing the guests out of their paint-scented rooms for drinks on the veranda. By focusing on fun, Magna turned heartbreak into hospitality, and racked up a Yahoo! Local survey score of 3.96, easily trouncing Brian’s belligerent squad. The winners got a dinner with magazine publisher Steve Forbes on his yacht The Highlander. Team leader Michael won exemption from firing next week.

In the board room, the quitting continued. Belligerent Brian, said “yes, you should,” when The Donald asked him whether Trump should fire him. After a brief discussion for exercise only, The Donald obliged and sent Brian from the suite to the street, leaving 2 teams of 8 each to battle it out next week.

Lesson 1.

There is no “I” in team. Brian’s insecurity blinded him in a sand storm of toxic self-righteousness. Utterly unable to work with his teammates and reduced to hiring down-and-dirty contractors to finish his room renovations, Brian forgot one of Donald Trump’s key teachings: it takes a team to completely satisfy customers.

Lesson 2.

When it comes to customer experience, it is much better to focus on fun than fixtures. As the losing NetWorth team found out, hotel customers hold the memory of a pool party much more dear than the sensation of sitting on a fresh new toilet. Magna kept their eyes on the prize: knowing the experience would be more lasting than renovations.

Lesson 3.

Donald Trump loves nothing more than a great comeback. While Magna team member Verna’s crackup and desertion was shocking, her comeback was even more impressive, especially to The Donald.

With 16 Apprentices left for next week’s contest, expect more fireworks from these teams, who have already proven they are prone to radical mood swings, which make for good TV and even better lessons. Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is America’s most-read, most-watched and most-listened-to expert on workstyles and careers. Email your questions and comments to [email protected]

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