My Days With Martha

An inside look, plus lessons learned, from an <i>Apprentice</i>
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Dawna Stone, just chosen by Martha Stewart to be her apprentice on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, is the founder and publisher of Her Sportsmagazine, which was recognized as one of the 30 most notable magazine launches of 2004. This interview took place before she was selected to be Stewart's apprentice. To get even more scoop from Stone on the show and her fellow candidates, read our exclusive interview with her that took place after she won.

Last fall, I was fortunate enough to work with the world's first female self-made billionaire as one of 16 candidates on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. I consider Martha one of the greatest female entrepreneurs of our time, and since publishing is her main business, I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather learn from.

I came to the show with years of experience in the mechanics of how to run a business: writing business plans, maintaining multimillion-dollar budgets, hiring and firing employees, etc. But the show emphasized how important the mental aspects are to overall success in business and in life. Here are the four biggest lessons I learned:

1. Focus is key. On The Apprentice, the producers remove virtually all outside distractions--radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, family, friends, laundry, grocery shopping. The result? We accomplished astounding tasks in severely limited time, including writing, designing and publishing a children's book for Random House in 48 hours. If you've been attempting to update your business plan for years without success, lock yourself in a room, focus, and get it done!

2. Keep your eye on the ball. Being the owner of a women's sports magazine, my goal heading into the show was simple: to win. But I quickly found that sleep deprivation, ultratight deadlines, inter-personal conflicts between candidates and other distractions (like dinner with Donald Trump) conspired to cloud my reason for being there. Before the show, my husband gave me invaluable advice: When things start to get out of control (and believe me, they did), remember to "keep your eye on the ball." His words helped me never lose sight of the end goal and always act accordingly.

3. Passion is contagious. The most valuable lesson Martha reinforced was the power of passion and enthusiasm. I've never met anyone with more passion for her work than Martha. What you rarely see on TV is that many Apprentice tasks required us to go 48 or even 72 hours with little or no sleep. When others were wearing down, I would think about Martha's passion and try to reinvigorate the team.

4. The more you're challenged, the more you gain. Over the past several years, Martha faced some incredible challenges. She met them head-on and now says her experiences made her a better person. Apprentice producer Mark Burnett told us the show would be the hardest thing we've ever done. I thought he was crazy--I've done the Hawaii Ironman; I swam five to eight hours a day in high school and college; I run marathons. But Mark was right--this was the hardest thing I've ever done. And it was incredibly rewarding.

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