Hey Apprentice Fans! Hope you all had a great weekend. Last week was a record breaker and we began this week watching Marlee proudly give a check to the Starkey Hearing Foundation for one million dollars! Incredible. Truthfully, there were no losers last week (well, maybe Richard as he was sent home), but both teams did a terrific job and John Rich and Marlee were able to bring home huge checks for their charities. It was back to business very soon though and with any luck the teams would bring their enthusiasm and "sunny" attitudes to the next challenge.
My father, Ivanka and I met the teams on a cold but sunny day and brought with us the executives from Australian Gold, the makers of sunscreen, body lotion and fragrance. The skin care industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so the teams would have to work hard to impress Steve Hilbert, his wife Tomisue and head of sales, Melinda Travis. The teams were assigned to build a 10 by 10-foot themed glass box and environment that embodied the brand's personality. The teams would be joining "The Gold Life" and would be judged on creativity, originality, brand messaging and marketing. When my father asked who would be the project managers, La Toya jumped at the chance, very eager to show her team what she was capable of. Mark stepped up on behalf of Backbone. The reward this week was $40,000 to his or her charity, $20,000 of which would come from the executives of Australian Gold. I was glad that La Toya stepped up and was looking forward to seeing if she could not only surprise her teammates but also win back their respect as part of the team. At this point the ladies have expressed on multiple occasions that they felt La Toya was not a leader and didn't really "do" anything per se during any of the tasks.
As the teams broke out, La Toya would soon see that she had not only a tough job to do but also teammates that were determined to make it a little harder on her than other PMs for the team. To me, as a leader, it makes it very difficult if your teammates aren't supporting you 100 percent. Team Backbone was brainstorming and came up with a "pirate" theme. Mark made a very bold statement: as he came up with the theme, he said that if they didn't win he would take the blame. The executives visited the men's team and further solidified the concept for them when Tomisue mentioned that one of the tag lines for the Australian Gold Product is "Treasure Life's Moments." The executives ALMOST got away without an inappropriate comment from Gary, but of course he snuck one in, telling the executives that their product gives you a "sexual feeling," leaving his teammates shaking their heads and the executives feeling uncomfortable to say the least.
In the meantime La Toya delegated tasks to the ladies, assigning Marlee and NeNe on creative, Hope on costumes and Star on graphics. As the teams were brainstorming their interactive campaign there were a lot of uncertainties and La Toya was not making any firm decisions. This to me was a mistake on La Toya 's part because as a leader, her team was looking to her to be organized and make decisions quickly. Her indecisiveness could certainly be looked at as a weakness. The ladies finally decided on a beach theme, highlighting fun in the sun. This seemed to be a safe bet and an obvious choice for the product. I just wondered if it would be too safe. I was also very surprised that La Toya put Hope on costumes rather than putting her in a bikini for the event. Not utilizing Playmate of the Year? I am sure that will not go unnoticed.
As the teams headed over to the prop house, Lil Jon was tasked with not only finding pirate costumes but also babysitting Gary. I think at this point the men's team strategically placed Gary as far as possible away from the PM. You could tell that Lil Jon was losing his patience with Gary and I was hoping he would hold it together long enough not to freak out like Meat Loaf did last week.
When Marlee, NeNe and Hope were at the prop house they still felt like they had no idea what their concept was. They knew that there would be palm trees and koala bears but had no idea what else the team's concept entailed. At this point in the task one of the most important duties as a PM is to make sure the concept is understood by all that are executing it, and from what I saw that was not the case. All the ladies did know was that they were responsible for picking up 125 fifty-pound bags of sand. Enough for a small beach?! That might be a little excessive.
Ivanka visited the men's team and was impressed by the chant that they had come up with and their vibrancy. I think that is something I look forward to every week, which is the energy that the group collectively brings to their tasks. Last week, Mark said he was proud to be a part of Team Backbone. Camaraderie is so important and even despite the issues Meat Loaf had last week, during the event the men always turn it on. I've also seen that on Team Backbone, the men always are very supportive of the team leader, which is crucial during any competition.
During the construction of the displays the men's team had a little too much fun "weathering" the boxes. I was concerned to hear Gary say, "I do this a lot" in reference to beating things with chains... I don't think I want to know. La Toya, with no experience in construction, rolled her sleeves up and began spackling. When the ladies arrived from the prop house they were surprised, as they didn't know they would be actually constructing the display. This was a clear example of how communication was lacking on Team A.S.A.P..
