Taking Business Advice From Donald Trump


Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life

I found the Donald Trump book ‘Think Big: Make it Happen in Business and Life’ in the Elliotts library and I thought it was worth another look at some of the advice he offers. There were a few gems in there:

“Learn how to manage your mind. Do not let a situation lure you into thinking negatively, sometimes you will fail, but you will learn for the next time.”

This is about thinking positively. That’s not always easy because, as someone once said: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the initial objective was to drain the swamp.” Napoleon Hill, in his seminal book, ‘Think and grow rich’ was the first person to write about the concept of an optimistic disposition attracting positive change and increasing achievement. Worth reading, if dated.

I think a positive mental attitude might be needed in the next few years leading to Brexit. Many of the comments I’ve heard recently remind me of conversations I had with chief executives in spring 2008, when banks stopped lending to operators. I hope they are not a portent of really tough times to come. Unrelenting optimism though, particularly in the face of adversity, has worked for many operators over the years – just as it has for Mr Trump, and it might just pay off for him.

“When I talk about success I always start off with one topic and the rest sort of flows, and the topic is: you have to love what you do.”

No doubt Trump’s victory was partly due to his single-minded communication of his love for America and his promise to ‘make America great again’.

This focus really resonated with those who feel disenfranchised by the current political system (read Chris Arnade’s brilliantly illuminating article in The Guardian on the subject).

Regardless of the negative press, Mr Trump’s comment “you have to love what you do” is so true. I cannot think of one successful operator that hasn’t loved what it does. On the whole, operators love bringing people on, developing them, seeing customers enjoying themselves and they love growth. It cannot be faked. Success follows.

“Make a commitment to do something big, and you will find a way to do it. I do not mean a vague promise to do something sometime. I mean a legal agreement that puts your feet to the fire.”

This too I can buy into. Such confidence can be compelling and unifying. Businesses that say they are going to double in size, or treble their like-for-like performance or gain millions of pounds of funding can, and do, inspire their own people and outside investors. These goals can provide true inspiration.

However, legal agreements that ‘put feet to fires’ due to their scale and ambition – I don’t really think so, and particularly not now. Considered proven growth can be fun. Bankruptcy, pre-pack, or administration due to over ambition is not.

“A good golf tip, just try and swing nice and easy and pretend it doesn’t matter. That’s true in life, by the way.”

There is an argument that if it’s all too hard and it isn’t coming naturally, then maybe it’s just not right. It could be running the operation, it could be one property that’s proving impossible to acquire, it could be one employee who just isn’t working out or it could be one site that’s not successful. Sometimes you just have to walk away.

“Going with your instincts takes some practice.”

He is right. In today’s market though, there is no reason not to find support for an instinct-based decision, particularly relating to customer-facing issues. Using intuition supported by data must be the best way to go. I suspect Mr Trump has used both to appeal to the everyday American in this election.


Some wise words from Mr Trump; he wouldn’t have been my choice, but let’s see what happens. After all, building a wall blockading Mexico is hardly in the spirit of free movement, something our industry thrives on.


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