Fast Talk: What I Learned on The Apprentice

You're fired! With the finale of season three this month, five people who've heard that signature Trumpism share what they learned about image, experience, role models, decision making, and leveraging free publicity from being on The Donald's hit show. And -- surprise! -- Trump himself had little to teach.

Fame Is a Double-edged Sword

Pamela Day

Managing director, Crimson Holdings LLC
Los Angeles, California

It's really tough to strike a balance about when to use my Apprentice fame and when to distance myself from it. I don't want to be on the calendar of the "Ladies of Reality-TV Stars." But if you're not making money, what's the use of all the publicity?

I didn't do this show because I needed to be on television. I did this as a calculated maneuver to increase the reach of my business. I told the producers that if I won, I was going to decline the job. My main goal was to show the world who I was and how I do business. As long as I behaved myself, I figured it would all be worth it in the long run. Frankly, the jury's still out on whether this was a risk worth taking. The benefit has been that it has raised my profile among potential investors in my venture fund. The other benefit is that now I get paid to write and speak about a lot of topics that I normally pontificate on anyway.

Apprentice fame has its downsides, though. I have to choose my words carefully to avoid sounding arrogant, but when you put yourself in with this group of folks, some of whom are extremely young and inexperienced, some of whom are just plain crazy, you get lumped together with them. I've actually spent a lot of time trying to separate myself from the show. I feel the need to tell people, "Hey, wait, I'm a little different." I've got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that.

Pamela Day, 33, appeared in season two. She has founded two businesses: Blazent, a software startup that has since grown to 100 people, and Crimson Holdings, a private-equity firm. She holds a bachelor's in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and received her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Don't Be a "Yes" Woman

Kristen Kirchner

Real-estate agent
Los Angeles, California

If Donald Trump wasn't a real-estate tycoon, I wouldn't have wanted to do the show. I thought there was something I could learn from him. Quite honestly, I didn't learn anything.

Donald Trump isn't going to hire the most successful entrepreneur on his show. He's going to hire the person who can take direction, a person who's used to working for other people. If you're a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word, you will not become the next Apprentice.

I was made to look like an idiot on national television because Trump decided he wanted to fire me. I'm very upset about that because I was one of the best workers on that show. I think Trump just doesn't like strong women. Carolyn? Sure, she's feisty, but she's by no means an entrepreneur. When Mr. Trump says, "I want to fire this person," George and Carolyn say, "I agree." Someone like me would say, "I disagree." He doesn't want someone who's going to disagree with him.

The person I learned the most from turned out to be [Apprentice creator and executive producer] Mark Burnett. He's seen the rough side of life. Like him, I started at the bottom. I lived with plastic crates and a box spring for a couch. I remember emptying out my piggy bank just to be able to have enough money to go to McDonald's to get a burger. Burnett's taken risks. And then to single-handedly change the entertainment industry like he's done, that's a far more impressive feat than being born with a silver spoon in your mouth. He's the true rags-to-riches story.

Kristen Kirchner, 32, was fired in the fourth episode of the current season. She's currently opening her own real-estate investment firm, Xanthus Enterprises.

Perception Trumps Reality

Troy McClain

Mortgage broker
Boise, Idaho

Back east I get accused of being stupid or being some country bumpkin. And yeah, I allow people to run with that perception. Perception can be reality for some people -- Mr. Trump taught me that. When I get behind closed doors and into a negotiation with someone who underestimates me because I don't have a college degree and have a bit of a drawl, they're always like, "You seemed so charming -- what happened?" And I tell them, "Hey, that was your own perception."

I was disappointed when Mr. Trump fired me for a lack of education. A few weeks after the show, Mr. Trump was on Larry King Live and offered to pay for me to go to college. The next day, Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, they all got in touch with me -- I'll show you the letters! It was amazing. But I can't move to Boston. I'm an Idaho kid who loves to hunt and fish and be with his family. So I registered at Boise State University. And sure, I could have taken a $50,000-a-year college degree and had Mr. Trump pay for it, but a degree is a degree and it's what you make of it. I'm going to start part-time in the fall while I continue to run my mortgage business.

Being on TV can warp your perspective, but I haven't changed my values. I still eat at IHOP and I still go to Wal-Mart. If I happen to drink fine wine with a billionaire, a guy like Trump, well, I can still drink my cheap Boone's as well.

