- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

Episode Recap

Week 5 of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart and the creatives of Matchstick had lost 4 in a row. For Martha, it was strike 4 and youre out. Our Domestic Diva was unable to stomach the thought of a fifth consecutive loss for the creative squad. So before the teams could sleep on the results of the fourth episode, Stewart called them all back into the conference room for a late-night corporate reorganization. She picked Ryan and Jennifer to head up the new Matchstick and Primarius, respectively. Then, like school kids picking dodge ball teams, the two captains selected teammates. And as often happens on the playground, this weeks contest was decided by the last people picked.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. First, the contest.

This weeks battle was not about the salad. It was about the dressing. A special edition Wishbone salad dressing, that is. Both teams would cook up a new recipe for the $300 million dressing brand, name it, design a label, and then sell it. The team that makes the most money selling the new mix at a Stew Leonards grocery emporium, wins.

Fortunately for each of the two teams, both had picked a resident chef. For Primarius, Jennifer had picked natural foods chef Bethenny, who Jennifer immediately fingered to formulate her teams sauce. As she was mixing what would become Primarius Asian Vinaigrette, Bethenny knew that to sell the largest number of bottles, it would have to serve the largest number of possible usesdressing, marinade, dip. They priced their tasty mix at the high-end, $3.99 a bottle. Jennifer then appointed her last pick, crazed creative director Jim, to create the label. And while his label was strong, his lunacy on the sales floor at Stew Leonards would end up costing Primarius dearly.

For Matchstick, Ryans last pick was Mexican chef Marcela, who Ryan perceived as a weak performer in previous tasks. But in this task, Ryan eagerly assigned her the kitchen work. Clearly energized by a task for which she was uniquely suited, Marcela mixed a tasty Rosemary Lime Vinaigrette, and set out to sell it with passion. Priced at $3.49, Matchsticks product moved quickly, especially when Leslie started putting 2 bottles in customers carts (a tactic that sometimes backfired, since the team needed to re-sell 30 or 40 bottles that got returned at the checkout counter).

In the closest contest of the season, a mere $20 separated the loser from the winner. Primarius Asian Vinaigrette, at $3.99, sold 391 bottles for receipts of $1560.89, compared with Matchsticks $3.40 Rosemary Lime Vinaigrette, which moved 453 bottles for $1580.97. For their first win, Matchsticks reward was a sundown cruise to Ellis Island on an antique schooner. For its loss, Primarius won a meeting with Martha in the conference room.

This episodes final question was whether Martha would fire last-pick Jim for his eccentric sales technique and foul language, which nearly got Primarius thrown off the sales floor at Stew Leonards, or prosecutor Jennifer for her weak leadership in not pulling Jim off the sales floor. Urged-on by her Chairman Charles Koppelmann, Martha chose creativity over incompetence, and asked Jennifer to leave.

Lessons Learned

Lesson 1. A team is only as strong as its weakest link.

When teams are hand-picked like on the playground, last-picked is a good place to look for weakness. Matchsticks Marcela was weak in previous tasks, but rose when the task fit her strengths. Primarius Jims wild streak required strong managementwhich revealed his manager, Jennifer as the weakest link.

L- Stress strengths.

Martha and her Chairman Charles share a common management philosophy: find a persons strengths and use them. Weaknesses are not worth fixing. Charles called Jim, a talented yet arrogant creative director, a winner and a missile to be deployed. For her part, Martha likes live wires. Marcelas strengths in the kitchen were the key to her teams win, despite her weaknesses.

L-Reorganize often.

All true Marthonomists who follow Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia know that Ms. Stewart loves to reshuffle the deck, sometimes just for the sake of change. Her remix of Primarius and Matchstick resulted both in a win for the previous 4-time loser, but also in a much more competitive episode. Anyone who has watched the National Hockey League in its new, post-strike, realigned, reorganized, far more exciting form would also agree. In Marthas world, change is a good thing.

Next episode, look for Martha to focus on finding strong managers who can bring out the best in creative talent. And look for Jim to continue his legacy as the most recent eccentric Apprentice (remember Omarosa?). Stay tuned.

Jay Whitehead is Americas most-read, most-watched workforce expert, publisher of HRO Today Magazine and Chair of the HRO World conferences. He can be reached at [email protected]

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