The Apprentice 2010: Task 4 Performance Review

Each week as contestants compete for a $250,000 job contract, get the leadership lessons you can use to succeed

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I can't vouch for her boardroom savvy, but Tyana Alvarado's lack of engagement on this task is NOT why Fortitude lost.

The 2010 edition of The Apprentice, NBC’s business reality show starring and executive produced by real estate mogul Donald Trump, features entrepreneurs and professionals competing for a $250,000 job contract with the Trump organization. By now, the format is familiar: Each week the contestants, divided into two teams, must complete a business task. The winning team is rewarded; the losing team must report to the infamous boardroom, where one member will be fired by Trump. This edition of The Apprentice features three African American job candidates: Kelly Beaty, Gene Folkes and Liza Mucheru-Wisner.

Get exclusive behind-the-scenes insights on Task 4 of The Apprentice via our Live Chat with Kelly Beaty and surprise guest Gene Folkes

With each task of The Apprentice 2010, I will post performance reviews of the candidates, their teams and their project managers. In addition, I will assess the performances of Kelly, Gene and Liza for as long as they remain in The Apprentice talent pool.

Read and comment on other performance reviews of The Apprentice 2010 Tasks.

Leadership Lesson: There’s a reason why home run kings also lead in strike-outs–they are not afraid to risk failure in pursuit of the grand slam. When a homerun is called for, singles and doubles won’t do. On any job calling for a spectacle, a major impact–swing for the fences.

TASK 4: Create and video record a guerilla marketing stunt to promote Popcorn Indiana. The video with the best potential to go viral on the web wins.

While on the firing line for all-male team Octane after their loss on Task 3, Wade Hanson promised Trump that he would step up as project manager on this task. However, Wade seems relieved to discover that real estate developer Clint Robertson is determined to lead on Task 4, and he steps aside with little resistance. Assistant D.A. Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy takes on the leadership role for the ladies of Fortitude on this task.

When Gene suggests the idea of two guys starting a food fight with popcorn that escalates into a free-for-all involving dozens of people in a public place, the concept catches fire with everyone on the Octane team but Wade, who worries that the idea “is a little bit too in-your-face” and prefers that his team moves in a less violent, more “kid-friendly” direction. Clint dismisses Wade’s concerns, committing to a “go big or go home” approach. Clint gets an unexpected gift when the destructive force on his team, unemployed sales pro David Johnson, withdraws from the task to seek dental attention for a tooth broken while eating a popcorn bagel. With Octane’s time-bomb out of the way, they go on to execute the task, literally stopping traffic with a staged popcorn fight on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue in front of Trump Tower. The melee climaxes with everyone shouting the Popcorn Indiana tag line, “Share Some!”

Meanwhile, after some brainstorming, attorney and entrepreneur Brandy Kuentzel thinks it would be funny to show people working out at the gym while devouring popcorn. The entire Fortitude team enthusiastically embraces the concept–with the notable exception of Tyana, who says that the idea is not really funny and has zero viral potential. At least in part in response to Tyana’s lack of enthusiasm for the concept, Project Manager Masha excludes her from creative development of their video concept by sending her, along with Liza and Poppy Carlig, out for supplies. Mahsa expresses some regret for that decision and decides to involve Tyana Alvarado, Liza and Poppy more when it’s time to execute the task the next day. Unfortunately, there’s not much they can do to influence the concept during execution. Tyana clearly expresses her belief that Fortitude’s video of people working out at a Gold’s Gym while scarfing down popcorrn will not be good enough to win, because the concept is just not funny, not an attention-grabbing spectacle. This frustrates and angers her team members, who feel she should offer ideas to improve the video, not just complain that it’s not good enough. However, Mahsa manages the team effectively in her self-described “bossy” style, and there are no glitches in execution.

The Result: Octane’s food fight was judged (as Wade feared) a little violent and a tad unfit for the kids. However, it was a spectacle that captured the attention of passersby and shut down 5th Avenue–a true guerilla marketing stunt. By contrast, Fortitude has produced a typical, middle-of-the-road, mildly funny commercial. Tyana was afraid that Fortitude’s video didn’t go far enough. She was right. Wade was afraid that Octane’s video went too far. According to the judges, he was also right. But when it comes to guerilla marketing, too much always trumps not enough. Project Manager Clint goes big, and Octane delivers a big win.

Who I Would Have Fired: Again, I want to emphasize that I make my firing decision before the boardroom sessions, and before Trump makes his call. I prefer to base my evaluation on performance on the task, not the cut-throat, finger-pointing boardroom drama that is a key driver of ratings for The Apprentice. (I do, however, recognize that your ability to communicate your value to the boss regardless of success or failure on a project is a key to surviving and advancing on the job.) No matter what happens in the boardroom, I stick to my decision.

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  • I, too believe that Tyana got a raw deal and in my opinion probably shouldn’t have been fired-at least not based on her performance (or lack thereof) on the task. But I have to disagree about Brandy. I would have definitely fired Mahsa. She planned all along to pin a possible loss on Tyana. First by sending her out shopping (hoping that she could implicate her for lack of involvement), then after second thought, involving her at the very end so that she could blame her for any creative failure. Yes Brandy suggested the concept (something the entire team is charged with doing)but the lack of effective execution falls directly on Mahsa. Coming up with the concept alone isn’t grounds for dismissal. In fact, the customer actually liked the concept. It was the lack of creativity and “bigness” that ultimately did them in. I like the fact that you decide who will be fired prior to the boardroom scene & it adds a very interesting element to your posts. I usually decide during the boardroom session because I think its important to see how a person defends their position, decisions, etc. in the face of all the pressure.

