Donald Trump was elected President based in part on his promise to put his negotiation and deal-making skills to work on behalf of the American people. How good are his skills, based on the experts’ proven research? And how effectively will he put them into practice in a presidential environment versus the business environment in which he negotiated for almost 50 years?
These questions motivated me after his election to find out. So I did. The result? The forthcoming publication of my book The Real Trump Deal: An Eye-Opening Look at How He Really Negotiates (www.RealTrumpDeal.com, available now on Amazon).
In my next few columns, I will share some of my conclusions based on my analysis of over 100 Trump negotiations. Amazingly, we know what happened as Trump has publicly written and spoken about them as have many of his colleagues and counterparts (including many under oath, as Trump has been involved in over 4,000 litigation matters prior to running for president).
Before I do, however, a preliminary note. My goal here is not to support or defend Trump, or to delve into the politically polarizing nature of his presidency. It is, instead, to help us learn from the strategies and tactics of the President of the United States, the most powerful negotiator alive today. After all, nothing may have a more direct impact on the safety, security and prosperity of the world than Donald Trump’s negotiation skills.
So, what can we learn from Trump based on his 40 plus year negotiation history? Here are two negotiation lessons.
1. Extremely Aggressive Goals and Expectations Can Pay Off
Donald Trump bought the rights to the premier piece of 5th Ave land on which he built Trump Tower for no money down. He also sought – and received – an unprecedented 99-year tax abatement for his first major New York City deal, the redevelopment of the Commodore Hotel across from Grand Central Station (now the Grand Hyatt).
Throughout his business career, which had incredible highs and lows, he almost always envisioned and promoted tremendous success for himself and his brand.
And in perhaps the ultimate in aggressive goal-setting, he ran for President – and despite the predictions of almost every political expert and pundit – he won.
We can learn from this. The lesson? Don’t be afraid to go for your dreams. And if you fail along the way, which Trump did in business in the late 1980s, pick yourself up and go for it again. Learn from it. Don’t let failure stop you.
2. Do Your Strategic Homework and Preparation
Donald Trump went on a spending spree in the mid- to late-1980s and overpaid by tens of millions of dollars for such high-profile assets as New York City’s Plaza Hotel and the Eastern Air Shuttle (which he renamed the Trump Shuttle). We know this as he himself largely admitted it, noting that it’s tough to focus on the market and economics when buying business works of art he called “Mona Lisas.”
This in part led to a situation in 1990 where he owed $3.2 billion, had personally guaranteed $833.5 million of it, and was assessed by an independent financial expert to be worth a minus $295 million.
How did this happen? He stopped doing his homework and detailed preparation on these deals and lost the focused discipline that had been a hallmark of his early success.
This proved financially devastating.
Latz’s Lesson: Super aggressive goals. Detailed preparation and homework. You need both to achieve negotiation success.