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I’m not a big reality show guy, although I watched the first couple seasons of Tough Enough. However, my TiVo enables all kinds of degenerate behavior, including reality TV addiction, so I figured I’d watch a couple of episodes of The Apprentice. The basic setup is simple; Donald Trump brings in 8 men and 8 women to compete for a job with him. They split up into two teams, men versus women, and every week they have a different competition. At the end of each show, Trump fires someone from the losing team.

The first week’s competition was selling lemonade. Both teams were fairly pathetic. The women were exceedingly disorganized, but managed good sales by selling lemonade at five bucks a shot with a helping of sex appeal on the side. Seriously. One of ‘em was hawking her phone number along with the lemonade. The men were fairly well organized but hampered by the inherent difficulty of selling lemonade when you’re wearing a tie.

If you figure it by sales volume, assuming the startup costs were around $50 and the guys were selling lemonade at $1.50 per glass on average, the men and the women both sold around 200 glasses based on the final asset figures quoted at the end of the show. I’d call it a tie, but that’s me. It’s pretty reasonable to set up uneven competitions, which I figure is what was going on, even if Trump didn’t acknowledge that he was doing it.

What really disappointed me is that nobody got clever. Trying to sell a glass of lemonade for a thousand bucks doesn’t count as clever, it counts as stupid. You don’t need a full team of eight people to sell lemonade; either split the teams so you’ve got two teams of four at good locations, or put four people on individual lemonade sales and put four people at figuring out some way to sell en masse. Sell lemonade on the subway. Get creative. You aren’t competing for a sales job, you’re competing for an executive job, so act like executives instead of competing on individual sales ability.

The men looked terrible in the segment where Trump chose his victim, anyhow. If I’m managing a team, and Trump asks me “who’s the weakest guy on your team?” I’m gonna say “Sir, I’m not going to damage the cohesion of this team by criticizing one person in front of everyone else. I’d be happy to express those criticisms with you and the person in question in private, but I’m not going to do it in public.” I’d say something similar as a rank and file team member, for that matter. It’s better business and it’s better reality TV show strategy.

That’s probably going to be the main failing of the show, though; it’d take some pretty amazing management style to get through a competitive process like this while still displaying good team leadership qualities. Troy, who got stuck with the management role this time, was very rough on Sam in front of everyone else. He clearly thought Sam was going to be fired, but Sam’s going to be there with him for at least a little while longer. Ooops.

I suppose it’s a test of who can work well together despite personal feelings. Still, once you’ve said you don’t trust someone on a business level, how do you explain why you’re delegating to them next time around?

And yes; this is my Mr. Sterling for this year.


  1. I think they had $250 startup costs. I rather liked it, and I don’t normally like reality shows.

  2. Yeah, I figured the $250 startup into my calculations.

    Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s still on my TiVo. I’m just gonna mock it a bit here and there. 🙂

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