    Liza left me puzzled also. She didn’t just throw Tyana under the bus, she got on the bus, put the key in the ignition and drove it over her! That was a strategic error that I believe will ultimately lead to her professional (at least in the Trump organization) demise. She had the opportunity to get Mahsa fired. Throwing Tyana under the bus was NOT going to keep Liza out of the boardroom but it WOULD have given her & Tyana the opportunity to double team Mahsa. If done effectively, the team bully & self-proclaimed “tough” girl would be gone and maybe, just maybe the reality of it all would have helped crumble some of the stupid alliances on that team. Instead, Tyana cowered under the attack from “pitbull” Mahsa & “all over the place” Liza and did something that we all know will get you a swift cab ride to the airport-she failed to effectively defend herself.

    It’s unfortunate that Tyana & Liza couldn’t see how they could have collaborated to strengthen their respective positions on the team. They had everything going for them: a weak defense from Mahsa, proof that she dismissed them initially, her failure as a PM & a mutual lack of respect for her. And they blew it. Tyana is gone & its only a matter of time for Liza as she helped one of her only potential allies get fired. And about Liza, I hate to say it, but she’s looking more & more like the professional version of Vinny Barbarino to me,(“What?” “Where?” “Why?”) I don’t think she has a clue! No strategy or plan…just all over the place. It’ll be interesting to see her as PM. I’ll be watching! BTW: Will we see more of Kelly? What gives?

  • Alfred Edmond Jr.

    Via Twitter today, Tyana shared that, contrary to the impression given during the Task 4 episode of The Apprentice, she did offer an alternative to the losing concept embrace by her Fortitude teammates, and that even Trump praised the idea when he found out about it. She says that her suggestion was edited out of the show. (Kelly says most of her contributions on the tasks to date have also failed to make it into the final cut.) Tyana says she talks about her idea during her exit interview. Here’s the link to her exit interview video:

  • Calvin J. Adolph

    I wholeheartedly agree with Nichole’s last paragraph. It was apparent that the women are afraid of Mahsa, so much that they would rather turn upon each other than face her. In a fair game it is always decided that the losing PM would receive the axe, but Mahsa fully recognizes that this is a game and is not fair. She talks over every body so that her words are the only ones heard. Her “big” comment about Tyanna would have easily justified her falling under my axe. David is the court jester for this season and will be around for a long time as a result. Even if her best comments were laying on the cutting room floor, I don’t believe there is such a thing as an unemployed public relations “pro”. Especially after reading about several in BE, I believe that all you have to do is hang out your shingle and you’re in business again. What’s most disappointing to me is it seems there will never be a “black” alliance. All three contestants seem to run away from that and, therefore, it becomes glaringly obvious that they will never make it to the final two on their own. The apprentice will be a woman; I’m just not sure which one will it be.

  • Sharon Jackson

    I must open with my raging disappointment with Liza’s choice to kneel down and kiss Mahsa’s ring. Liza clearly sees that she is outnumbered and that the majority of the ladies want to see her go. I wanted Liza to stand her ground and express her dissatisfaction with Mahsa’s leadership without bowing out of the fight – showing that she is clearly afraid of her. Now, Liza looks like a wobbler which no executive should ever look like, in my opinion.

    That said, I think Tyana got a raw deal. The task was not lost because of Tyana, but because of Mahsa’s execution as PM. I do not think Brandy should have been fired for coming up with the concept. The concept was a good one that did not go far enough thanks to the direction of Mahsa. Mahsa repeatedly toned down the “commercial” and was glad to direct the entire fiasco herself. Mahsa should have been fired.

    I was disappointed in Kelly. It appears to me that the goal for most of the ladies is not to anger the stronger personalities of Fortitude. No one is willing (Kelly and now Liza included) to go up against the stronger ladies (with the exception of Tyana) for fear of retribution. I hope Kelly shows us soon that she is not a follower, but is willing to possibly do battle with the stronger personalities of her team who have a chokehold of fear on the ladies.

    Mahsa is a pitbull and I can tell that Ivanka is growing steadily tired of that persona. Mahsa’s strategy lies in how she feels about you personally. If she likes you, you are then worthy of her vote of approval. If she dislikes you, watch out! I cannot wait to see how Mahsa and Stephanie get along with Stephanie, another strong personality, as PM. Clash is not the word!

    I was amazed how Octane sailed along. I too thought the idea of hitting people with popcorn bags could be viewed as “violent.” Octane’s video was at least funny and most importantly, was a true viral video.

    David cannot help himself. His constant insubordination brings drama to the show and that will keep him around longer than I’m sure any of us would like.

  • Porcupyn

    I agree with your dislike of Mahsa and your assessment of her, but somehow I disagree that she is part of the Dead Men Walking. Something (the tweets that you are referring to, maybe?) tells me that she might hang around with Clint and Anand to the very end.

    If it was up to me, I would have fired Mahsa already (in this episode). It is obvious that she was smarting from having to take care of those dogs in the previous episode that she decided to move Tyana very conveniently out of the way during the design phase, then bring her into the firing line after the loss.

    Also, I believe that your opinion of her (Mahsa) might have gone a sea change by now, seeing how she has supported Gene. Am I right?

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