Interview: Lenny Veltman: Living the American Dream
by Scott Juba
Published: June 15, 2006
Being selected as one of the candidates on Donald Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice, would be the high point in the careers of some people. For Lenny Veltman, it is just one of the many successes he’s had since moving to the U.S. from Russia 13 years ago.
“I’ve done everything from scratch,” Veltman tells me. “Nobody gave it to me. I did it from scratch, from zero – especially when I came to this country. Over in Russia, I had my business over there. I had a nice life, but life was dangerous. I didn’t want to take any chances. I ran away from that country for the safety of my family.”
When Veltman arrived in the U.S. with his family, he says he spoke no English and had only one hundred and five dollars with him. Instead of taking English courses to learn the language, he relied on his everyday interactions with people, watching television and reading books to teach himself English. “I had no friends, no family, no support – nobody,” he recalls. “And I had a little baby on my hands.”
Despite the uphill battle facing him, in only two years, Veltman worked his way from being a janitor to a stockbroker with a Series 7 license. Now he runs his own medical trading company. Veltman credits determination as being the key to his success. “I was determined, and I was obligated on the part of my family,” he says. “I couldn’t drop them off. I brought my family with me – my wife and my child. I said, ‘I’ll make it.’ When you’re determined and you believe in yourself, those two things usually equate to success.”
Veltman’s impressive credentials landed him a spot on last season’s installment of The Apprentice. During his time on the show, he formed a close bond with eventual runner-up Lee Bienstock. Veltman says he was disappointed Bienstock wasn’t selected to be Donald Trump’s next apprentice. “I have a huge intuition for people,” he says. “I have a good eye for people. I saw Lee right away at the airport. He was a real guy. I knew he was the real deal.”
Aside from building a solid friendship with Bienstock, Veltman says his appearance on The Apprentice has turned him into a minor celebrity when he’s out in public. “I get asked about the show on every corner,” he says. “I can’t even imagine how many people were watching the show. I can’t believe it. It’s great.”
What advice does he have for the group of candidates that will vie to be Donald Trump’s apprentice next season? “Be yourself,” Veltman says. “Do not pretend. Trump hates when people are acting.” Veltman goes on to say, “Trump loves honesty and loyalty.”
During his time on the show, Veltman was affectionately referred to as “The Russian.” Unfortunately, Veltman says he finds that some people interpret his accent in a way that makes them underestimate his intelligence. “If I speak with an accent and my English is not that great, it doesn’t mean I’m dumb,” he comments.
He adds, “I never pretend to be the best-speaking English person in the world. My Russian is great. When I talk in Russian, everybody is quiet usually. Trust me, no one speaks better than me in Russian.”
After having a conversation with Veltman, one thing is clear. No matter what language he speaks, he is an intelligent and motivated individual with a track record of success. That speaks for itself.