Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Feature Book Review: Trump: The Art of the Deal: by Donald J. Trump トランプ自伝―不動産王にビジネスを学ぶ:ドナルド・J. トランプ

Back in 1985, Donald J.Trump was starting to make a name for himself in Real Estate. His first big project was the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, in front of Grand Central station on 42nd Street. He explains how a nobody can get started. What it takes to look for, recognize, focus on and execute a major project in Real Estate. The style is very clear, easy to read, and is all based on facts. The problems he faces are overcome with creativity and a laser beam focus on detail. The business and economic big picture overview is explained logically and is easy to follow. This was not the book I was expecting. It was a positive surprise.

He is not going off topic in this book. He explains what he does in a typical day. Who he meets, where he goes, who he speaks to, what he does in different situations, and why he takes those actions. It is really is a kind of solid business overview for any real estate "apprentice" manual for anyone who really wants to do deals. He clearly explains to the reader how he takes action, and why every move can be important in the business. Again, the lack of hype compared to what I expected, was just not there. If you wanted to know how to be a stockbroker in 1987, you could have watched "Wall Street" to get a real feel for the equity business. This book is also from 1987, and gives you a similar exposure, but for New York real estate.

Are there political views? Absolutely, but 30 years ago, Donald J.Trump had a different mentality. He was still building his business and making his mark. He explains his views more in how he has to deal with politicians, in order to get his deals done. They can be a help or a hinderance in most cases. That is the kind of overview we get from this book on politics. He certainly tries to have views on what is best for the New York economy, but there is no hint about any presidential policy views that come only later in life. A clear agenda for his goal to be president, is not in this book. That comes out later on in his career, in other books. This was just his business debut book. Presidential ambitions followed in written form only years later. 

If not politics, what does the book focus on? Deals of course. Big high profile deals. How they started, how they got in trouble, how they were overcome, and how difficult it was to get done. Donald makes it very clear that almost nothing he does is ever easy or quick. He starts by buying a failing near bankrupt Commodore hotel and turns it into the Grand Hyatt. He finds a way to get the Bonwit Teller department store site again after tough times fall on the parent. However, this is over 3 years after starting a process that got nowhere fast in the beginning. Later on the innovation he saw for Trump Tower and the local pushback were high. He does a public service when he helps build the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park. Lastly, he describes the difficulties with Television city on the West side of Manhattan. 

If there is a common thread with other billionaires, it is persistence. There is also a sense of what hard work means. For most, working hard means exchanging one's time, labour, for income. The more you work, the more you earn. In the entrepreneur's mindset, hard work is about leveraging one's time into deals now and deals in future. If you approach 10 people on every deal, and do 10 deals a year, that is 100 people, and 1000 people over 10 years. If you close one deal, that can mean 99-999 people remember you for a follow up deal that may come about later on. If one or 2 deals follow up like this, you realise quickly, that you are planting seeds for future deals every time you do business. The more seeds you plant by trying, the more chances you have of getting a deal done later on. The harder you work, the luckier you get. That seems to be the biggest message in the book. Every meeting and every deal today could lead to one or more deals with the same people in future. Never burn a bridge as you never know where things can lead. Again, not a message I expected to read about from Donald Trump.

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) There is a lot to learn about real estate in any market. There are basic rules on transactions, building regulations, customer or client tastes and many other details that must be learned. There are no shortcuts to success.

2) The economics of real estate must be respected. Loans, planning vision and approach can all make a single deal profitable or not. Every challenge can often be overcome, but never expect an answer to be easy or quick. Any buyer's or seller's motivations need to be deeply understood.

3) Input from a great education, early exposure to the business and intelligence do not make a successful dealmaker. Hard work, quality experience and persistence from colleagues are ultimately what really counts. You never get lucky long term. Only the toughest get deals done, male or female, gay or straight, whatever your religion.

What insight on business from this future billionaire can be found in this book? Well, what you actually read about seems to contrast with the person today. The basic lessons learned here are study the facts, be prepared, focus on clear and realistic goals, be flexible, and make sure the other side listens to your positive constructive message. Trump tries to focus on win win for both sides whenever he can. That seems to be the true "Art of the Deal". This book was a pleasant surprise, and not at all what I was expecting. A very thought provoking book, highly recommended!

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