Randal Pinkett: An Apprentice Moves On

You probably recognize him from his stint on the celebrated NBC show The Apprentice, but NJ-native Randal Pinkett interests range far beyond television.

Photo by Carl Sison.

Randal Pinkett’s reputation has grown considerably since his flash of television fame in 2005, when the New Jersey native won the fourth season of NBC’s The Apprentice. He spent the following year working alongside the Donald as an executive with Trump Entertainment Resorts in Atlantic City. Adding to his renown, Pinkett was short-listed in 2009 as a possible running mate in Jon Corzine’s failed gubernatorial re-election bid. In real life, Pinkett runs BCT Partners, a management, technology, and policy consulting firm he cofounded in 2000.

The 38-year-old Hightstown High School and Rutgers graduate and Rhodes scholar lives in Somerset with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. With co-author Jeffrey Robbins, he recently completed his second book, Black Faces in White Places: Ten Strategies for African Americans to Redefine the Game and Reshape America.

How would you describe your level of post-Apprentice celebrity?

I’m blessed and fortunate that I have been put in the spotlight. As a result of that, my name has some traction. But I don’t really fancy myself a celebrity. My day-to-day life is to come to an office and figure out how I can make my customers happy, how I can grow revenue, and how I can increase profitability.

Does the average person on the street still recognize you?

It happens every day. [Laughs] Every day. Some people came up to me in this Mexican restaurant the other day and said, “Oh, we really hope you’ll consider running for office in the future.” I said, “Thank you very much.” And then I went and ordered my tacos.

You hold five academic degrees, including a masters in computer science from Oxford and a PhD. in philosophy from the MIT Media Laboratory. So, what do you want to be when you grow up?

It makes for a great conversation piece, right? You can imagine people’s reactions. “What do you need five degrees for, dude?” You know, I’m still trying figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I imagine this is not the end of the road.

In your new book, you use the phrase “black faces in white places.” How does that reality affect the way you relate in the business world?

In the book, one of the things we talk about is the importance of being able to code switch, which is being able to adapt to different cultural realities and sensitivities. African-Americans have traditionally been required to code switch between what may be African-American culture and mainstream American culture, which are related but distinctly different. But in today’s society, code switching is something we all have to do, no matter what your background. In a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, global society, the ability for you to relate in the business world and other worlds is the ability to relate to folks in the Far East, folks in Europe, folks from America, folks from all over the globe.

Will Governor Christie’s policies make New Jersey a more welcoming environment for entrepreneurs?

Everything right now seems geared toward streamlining, cutting red tape, and creating a single point of contact for businesses. And I think that’s all very good….The area I think is not gaining the attention it deserves is how this will support entrepreneurs and small-business owners. It will certainly help big corporations relocating to New Jersey or maintaining operations in New Jersey or expanding in New Jersey….But what are we doing for minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and small-business owners to similarly make the environment more conducive for them?

Do you think that will be addressed in the future?

I don’t think that’s on the radar now. I think big business is on the radar, and I’m hoping that will change. Maybe the conversations around the other segments of the business community will emerge. Ninety-nine-point-seven percent of businesses in the country are small businesses. They create 75 percent of new jobs.

Looking ahead, what are your political aspirations?

At some point I anticipate I would likely move into the political arena. But for now I still have a lot of work to do as an entrepreneur. I can’t rule it out. Anything is possible.

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