Image Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBCWeek 5! While I wasn’t there this time, I know that it was a particularly brutal episode, and to say the least I wouldn’t want to “walk in the contestants’ shoes” for this one….
Life and Its Curveballs
With Clint’s popcorn victory last week, he won the very exciting reward of meeting Steve Forbes – one of the world’s most accomplished and famous businessmen, and a close friend of my father’s. With good reason, Clint was thrilled at his good fortune. In their meeting, Steve talked to Clint about people who had withstood great adversity, such as Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, and had managed to succeed. Steve’s main point of advice was that life doesn’t always goes as planned, and the most important strategy is to be prepared for the “curveballs.” I couldn’t agree more – in life and in business, one must always be prepared, which includes being prepared for the worst case scenario. While Clint has had some setbacks in his career, Steve noticed he had a great attitude and it would help him to handle the “curveballs” that life sometimes throws at us. Clint left the meeting feeling motivated and inspired.
Ah, shoes… This week’s challenge was definitely one that I could relate to. As you may know, I am currently in the midst of creating and launching my shoe collection, Ivanka Trump Footwear. The collection will be available starting in December at retailers across America including Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. All my independent research has confirmed that footwear is an incredibly lucrative business segment and therefore, I wasn’t too shocked when my father announced that shoes are in fact a $100 billion business. Rockport, one of the footwear industry’s giants, was the subject of this next task. Michael Rupp, CEO and President of Rockport, was on hand to explain the company’s philosophy –“walkability” – and the assignment. Michael wanted the two teams to present Rockport’s spring product line in the form of a fashion show, with the men presenting the women’s line and the women presenting the men’s line. Wade was chosen as Octane’s Project Manager, and Stephanie was chosen as Fortitude’s.
To switch things up a bit, my father chose two new advisers this week – executive search consultants (aka headhunters) Catherine Roman and Juan Bettencourt. Catherine and Juan would keep their well-trained eyes open for worthy candidates with executive level qualities. It was evident that they would be tough to impress. Steuart seemed to be on the right track when mentioning how important it would be to look good for the headhunters. Executive search consultants examine every detail to assess if a candidate is right for the job – I didn’t envy the contestants facing the dual pressure in the boardroom – from both my father and the consultants.
Fortitude chose Brandy to be their MC, a good choice as she is polished and a good speaker. Kelly and Poppy took to the creative side, and chose the fashions to be worn by the male models. Kelly introduced the idea of having the men walk out for the finale of the show in boxer shorts – rubbed down in oil – for impact value. Although the women’s idea of a finale involving boxer shorts seemed like a risky tactic, they decided to go with it. I was interested to see how that would fly!
Stephanie as Project Manager seemed to have everything under control and the team worked well together, which Juan Bettencourt noticed when he visited them. The women obviously enjoyed the company of the male models – an unexpected treat for them during the task! The only glitch in their well-conceived plan was only having one pair of boxer shorts for the men—shortly before the show—but that was remedied by a quick trip to the store. Their show went very well, with Brandy being an ace MC. She really carried the show, and Kelly was great at directing the models. The women’s problem-solving and team work was truly quite impressive throughout.
The show seemed, on the whole, to receive an enthusiastic reaction from the audience which included my father, Michael Rupp, my brother Don, and Miss USA. As for the boxer shorts? Unfortunately, it seemed as though that idea may have been a bit too bawdy, but we’d have to wait for the boardroom to find out.
Is there a speaker in the house?
On the other hand, the men’s team ran into some bigger problems than could have been imagined. At first, Catherine Roman thought Wade was strategic in delegating tasks. Anand and Steuart were chosen for their sense of style and did a great job as they shopped for the women’s wardrobe. All seemed to be going well until it came time for Gene to MC. Not only was he disorganized, but he was by no means a good public speaker! He confused the shoe names with the models’ names and had a multitude of notes that were probably more distracting than helpful. It was truly a performance that made you wince—and the show was, putting it mildly, a disaster.
In the boardroom, my father asked Fortitude about the risk they took in choosing boxer shorts as the models’ wardrobe, including the one model with very visible scabs on his legs. (Yuck!) Michael Rupp continued the same line of questioning – asking the ladies if they knew their choice would be a risk. They agreed it was a risk, and maybe not the best choice, but on the whole the consensus was that they did a great job, with Brandy as MC being the star—“fantastic” as my father put it. It was unanimous that the women won this task. As a reward, Stephanie will meet with Michael Rupp for some one-on-one business-building advice. Great job, Fortitude!
Fire #5 (and #6?)
The glowing praise was short lived as my father moved on to critique Octane. He started off by telling them, “Men, you were terrible.” More specifically, he told Gene that he was awful and brought down the whole show. When Wade was asked why he chose Gene for that responsibility, he said that Gene told him he’d had experience in public speaking, and he offered that Gene had a nice voice. My father seemed pretty peeved that Wade had not seen the obvious choices of Steuart or Anand for the MC job, as they were the “smoothest” members of the team. I was surprised that no one (Wade in particular) had bothered to check Gene’s performance level, as it was obviously a crucial part of the task! The additional commentary that “having a fashion show without a quality MC is like having Seder dinner without matzoh balls,” was hilarious and sure to become an Apprentice classic.
After the harsh commentary, Gene admitted that his performance could have been better and took responsibility for it, telling my father “If you want to fire me, go right ahead.” My father had no choice but to fire him, and Wade. Both were responsible for making a mess of the task, and Catherine and Juan agreed with my father on his choice. I did too – I don’t think that it would have been fair to leave one or the other in the game. Gene and Wade were both enthusiastic, great contestants and I’m sure they’ll meet with success. I wish them the best.
Enjoy your weekend, and I look forward to seeing you in the Boardroom next week!
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