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Image Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBCHi again Apprentice Fans! As we get closer to the finale, we’re seeing more action from the remaining contestants and another intense boardroom. Let’s dive into this week’s episode!

Genius and Goals

Clint’s reward for winning last week’s task was a meeting with Barry Sternlicht, the President, Chairman and CEO of Starwood Properties Trust. I know Barry well and he is a brilliant and very insightful person –and truly a terrific mentor. As expected, Clint was thrilled to meet with him, and Barry gave him some good advice. Barry’s theory is that “genius is perseverance in disguise” which has been the motto of his career. He also pointed out that it’s important to set high goals, because maybe you’ll reach 80% of your goal, whereas setting low goals does not give you the drive to grow. When their meeting concluded, Barry gave Clint an envelope from my father, which contained a $5,000 gift certificate from Pier 1 Imports. Clint was thrilled! He had sold his home and had an estate sale of his belongings, so the prize was appropriate and very much appreciated.

30 Second Spot

In keeping with our credo of highlighting the country’s strongest businesses and industries on The Apprentice, this week we had AT&T and Flow TV – companies that are industry giants. Ted Woodbury from AT&T and Jane Hancock from Flow TV would be serving as judges of the task assignment. Following the promotional themes of the last two assignments, the teams were asked to produce a 30 second television commercial for AT&T Mobile TV. They would be judged on the following three criteria: creativity, positive representation of the brand, and clear and concise messaging. Thirty seconds seems like a short, simple segment to produce– but I knew that this was the most difficult task yet.

With Stephanie and Liza as the remaining members of the Fortitude team and Stephanie as Project Manager, I knew that there were fireworks to be seen! Those two are not friends. And I was eager to see if Octane would continue their winning streak with Steuart as PM and Clint and Brandy as team members.

No Love Lost

Stephanie and Liza started off already at each other’s throats. Stephanie declared that she was “a one-man show with a secretary to handle the paperwork” in reference to Liza’s low input of energy and ideas. Because of this bias, Liza was marginalized to sourcing locations and props while Stephanie conceptualized the commercial. Her two ideas were to be in a sports arena and an office as locations. The sports arena location became a real tough nut for Liza to crack – she was unable to locate a sports arena and unable to find sports-related props, and in the end Stephanie had to let go of the concept. With no other option, Stephanie would have to make the office concept work. When Don visited, he noted that Liza was not given great responsibility and the burden seemed to be on Stephanie. Stephanie was taking a big gamble and it seemed like she was allowing her dislike of Liza to get the best of her. The photographer in charge said the experience was “literally like a high school version of film school.”

Crunch Time

As for Octane, they had a huge time crunch to work around, as they had scheduled six scenes to shoot, including family scenes, an office environment and one in front of an AT&T store where the product could be purchased. I really liked the placement of the store in the ad – I thought it was smart brand promotion and a good use of time in the commercial. When I visited the team, it seemed that Brandy had a marginal role and that Steuart seemed to be leaning on Clint. My concern was that Steuart wasn’t being a strong PM – something that could come back to bite him in the boardroom.

The Boardroom

Fortitude presented their commercial first, and Stephanie gave a great presentation. However, the production value was diminished by two factors, one being that it took 18 seconds before the brand was announced, which was far too long, considering it was a 30 second commercial. The other was that the concept of watching television in the workplace is something that shouldn’t be encouraged and seemed to lack a significant amount of common sense.

Octane had the product upfront and center at the beginning of the commercial which was a strong start, but there was no consistent brand messaging throughout. Plus, the client thought the commercial was a bit campy at times. However, one of the strongest points was that they showed where to buy the product in the outdoor shot which was a smart move, and they showed several good reasons to purchase the product.

On the whole, Octane’s commercial was stronger and well received by both Ted and Jane. Octane won the task – the streak continues! Steuart, as PM, will have the opportunity to meet with Cathie Black, Chairman of Hearst Magazines, and New York’s recently appointed School’s Chancellor, as his reward. I know and admire Cathie. She even contributed a chapter to my book The Trump Card – so I can say with conviction that Clint’s in for a great meeting!

Fire #11

Liza and Stephanie going at it in the boardroom was no surprise to any of us. Oddly, however, during the review of the commercials, both Stephanie and Liza said they got along well throughout the task. Anyone watching knew that wasn’t the case, as Stephanie repeatedly said she felt like a team of one, and had relegated Liza to specific tasks vs. overall participation. When questioned, Liza admitted she wasn’t strong out in the field and Don mentioned that not only was it clear that Stephanie was in charge, but that Liza’s choices during the task were dubious. When it came time to discuss Stephanie’s performance, I mentioned to her that a concept has to evolve and be developed and this one had not been. Additionally, I told Liza that I’d never heard her truly contribute and both Don and I commented that she consistently seems to take a somewhat ancillary role. In the end, I felt they had both been weak in their individual roles, and as a team they didn’t work either. My father seemed to feel the same way, and fired Stephanie as she had been PM. Liza did not get off the hook, though – he let her know in no uncertain terms that he was not happy with her and that she’d better get her act together.

Stephanie has great energy, business skills and enthusiasm, and I know that she’ll find the right job and meet with success. We wish her well.

Enjoy your weekend, and I look forward to seeing you in the Boardroom next week!

For More of Your Apprentice Fix

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If you want advice from visionaries such as Barry Sternlicht and Cathie Black, find out more about my book, The Trump Card at Amazon.com.

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