Troy McClain, 34, appeared in season one. In addition to running his real-estate and mortgage-brokerage business, McClain now does motivational speaking and has engagements booked through mid-2006.

Never Stay Still

Danny Kastner

Founder and CEO, POPstick Inc.
Boston, Massachusetts

The Donald's a tough guy, but behind the scenes he's very compassionate with the people who work for him, and they're very loyal. Being around him, I got a chance to really see his softer side and appreciate it. But rub Donald the wrong way and -- bam! -- he's not only going to fire you, he's going to tell you you're stupid. He's a great lesson in holding true to the situation at hand: Either you're kicking somebody's butt or you're supporting them in a big way. But you've just got to make that decision about where people are in that spectrum and not sit around and wait for them to destroy you. He's certainly a guy of extremes, but he knows what he wants.

I've reflected on that idea a lot since I left the show. Sometimes my business will stagnate based on certain decisions I've made -- or not made -- or because of certain people I've hired. The Apprentice gives you no choice. You have to move ahead, make a decision, and risk a lot. On The Apprentice, you have to deliver a successful outcome very quickly. If people in your organization are dragging their feet, if they aren't willing to step up and take whatever challenges are in front of them, you can't stay still. You've got to act decisively and quickly and then move on. Tomorrow, something could really crash down. So what are you going to do to rebound from that and succeed? In that way, The Apprentice is very real.

Danny Kastner, 39, was fired in the third episode of the current season. In 1998, he founded POPstick, a new-media marketing and branding firm. He's also an avid musician who wrote a song, "15 Minutes of Fame," about his experience on the show.

It's a Personality Contest

Elizabeth Jarosz

Founder, Pulse40 Inc.
Los Angeles, California

On the show, I looked very wimpy. Around episode three or so, I realized that all the brilliant things I had done up until that point had not at all been shown. Someone told me it's because it wouldn't fit with my character. That's when I figured out that none of the smart things I'd done would ever show up on screen. I thought, "Oh my God. I could lose my company." I really thought my business skills would prove my worth. And it turned out to be a personality contest instead. I signed up for The Apprentice and ended up on Survivor. Thankfully, I was redeemed in the finale when my character was made out to be a savior of sorts.

In the end, I think people were able to see beyond the character on the show. It was like, "Wait a minute, these dots don't connect." I had gone to business school undergrad at the University of Michigan. I had worked for Procter & Gamble as a brand manager. I had started a successful company. I'm so much more capable than the show made me look.

Right before I left to tape the series, P&G called and said it wanted me to work on a new product launch. I said, "Sorry, I can't do it." I said I had a project that lasted seven weeks because I wasn't allowed to say I was going on The Apprentice. I worried that I had lost this important piece of business. Fortunately, P&G waited for two months and called as soon as I got back. In fact, thanks to all the notoriety, Pulse40 is doing better than ever.

Elizabeth Jarosz, 32, appeared in season two. In addition to running Pulse40, her market research firm, Jarosz has begun to take on various television projects, including several for WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit.

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1 Comments

  • Peter Freeth

    The British version of The Apprentice has just ended its 2009 season. According to the runner-up, Kate Walsh, Sir Alan Sugar wanted to hire her too but BBC red tape wouldn't let him. Those nasty bureaucrats.

    In the post-final review show, 'You're Fired', Adrian Chiles interviewed Sir Alan about his decision, and about his thoughts on Kate. Now I don't recall his exact words, but they were something like this:

    'Kate will be fine, I have no concerns about Kate, and I've given her my private email address and my phone number and told her that she can call me 24/7 if she needs any advice'

    24/7? How nice for her. Honestly, Sir Alan, if you do want to give out your private contact details to young girls, don't announce the fact on live national TV.

    And don't forget that Kate had a brief romance with one of the other contestants, just to make sure that she was the cat amongst the pigeons in the penthouse.

    As Adrian Chiles says in his blog, "she wasn't mourning for him once he'd left, was she?".

    So what does Kate get out of being runner-up? Maximum publicity, Sir Alan Sugar's private email address and of course she doesn't actually have to work for him (as the winner does). All of the benefits of being on the show with none of the downsides.

    I'm not saying she threw it, just that every cloud has a sugared lining.

    http://askrevelation.blogspot.com/2009/06/apprentice.html