Bill Rancic’s entrepreneurial beginning led him to opportunities in television, books and public speaking.
Yet Rancic, the first winner of Donald Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice,” still considers himself an entrepreneur at heart.
“That’s kind of the blood that runs through my veins,” says Rancic, who will speak to Club Industry conference attendees at 10 a.m. on Oct. 8 in Chicago.
Since winning “The Apprentice,” Rancic has added several TV shows to his resume. He is the co-star of the reality show “Giuliana and Bill” on the Style network, a show that chronicles the lives of Rancic and his wife, Giuliana Rancic, who is an E! TV host. In addition to that show, Rancic produces and stars in the A&E TV series “We Mean Business” and is the executive producer of “Repo Man,” which will begin airing on The Discovery Channel in the next few months.
Rancic also has written two books, The New York Times best seller “You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life” and the follow-up “Beyond the Lemonade Stand.” The Rancics have collaborated on a new book titled “I Love You…Now What?” that is scheduled for release this month.
Rancic began his business career at the age of 23 when he started an Internet-based company called Cigars Around the World out of his 400-square-foot apartment in Chicago. The success of that company got the attention of the producers of “The Apprentice,” who chose Rancic from a pool of 250,000 applicants as one of 16 contestants to appear on the NBC show in 2004.
Landing the show changed Rancic’s career. Winning “The Apprentice” changed his life.
“I think every entrepreneur is always looking to seize opportunities,” says Rancic, 39. “With ‘The Apprentice,’ it was an opportunity, and it was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up. It was an opportunity for me to learn, not just about real-estate development and what businesses are like at that level, but I learned a lot about television, and I learned about promoting. It was probably the most incredible education I could have ever received because I wouldn’t have learned that in a Harvard classroom or a Yale classroom. It would have taken me decades to learn that. I capitalized on the opportunity, and I was given some pretty incredible opportunities to participate in.”
Rancic knows he’ll always be associated with “The Apprentice.”
“I think that’s something that’s going to be with me forever, and it’s not a bad thing,” he says. “I’m OK [being] the first winner of ‘The Apprentice’ because it involved a lot of hard work and a little bit of ingenuity, and I think that first season was very popular. People saw something new in television.”
NEXT PAGE: RANCIC'S THOUGHTS ON BUSINESS AND DONALD TRUMP
Listen to a short podcast of part of the interview with Bill Rancic.
With the win on “The Apprentice” came a one-year, $250,000 job working on Trump’s staff overseeing construction of a hotel-and-condominium complex in Chicago. Rancic still keeps tabs with Trump and his company.
“I think I’m unofficially affiliated,” Rancic says. “One [year] turned into two, and two turned into three. I definitely was the only [winner] who stayed around more than the one year. They keep bringing me back season after season as a judge on the program. For me, it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy it, and I definitely find it very exciting to be a part of.”
Rancic calls Trump a friend, and that’s a good friend to have, especially since Rancic, like Trump, is a real-estate developer, focusing on commercial and residential areas in Chicago.
“The fact that he keeps having me back on the show is a testament to our relationship,” Rancic says. “We definitely get along great. He’s kind of a guy’s guy. He’s a guy you want to hang out with. What you see is what you get. He’s a hard-working guy. He expects people to work hard that are on his team. He gives you the same in return. He’s definitely a straight-up, very honorable person.”
As for his workout routine, Rancic belongs to several health clubs and works with personal trainers wherever he is. He’s on the road about a third of the time, mainly for public speaking engagements. When he’s not on the road, he’s either at his home in Chicago or with his wife at their other home in Los Angeles.
“We’re kind of like gym rats, as my wife likes to say,” Rancic says. “When I’m in New York, I’ve got a guy that works as a trainer at the Trump International. It’s great. We work out a lot on our own as well. We’re very disciplined when it comes to that. Every day, I exercise. I lift weights four to five days a week. We’re hiking. We’re snowboarding. We’re always doing something to keep us active.”
Rancic always was active as a kid, playing outside and riding his bike as much as he could. Today, he is on the board of the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, and one of his chief causes is childhood obesity.
“That’s something that’s very near and dear to me,” Rancic says. “These kids today, it’s amazing. I just went to my nephew’s eighth-grade graduation, and the number of kids crossing that stage who were grossly overweight was incredible. When I graduated from eighth grade, maybe we had one, maybe two kids that were significantly overweight. Here, it was 30 or 40 percent of that class. It just breaks my heart to see these kids aren’t getting out. They’re not exercising. They’re not moving around like we did when we were kids. They’re exercising their thumbs [with video games] and that’s it.”
Rancic’s keynote address, titled “You Don’t Have to Be Corporate to Think Like an Entrepreneur,” will get to the heart of his entrepreneurial spirit.
“When you’re in business, you have to be able to adjust with the times,” Rancic says. “We’re seeing that right now. For many people, working out and working with a personal trainer and having that as a luxury item, that’s the first thing that gets cut. So how do you adjust to that? How do you react so your numbers don’t go down? The ones who are successful are the ones who say, ‘Wait a minute. The world is changing around me. What am I going to do differently to adjust? How am I going to adjust my game plan to keep up with what’s happening?’ The people who aren’t successful are the ones who say, ‘This is the way I did it last year, and I’m going to do it the same way next year and the year after that and the year after that.’”
Rancic adds he is looking forward to meeting attendees at the show and learning about their businesses.
“As a business owner myself, you can’t be afraid to take chances,” Rancic says. “You can’t be afraid to break out of the comfort zone and try new things. I think so many people try to play it safe, and it’s very vanilla, and they never break from the pack. You’ve got to be willing to fall down a couple of times in order to get ahead of the game. That’s where I think a lot of these entrepreneurs screw up. You’ve got to be proactive rather than reactive. Make sure you’re proactive and you think like a chess player. You’re always anticipating next moves. When you do that, you’re always staying one step ahead of the game, and you’re able to focus on growing your business rather than just maintaining it.”