During the morning of the task La Toya decided that their display needed something else. I liked that she made an executive decision and, since she wasn't satisfied with the concept, made a change. I do however think as a leader when you decide to change the concept you should be sure your team is aware of the change and is supporting the change, since they are selling the product as well and representing you. Should the concept not work, that will surely be brought up in the Boardroom. When I checked in with the ladies' team as they began their day of "fun in the sun," I knew that I'd be able to get an honest "no filter" response from NeNe. As I suspected, NeNe in her koala suit insisted that she didn't think La Toya was a great PM, even going so far as to say, "I'll be surprised if we won." Not a great attitude and definitely in NeNe-like fashion she didn't hold back. Walking away from their concept I knew that if they lost, the women would have a lot to say about La Toya.
While Backbone was getting set up Mark continuously told Gary, "Show me your value, I'm trusting you Gary." I think strategically Mark was saying this as a "watch out and you better behave" type tone. Gary must have missed all the signals because when the executives showed up during the task, he whisked them away, totally ignoring all the subtle hints from his team members. He not only pitched himself for their product but also didn't show the executives around the experience that Team Backbone had worked so hard on. It wasn't the best "first impression" of the men's team for the executives. As we all know first impressions are usually very lasting, so hopefully for the men's team they were able to wow them with a theme and the rest of their experience.
The executives of Australian Gold enjoyed their experience at Team A.S.A.P.s event. They liked the winter theme that La Toya added, which made a "safe" concept a little more original. Overall both teams impressed the executives and they enjoyed their creativity and creation of buzz surrounding the product. Buzz is such an important element in promotion because if you can leave people talking about an event or product, that alone is priceless.
After my father met with the executives it was time for the Boardroom and when the teams sat down, my father first asked NeNe how it went. Her response was just "okay." It was brought up that the team thought La Toya was not a good leader. We were all very surprised to see that La Toya decided not to use Hope in the display.
Overall the ladies played it safe with a small twist and the men as usual thought outside the box. When my father asked how important it was for Mark to win, he said it was hugely important as he probably would be the one fired if they lost. He also said that if they lost on theme alone he couldn't bring his team up to the firing line. The men decided not to use a koala costume representing Surfing Sydney, Australian Gold's koala mascot, as they didn't want to take the chance that it wouldn't be the right color. That was a chance that they should have taken, as the execs felt like that not including the mascot as part of the branding integration in their display was a mistake.
When we went over all the positives and negatives, the executives felt that the women did a great job on messaging, loved the usage of their koala mascot, liked the summer/winter theme, but did feel that they under-utilized their natural talent, especially Hope, the team's very own Playmate of the Year, in this task. Ivanka shared that the executives loved the men's interaction with the product and their chant but didn't like the men's pirate theme, and also were unhappy with the way Gary pitched himself to be in their ads. Ultimately they felt that the ladies' team had done a better job and my father congratulated La Toya on her win as project manager. La Toya would receive a check for $40,000 to her charity, AIDS Project LA. Although I didn't agree with all of La Toya 's actions as PM I did like that La Toya did not play into any of the negative feelings which her team, especially NeNe, was displaying towards her. She kept her head up and kept moving, making it her goal to win this task... and she did. Although there were no congratulatory wishes from team A.S.A.P. to La Toya; NeNe especially let loose on her. Get ready because I don't think that will be the last of NeNe speaking her mind.
Back in the Boardroom the drama was escalating and you'd be right in guessing that Gary was involved. The team all made it clear that they felt Gary was a liability and that they had to create tasks for him just to keep him from doing any damage. They also felt that the comments made to Tomisue during the first executive meeting were unnecessary and inappropriate. When my father asked Mark to bring back two people in the Boardroom, Mark insisted on bringing only one: Gary. I think that was a mistake on Mark's part because he was increasing the possibility of himself getting fired. He could have brought someone else in as an advocate.
Despite the issues Gary caused, it was not his lack of focus or off-color comments but rather the pirate theme that caused Team Backbone to lose the task. And as Mark said, if it's solely the theme that lost the task, then he should be the one to go. It was a tough decision but Mark was fired. My father took the opportunity though to scold Gary, saying he had better shape up. I think we are all a little tired of hearing the complaints and as my father reiterated, the members of Backbone can't all be wrong. I was hoping that after my father's comments to Gary, which are never easy to hear, he would step up and change his ways going forward. If not, I think Gary will be back in the Boardroom soon.
I hope you enjoyed this week's episode! Thanks for all your comments and tweets. Please continue to share them with me here on the blog and on twitter. (http://www.twitter.com/donaldjtrumpjr) See you next Sunday!