The Art of the Deal was a very interesting book to read. Written way back in 1987, this book is a chronicle that is part autobiography and part extended essay on how to become a winning negotiator and business dealmaker.
Today, Donald Trump is often a controversial and sometimes polarizing figure in the media. But before there was all that, he was (is) a business man primarily in the real-estate space. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Donald throughout his career has been to some extent pretty successful at making money.
For this reason, it was very compelling to read the book and get his perspectives on business and deal making.
“I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.” – Donald Trump.
1: Reduce rigidity and structure.
Here, Donald talks about not having too much of a rigid schedule in life. To be entrepreneurial it’s important to not have too much structure in life. Not carrying a brief case and not scheduling too many meetings. Reducing the amount of rigidity and structure means it’s possible to see things develop that would have not otherwise.
“I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not schedule too many meetings. I live my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops” – Donald Trump.
2: Listen to your gut.
Do you know that sickening feeling or instinct you get when about to make a purchase or sign a deal that something is not right. The gut feeling. You should listen to that. More often than not, it’s right. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If something just doesn’t look right, then probably just let it go. No need forcing a deal through if you gut feeling tells you otherwise.
“One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know.” – Donald Trump.
3: Think BIG.
Before I even opened the first page to read, I could see this point coming from a mile away. Donald Trump definitely doesn’t seem like a person that thinks small. This book was clearly a referendum on that, and he held nothing back in espousing the “think big” mentality.
“I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. Most people think small, because most people are afraid of success, afraid of making decisions, afraid of winning. And that gives people like me a great advantage.” – Donald Trump.
4: Talk big but Deliver.
Of course, it’s no doubt that Donald clearly is a man that likes to think big and talk big too. But we are reminded in the book that any big talk needs to be backed up by actions and success.
“You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” – Donald Trump.
Anyone can come in and talk big about how they are going to build the biggest hotel or the best project. It will certainly draw people’s attention and press coverage. But if you consistently can’t deliver, people will rat you out and you would end up a loser.
“I could talk big for only so long. Eventually I had to prove – to the real estate community to the press, to my father – that I could deliver the goods”. – Donald Trump.
5: Controversy sells.
It’s common to hear things like…“Bad publicity is better than no publicity”. Maybe this is why Donald often comes off as a very controversial figure.
“One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better…The point is that if you are a little different, a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.” – Donald Trump.
This is one of those point to potentially take with a grain of salt.
“Controversy, in short, sells”. – Donald Trump.
6: Maximize the options.
In any situation, you never want to negotiate from a position of weakness. People who do so rarely win, or come out with the best possible option.
“I never get too attached to one deal or one approach…I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.” – Donald Trump.
In addition, it’s also important to use leverage.
“The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.” – Donald Trump.
7: Fight for what’s yours.
This point is as simple as it sounds. Fighting in this case probably has to do with principles more than anything else. If someone is screwing you up in a deal, you have few choices. One option is to play along. The other is to fight back.
“In most cases I’m very easy to get along with. I’m very good to people who are good to me. But when people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my general attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard.” – Donald Trump.
In the world of deal making, everyone wants the best for themselves, and sometimes it’s a zero sum game. And so, you have to fight for what is yours.
“I fight when I feek I’m getting screwed, even if it’s costly and difficult and risky.” – Donald Trump.
8: Find the person with power. Go to the top.
Imagine going into a restaurant to have dinner. You come in and dine. The experience was very bad, the room was dirty, food tasted bad, bathroom wasn’t clean and the server was rude. Assume that you want to give feedback so that action can be taken to change the situation. You can either call the server that served you and try to discuss the problem with them. Or you can ask for the manager and discuss the issue with them. Discussing with the server wouldn’t really do much, because that is not who holds the power or can make decisions. The store manager usually does…and that’s where any deal making or negotiations should be made. In deal making, you need to find the person at the top, find the person with power and make the deals with them.
“If you’re going to make a deal of any significance, you have to go to the top.” – Donald Trump.
9: Be relentless.
More often than not, people start things and give up on the first sight of trouble. They don’t persist and ride through the storm. Lack of persistence and grit in any situation is a sure path to failure. Imagine starting school and on the first quiz in class you get a B grade instead of the A grade you expected. Does that mean you should drop that class or quit school? Absolutely not.
Instead, it means you should double down and maybe study harder than you did before. Successful people are relentless…they prepare and then persist in their ambition.
“I was relentless, even in the face of total lack of encouragement, because much more often than you’d think, sheer persistence is the difference between success and failure.” – Donald Trump.
10: Understand why.
Sometimes, it’s not always about the money.
“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.” – Donald Trump.
This book is definitely a recommended read if you are able to put your perception and biases towards Donald Trump behind, and just seek to understand the bits of business wisdom and nuggets he has to share. After all, one doesn’t get to be a billionaire (like Trump did) by being totally stupid.