Let’s get this out of the way first: this is neither an endorsement nor an attack on presidential candidate Donald Trump. I am NOT trying to weigh in on Mr. Trump’s political savvy nor am I trying to weigh in on whether he should be this country’s next president. Please accept my apologies ahead of time to die-hard Trump fans. Keep in mind that there is no comparison to Mrs. Clinton here, given that Mrs. Clinton is a career politician, not a business leader. What I am trying to do, is take advantage of the overwhelming data regarding Mr. Trump to write an article on business practices.
Would Donald Trump Make a Good Business Partner?
It has been a tumultuous presidential race, where An Ugly Campaign, Condensed Into One Debate is possible. I think it’s fair to look at Donald Trump from a business perspective and ask the question; “Should you do business with Donald Trump, if given the opportunity?”
The short answer is: Absolutely Not!
Before I begin, please understand that, in my view, Mr. Trump is a perfect subject for an analysis for small business leaders. He is, by his own admissions, a very successful business man. There is no shortage of third-party analysis of Mr. Trump (I’ll get to that later). Finally Mr. Trump commands considerable appeal to a good deal of Americans (and personality is a huge factor among business leaders and doing deals).
Why Is Your Lawyer Discussing Donald Trump?
The reason I think this analysis is important, is because a significant portion of this law firm’s revenue comes from dispute resolution. We frequently defend our clients in lawsuits, help them pick up the pieces after a deal has gone horribly wrong, help them collect a significant debt or damages after a partner has devastated a business, etc, etc, etc. In my humble opinion, many of our client’s problems could have been avoided, if (1) they put a very strong contract in place to consummate a deal or partnership, and (2) they were a bit more careful or selective in who they were partnering with.
As it relates to selecting a business partner, I strongly believe that positive personality traits can strongly influence the success of any business deal. Honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, ability to see things through, thick skin, tactfulness and empathy are all important traits in a business partner. Using animal analogies, do you partner with a tiger or a wolf? Both are successful hunters in the wild, but only the wolf is a cooperative player that works as part of a team for the greater benefit of the group. The tiger only hunts for itself. Is Mr. Trump a tiger or a wolf?
The problem is, it’s very difficult to evaluate such traits in a potential partner in the short-term. You cannot interview for these traits. A lunch, dinner or round of golf isn’t enough to suss out such personality traits. You must look at a partner’s history to evaluate these characteristics:
- Do they leave a trail of lawsuits and litigation in their wake?
- Do they use “I” versus “We” in boasting about past success?
- Are they kind or tactful when referring to past business partners, deals or relationships, especially those that may not have ended well?
- Do they pay their debts?
- Have they declared bankruptcy before, and if so, how many times and under what circumstances?
- Are they quick to blame and/or anger? Are they capable of accepting responsibility when things go south?
- Will they take the high-road, even when the low-road offers greater rewards?
Just think about getting stuck in an important business relationship with someone who displays the aforementioned traits. In my opinion, you would be far better off with a business partner who’s personality doesn’t cause these issues. It seems Mr. Trump can be viewed as a tiger.
Don’t Form Business Partnerships with Tigers
Partnering or forming deals with someone exhibiting similar traits as Mr. Trump, could become risky for your business. When you are confronted with important deals and/or partnership opportunities, your overall success depends on a strong contract and ensuring you’re partnering with the right personality. Seek to partner with wolves, not tigers. Consider:
- Mr. Trump appears to leave a wake of lawsuits in his path. See Donald Trump: Three decades, 4,056 lawsuits.
- It appears most politicians like to brag about themselves, and therefore their “I versus We” ratio is strongly skewed towards “I”. See Sachs Media Group – Presidential Word Analysis. But, review Mr. Trump’s twitter posts and this article entitled, 21 Donald Trump Quotes to Inspire Your Success, and draw your own conclusions.
- Trump bankruptcies are well documented. Read Politifact’s Yep, Donald Trump’s companies have declared bankruptcy…more than four times and Newsweek’s article entitled, Donald Trump’s Many Business Failures, Explained.
- Many in the press feel Mr. Trump has a rather “thin skin,” who attacks those he feels have slighted him. I understand how polarized some feel about “media bias,” so please find sources you trust and read up by Googling Trump Thin Skin and draw your own conclusions. Also, you can find interesting articles by Googling is Trump quick to anger.
- Controversy does not make for the best business relationship. Mr. Trump has no shortage of controversy. For example, attacking the election system as “rigged,” without any credible facts, support or documentation of any kind is a dangerous tactic. See Vanity Fair’s article entitled, The Truth Behind Trump’s Rigged Election Paranoia, Politifact’s Donald Trump’s baseless claims about the election being ‘rigged’, and Donald Trump, a ‘Rigged’ Election and the Politics of Race. I wholeheartedly admit this is only one example of a “controversial” tactic, and therefore not conclusive evidence that Mr. Trump will not take “high roads” when possible. There are other examples of “low road” behavior, however, if you research it. Read articles about how Trump criticizes dissent or attacks beauty pageant contestants for gaining weight, the latter providing no tactical or strategic benefit I can perceive. Again, I am not addressing Mr. Trump’s ability to be President of the United States, only trying to make the case that Mr. Trump would make a very risky business partner, especially for a small business, given these examples and traits he appears to exhibit.
- Finally, is Mr. Trump a narcissist? Narcissim does not bode well for a business relationship. Read The Mind of Donald Trump, Is Donald Trump a textbook narcissist?, and We should stop calling Trump a narcissist. Many successful business leaders are narcissists, but not without a slew of issues: “They listen only for the kind of information they seek. They don’t learn easily from others. They don’t like to teach but prefer to indoctrinate and make speeches. They dominate meetings with subordinates.” See Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons. They are sensitive to criticism, poor listeners, lack empathy, distaste mentoring, and have an intense desire to compete. They possess numerous qualities that may make it difficult for joint or equal partnerships. Read 7 Things Only Narcissists Do In Business by Forbes. If you can figure out your potential business partner is a narcissist, ask yourself, can you manage such a personality?
Maybe Mr. Trump can be a strong President. Clearly he is a very successful businessman. It appears to me, however, that Mr. Trump’s success as a businessman is the success of a tiger. If I had the opportunity to do business with Mr. Trump, I guess my answer would depend on whether I think I could reap some reward or advantage in a relationship with a tiger. In most instances, I cannot foresee doing business with such a personality without getting bitten or eaten in the process.
Whether you are voting for Mr. Trump or not, use this election as an important lesson: if you can learn to avoid such personalities in your business dealings, and instead find business partners and deals involving people with opposite traits (as I’ve indicated above), you’ve decreased the odds of the relationship ending badly.