Better than B-school: Lessons from Trump TV

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Although I may never be successful in persuading the University of Chicago to add a course on "The Apprentice," many of my MBA peers and I were as devoted to the show as we are to our classes. And for good reason: I've learned something about business every week. There's no denying the show is an educational tool, and a free one at that.

While I never got intense enough to take real notes, I have managed to glean some important takeaways over the past 14 weeks. Here are the top 20 lessons a business-minded person could learn from Donald Trump's first season aton the podium.

20. Don't be afraid to fire: Even though you'll have to find an untrademarked phrase first, it can be more detrimental to keep certain employees around than to go without them. One hopes finalist Kwame Jackson will be quicker to take such action now, after attempting to manage unmanageable Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth in the finale.

19. Don't hand off your core competencies: Many team members never took advantage of their obvious skills. Project Manager (and former real estate agent) Katrina Campins should have been negotiating the apartment rental in the Week 7 (a.k.a. "Omarosa gets a life-threatening concussion!") episode, instead of leaving it to Bill Rancic, and Trump called her on it. When it came to Planet Hollywood, Kristi Frank and Nick Warnock should have taken the leads of their respective teams, since they both, after all, have restaurant experience. By handing the top jobs off, they showed a serious lack of confidence.

18. Do hand off extraneous tasks: In that same episode, Katrina did have the smarts to hire a professional contractor to renovate the apartment's kitchen and bathroom.

17. There is no Omarosa in "team": You've been fired four times in real life, Omarosa? And you're 29 years old? Most people couldn't accomplish that if they tried.

16. Stand up for yourself: Kristi was chastised and ultimately fired after her team's flea market loss for following Jessie Conners' boardroom advice and only speaking when someone addressed her. And in the subsequent Sotheby's auction episode, Trump said Jessie's passiveness in the boardroom against Omarosa was even worse than Omarosa's general unprofessionalism. This was no compliment, even under Omarosa's incredibly loose definition of the word.

15. Be ready for swift decisions: Quick, do you want to live in Chicago or Los Angeles for the next year of your life? You have three minutes (all of them in front of a huge audience) to decide. No pressure.

14. Take ownership of those decisions: Make an informed decision, stick with it, and be ready to back it up. Trump was always more understanding of people who followed these guidelines than of the ones who seemed wishy-washy or tried to escape blame by avoiding commitment. Even Kwame's "calculated risk" on the creepy artist in Week 9 was barely questioned because he employed this tactic.

13. Leave your emotions at home: Luckily, Bill managed to survive the final boardroom despite getting a little harried on camera during his golf event. But when it came to leadership, those who got beat down or flustered during a task inevitably failed. Kristi couldn't maintain a positive front as project manager of the flea market task, and Ereka Vetrini got frazzled at the end of the Trump Ice project. Amy Henry, on the other hand, remained consistently composed, which may have led many to believe she was a stronger candidate than she ever really was.

12. Learn to survive on energy bars and caffeine: Tammy Lee and Omarosa learned the hard way that lunch is a luxury in Trump's world (or in show business). And sleeping on the bus to Atlantic City got Amy & Co. and their $300 rental car idea nowhere fast.

11. Know your product: The men chose not to meet with the jet client in Week 2's ad campaign contest. Even Trump agreed this decision, by Project Manager Jason Curiscq, was a critical mistake. Later in the season, Trump called Protege's performance in the art sale the worst so far and blamed that on the team's choice of a product it didn't believe in. And, Omarosa, how do you pronounce Isaac Mizrahi again? That was kind of an important detail. We won't even get into the fact that Amy didn't know much of anything about Trump's main business (construction).

10. And know your customer: Ereka kept pressing Nick to research a prospective Trump Ice customer in Week 8, and he never really followed through. Later, Trump's right-hand man George commented on how little the team seemed to know about its potential customers - and Ereka found herself on the down elevator.

9. Challenge first impressions: Bill and Kwame seemed like followers for much of the show, settling for low-profile roles on several projects. We all know how that worked out. A series of steady performances was more impressive to Trump Donald than a couple of stellar ones, and the biggest attention-grabbers were eventually major turnoffs. Let us know if you ever sell that $1,000 cup of lemonade, Sam Solovey.

8. Don't ever let them see you dance: Anyone see the April 3 "Saturday Night Live," where Trump shows he's not only a horrible actor but also painful to watch on the dance floor? Yuge mistake, Donald, yuge!

7. Don't rest on your laurels: As David Gould (fired in Week 1) made clear with his MBA and the beloved Troy McClain (fired in Week 12) reiterated with his high school diploma, education matters to an extent, but in the end, individual judgment and personality are more critical.

6. Loyalty is a no-brainer: So, Tammy, do you still think Katrina, your project manager in the apartment renovation episode, was duped? For the record, Tammy, you were duped; Katrina would have gotten fired over her performance on that task, but your idiotic comment redirected the boardroom conversation and gave Katrina four more weeks. Don't let the cab door hit you, Tammy.

5. Markets aren't always efficient: Hmmm . . . Nick and Amy get a last-minute bid for $40,800 on the penthouse of Trump World Tower as they sit lackadaisically in the lobby in Week 12? Sounds a little fishy. Too bad Executive Producer Mark Burnett can't influence the stock market like that (or maybe he can).

4. One breach of dignity is enough: I was pulling for you, Amy, I really was. I managed to overlook the traits your interviewers thought made you boring and annoying for many, many weeks. But you flat-out lied to Trump when you said you didn't remember who came up with that terrible rental car idea at the Trump Taj Mahal, and even your 27th hairstyle change of the day doesn't excuse that.

3. Vulnerability doesn't make you weak: Heidi Bressler got points for the way she handled the news that her mom had cancer, even after crying on camera several times. Since she was arguably the toughest of the women to start with, this twist actually ended up magnifying her human side (as well as Trump's). It turns out it's OK to cry in front of your boss under the right circumstances.

2. Born leaders don't say they are: Nick was told time and again that he was a salesman, and not necessarily much else. Yet he insisted his stellar personality made him the strongest candidate. I've got news for ya, Nick: You've got the charisma of a used car salesman. You can thank your "showmance" with Amy for keeping you around so long; it was no accident you both got fired in the same week.

1. Know something about everything: Troy admitted art was his Achilles' heel, and he suffered because of it at the gallery show. Clearly, Trump's selection of weekly tasks was set up so that someone with a little knowledge about a wide variety of industries and functions would prevail over someone with specialized knowledge about one area. Perhaps that's why many of the contestants with entrepreneurial backgrounds, where minimal staffing means no one is exempt from any duty, did so well. (Amy has experience with Internet startups and Bill founded his own cigar company.)

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