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Would Donald Trump Make a Good Business Partner?

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).

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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:

In Conclusion

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.

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