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Personal Finance: Business Lessons from "The Apprentice"
New York: April 18, 2004
By John R. Stephenson

Last week we saw the conclusion to one of the most successful reality shows of all time ? The Apprentice. The show which featured sixteen young candidates who competed for a chance to work for real estate mogul and self-promoter extraordinaire Donald J. Trump as the President of one of his companies. The show was a ratings smash but the audience wasn't just tuning in to hear the Donald proclaim, "you're fired" every week that held their attention, it was also the business lessons that were taught through real, although somewhat contrived examples. So what then were some of the lessons?

Have a sound strategy. When the pressure is really on, it is extremely tempting just to rush in ? but that can be a huge mistake. Take the time up front to develop a sound strategy so you are assured not only of doing things right, but doing the right things. In the first episode of The Apprentice, the men goofed by setting up their lemonade stand by an outdoor fish market and ignoring the first three rules of real estate, which are: location, location and location.

Find out what the client wants and give it to them. It doesn't matter what it is that you're working on ? there is always a client. Don't waste valuable time or, worse yet, your professional reputation coming up with something that misses the mark. Again, early on, the men's team blew it by passing on the opportunity to meet with the client when designing an advertising campaign and failed to realize that the client was really looking for a "swing for the fences" approach.

Deal with the boss. No one is going to sell yourself better than you. Don't hope or expect that an underling is going to sell the boss on your concept as well as you possibly could. Sure an underling is going to sell hard when it comes to a raise or a promotion for himself/herself, but don't expect that he/she will be nearly as interested in promoting your concept to the boss. Do the deed yourself and deal directly with the head honcho.

Have a positive attitude. Sure, life can be tough, but by being positive you stand out from the crowd and are someone that other people want to be around. Sam was one of the first people to be fired from the show, in large part because no one could stand to be around his prickly personality.

Speak your mind. You can take being positive to a ridiculous extent and that doesn't include just going with the flow. If you have expertise, it is only valuable if others are aware of your knowledge.

Flexibility counts. Life is a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs. Sure, being well educated is a great thing but only if you are flexible as well as being educated. In this fast paced world, you need to be able to draw on a huge repertoire of skills to make things work when the going gets tough. David, an MBA and an MD, had plenty of textbook smarts but was the first to be fired since he had trouble relating to a broad range of people and was unable to adapt his style when things weren't working out.

Fight for yourself. As Donald Trump says, "If you don't stand up for yourself, no one else will". This was the lesson in the fourth episode when Kristi, one of the superstar candidates, came to the boardroom but failed to defend the accusations that she was a poor leader. Trump mentioned to his aides after she had been fired "If you don't fight for yourself, the accusations must be true."

Turn adversity into triumph. Most people suffer some setback or major rejection at some point in their lives. The ones that succeed in the long run are those that are able to draw the best out of a bad situation and turn things around. Many of the candidates for The Apprentice who were fired have already received lucrative offers as a result of their appearance on the show. Billy Procida was fired in 1990 for real by Donald Trump and within four years of that had gone on to become the New York City developer of the year. Today, he and Donald Trump are working together on building a world class hotel.

StephensonFiles is a division of Stephenson & Company Inc. an investment research and asset management firm which publishes research reports and commentary from time to time on securities and trends in the marketplace. The opinions and information contained herein are based upon sources which we believe to be reliable, but Stephenson & Company makes no representation as to their timeliness, accuracy or completeness. Mr. Stephenson writes a regular commentary on the markets and individual securities and the opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. This report is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. Nothing in this article constitutes individual investment, legal or tax advice. Investments involve risk and an investor may incur profits and losses. We, our affiliates, and any officer, director or stockholder or any member of their families may have a position in and may from time to time purchase or sell any securities discussed in our articles. At the time of writing this article, Mr. Stephenson may or may not have had an investment position in the securities mentioned in this article
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