*Randal Pinkett gained notoriety as the first African American to win Donald Trump’s popular NBC reality television show, “The Apprentice.”
In season four, he was selected as one of 18 candidates chosen from among one million applicants to compete for the opportunity to run one of Donald Trump’s companies.
His momentous win in 2005 was tempered and a bit controversial, in that, he was also the first contestant to be asked by Trump if he’d be willing to share the coveted title – with a white woman. His answer, not surprisingly, was, no. Pinkett stood his ground and was named the sole ‘Apprentice.’
Since that time Pinkett, 39, has been very busy. As an executive with Trump Entertainment Resorts in Atlantic City, he went on to manage several renovation projects for Trump, including a bar, a restaurant, an Asian noodle bar and more.
He has also written a book along with Jeffrey Robinson with Philana Patterson titled, Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness (Amacom Books, $24.95).
The 10 strategies, says Pinkett, Ph.D., were created for African Americans to use to successfully navigate today’s rapidly changing professional landscape.
Throughout his endeavors, Pinkett, who is married (Zahara) and the father of three-year-old Amira, has placed great emphasis on his desire to give back to the community.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, Pinkett is a highly sought after speaker for various corporations, colleges and universities, government agencies and community organizations.
His resume is impressive, to say the least.
Pinkett, who holds five degrees, is the founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar consulting firm based in Newark, NJ, that specializes in program management, information technology and public policy. BCT Partners is a minority-owned and operated company and one of the leading firms in the country with expertise in housing and community development, economic development, healthcare, human services and education.
Most notably, Pinkett was, reportedly, the first and only African-American to receive a Rhodes Scholarship at Rutgers University.
I recently spoke to Pinkett about his controversial moment on “The Apprentice” and why he wrote his tome. His book tour is scheduled to begin in February 2011.
Darlene Donloe: Why did you write the book?
Randal Pinkett: I wrote the book because we (co-writer Jeffrey Robinson) were not happy with what we saw and what we experienced.
DD: Why is the book titled Black Faces in White Places?
RP: In 2010 you can talk to any African American who has moved up the ranks to mid management on up and you realize there are very few people who look like you. When you look at the numbers it makes no sense that the numbers look the way they do. There are these Jackie Robinsons out there – people who are the only ones.
DD: What are the challenges?
RP: The challenges are so complex. If anything it’s a matter of we live in this new era, a global marketplace. Technology has revolutionized. The strategy that worked for the last generation doesn’t work for this generation.
DD: Your book is about success. Are you successful? If so, what makes you successful?
RP: I would say I humbly am successful. In the book we define success and we define greatness. Part of our argument is we focus too much on success and not greatness. Greatness is a reflection of what you do for other people. Success is a reflection of you. I run a million dollar corporation, I have five degrees. I’m a Rhodes scholar. All of those accolades qualify as successful. By societal standards and my own standard.
DD: What’s your standard of greatness?
RP: My standard of greatness is living a positive legacy. When you leave this planet that there is a lasting impact for your presence on Earth. I’m not quite there yet, but getting closer.
DD: In the book you talk about 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success. Have you personally done each of those 10?
RP: Yes, I live all of those strategies. For example: Strategy 9 – synergize – the basic idea is one plus one equals three. That’s the idea of synergy. It’s each one reach 100 or a thousand or a million. Not each one reach one. You’re looking to align your effort with others.
DD: If there is only one strategy someone should follow, which one should it be?
RP: Pick number 1. The 10 strategies build off of each other.
DD: What kind of feedback are you getting about the book?
RP: The first thing is the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had people who say they couldn’t put it down. The feedback that stood out the most is – we’ve shed light on something that hasn’t been discussed. The phenomenon seems to resonate with people immediately. The second thing is that in framing the conversation around the game – it paints a more nuanced picture of people’s experiences. It’s a game – a competition. Third – is that people have found the strategies very simple and practical and down to earth. Intuitively obvious.
The game is what it is, you’ve got to understand these rules.
DD: What happened after you were named The Apprentice?
RP: I was hired that December and started work in February. I managed several renovation projects, including a restaurant, an Asian noodle bar and a bar.
DD: Were you annoyed when Donald Trump asked you to share the title?
RP: Interestingly, the opening of the book is the transcript from the finale. I was insulted and angered about the mere suggestion that I share the title with someone, who in my opinion, wasn’t my equal. I did anticipate he would pull that stunt. There were rumors amongst the cast and producers and internet. I was very well prepared. I had a series of meeting with my executive team to prepare me for that. I would not walk away with sharing the title. If he had insisted I do it, I was going to tell him he was fired and I quit.
DD: Would you have said anything if he had named your opponent The Apprentice?
RP: We didn’t prepare for the scenario if he had named her The Apprentice.
DD: What was it like working for Donald Trump?
RP: It was a good experience. It gave me the opportunity to see the inner workings of a multi million dollar corporation. I had all the right background and skills.
DD: What was your relationship with Trump?
RP: I saw him on a regular basis 2-3 times a month over the course of the year.
DD: Knowing what you know now, would you do The Apprentice again?
RP: Without hesitation.
DD: Are you a mentor?
RP: Yes, in a variety of contexts. I have an annual competition for student entrepreneurs. We are entering our fourth year. I continue to mentor the winners of that competition. The winner of the first one was Michael Amagashi. We sat down and I advised him on how to grow his business called University Storage. He picks up the belongings of students after the semester and brings them back at the beginning of the next semester.
DD: Regarding the way African Americans are succeeding in the workplace – are you encouraged or discouraged?
RP: I’m a hopeless optimist. I’m very encouraged. My experience is that there are a lot of hardworking well-educated African Americans out there who want to get ahead.
DD: Drs. Cosby have a quote about you showing people of color how to redefine the rules. How did you get that quote?
RP: I sit on the board of directors for a non- profit, The National Visionary Leadership Project (Visioonaryproject.org). It is attempting to capture the oral histories of visionaries or accomplished African American pioneers. We conduct in-depth interviews and incorporate them into a curriculum and outreach. We do panel discussions and dialogues.
DD: Who are some of the visionaries?
RP: Ruby Dee, the late Ossie Davis, Quincy Jones, Dorothy Height, Lerone Bennett Jr., Maya Angelou, Shirley Chisholm and Ray Charles.
DD: Do you have a motto?
RP: Yeah, I suppose. I’m a big believer in – to whom much is given much is required.
DD: How do you let your hair down?
RP: Well, first, I don’t have any hair. But, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I love music.
DD: What kind?
RP: R&B, soul, jazz and hip-hop. My favorite artist is Mary J. Blige.
DD: Your favorite movie and book? My favorite movie is “Do The Right Thing.” My favorite book is Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun.
For more information, please visit: http://www.randalpinkett.com.