Understanding Donald Trump

Here is your big opportunity.

His critics don’t see it. Many Republicans are blind to it. Few in the media see it. Here is your chance to get a leg up on them. That is, to understand something about Donald Trump they don’t. Let us look at his recent meeting with big media guys.

Imagine you want to sell your products to a huge chain. You enter the office of the chain’s top buyer. To make it worse, imagine he comes from New York City.

Do you suppose he will welcome you with warmth? “So nice to meet you. I’ve heard good things about your products. I’m anxious to learn more.”

Nah. Double nah.

Instead, he will pin your ears to the wall. “I’m not impressed with what I’ve heard. Your stuff is crap. Your prices way too high. Your deliveries are slow. Why should I spend my time with you?”

This is straight from the playbook of tough business negotiators. Especially those who grew up in the lower east side of the city. Step one: Intimidate the opponent. Muscle him onto defense. This gives you lots of breathing room later.

Trump recently invited a lot of big guys from big media to meet with him. They expected niceness. “Let’s forget bad relations we may have had during the campaign. I’m looking forward to good relations with all the networks and major newspapers.”

Nah. Instead he attacked them. Insulted them. Called them a pack of liars. Put them totally on the defensive. One wag suggested Trump buried the axe. In the backs of the major TV network news anchors.

In future, if they treat him poorly he’ll say “You haven’t changed. This is what I expect from you.” If they treat him well, they will get a pat on the back.

What does he do with Mexico? “We’ll build a wall and you’ll pay for it.” With NAFTA partners? With China? With the TransPacific trade pact? With illegal immigrants? The same. He threatens. He takes an extreme position. In order to put them on the defensive. To soften them up.

Does it work? Already he had the President of Mexico agree to meet him. Already he has Mexico and Canada offer to renegotiate parts of NAFTA.

He is a master of business negotiating. Do you realize how much of this he has had to do in his work? With tenants and prospective tenants. With construction companies. And architects. Partners. Lenders. Suppliers. Regulators. Unions. Zoning czars. City and state governments. And all of the above in various countries. Negotiating shrewdness is probably the single most important quality for a successful international developer.

There is a simple reason why his critics are blind to what he is doing. They have no experience in business. They have no experience in the type of bulldog negotiating he loves and mastered.

If you view him through the lenses of a Macy’s buyer you will see what he is up to. And you might look forward to how he deals with the challenges of his new office.

President Obama was a weak negotiator. This is why he refused to mix it up with Republicans in Congress. He gave away the farm in negotiations with Iran. Reagan knew how to negotiate. He made great progress with a Democrat-controlled House. He outmaneuvered Gorbachev. Clinton “tri-angulated” – a form of negotiating – with Gingrich Republicans. Bush the second negotiated poorly with a Republican Congress. They rolled over him with outrageous spending.

There is a good chance Trump will do well in negotiations with politicians here and abroad. Because of his experience and talents. Yes, many politicians are savvy in negotiating. Obama excluded. But negotiating in business is far different than negotiating in politics.

Trump may be in for some surprises from them. But they likely will face tactics, maneuvers and strategies from him that they have never seen before.

This ingredient alone – his negotiating style and abilities – will make for a fascinating administration. Keep an eye on his loudest critics. To see if they ever come to understand what he is doing. Right under their noses.

From Tom…as in Morgan.

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