The Management Practices of Business Billionaires
One way of considering how to effectively manage a business is to consider what successful managers do. This can be achieved by reading business books written by successful managers. Who better to consider than two men who have become billionaires? This paper will consider the business books written by Donald J. Trump and Richard Branson. A consideration of their books will show their management practices, with this offering insight into what it takes to be a successful manager.
In Trump: How to Get Rich, Donald J. Trump reveals the secrets to his success in the business world. The book offers advice on business aimed at anyone interested in achieving the same kind of financial and business success that Trump achieved. The book also offers insight into Trump’s experience of managing an organization with over 20,000 employees. The book is organized as a series of instructions or statements of advice, with each piece of advice backed up by examples from Trump’s own experience. The book is also divided into several parts. The first part is titled “The Donald J. Trump School of Business and Management” and focuses on business advice. The second part is titled “Your Personal Apprenticeship” and focuses on career advice. The third part is titled “Money, Money, Money, Money” and offers financial advice. The fourth part is titled “The Secrets of Negotiation” and deals with negotiation and deal-making. The fifth part is titled “The Trump Lifestyle” and provides an insight into the life of a millionaire. The final part is titled “Inside The Apprentice” and provides information on Trump’s hit television show. The first part is the major one that provides information on Trump’s management practices, while “Your Personal Apprenticeship” and “The Secrets of Negotiation” also contains some information related to management practices.
One aspect of Trump’s management practices that is revealed in part one relates to his focus on employing the right people. Trump starts by stating that he only works with the best. Trump goes on to say that “if you are careful when finding employees, management becomes a lot easier” (Trump 3). In regards to managing employees, Trump’s strategy is based on employing good workers and employees he can trust. At the same time, Trump recognizes that the organization also has a responsibility to its employees. As he states, “Your employees’ lives, to a large extent, are dependent on you and your decisions” (Trump 3). This awareness of what the organization expects from employees combined with what employees deserve from the organization shows that Trump recognizes that the organization-employee relationship is a partnership. The organization may be the more powerful in the partnership, but the recognition that the organization has responsibilities to its employees remains. Trump summarizes the partnership where he states that “Good people equals good management and good management equals good people” (Trump 4).
Part one of the book also shows that Trump’s management practices are based on recognizing the value of employees. This includes considering people individually. Trump (29) advises to “manage the person, not the job.” This refers to considering the best way of motivating each individual. Trump also shows that he views motivation as being based more on inspiring people to work, than using power to scare people into working. As he states, “your power as a leader should be used in the most positive way, which sometimes calls for a great deal of restraint as well as patience” (Trump 30). Trump’s focus on people as an important resource also includes recognizing the potential that people have. Trump refers to recognizing hidden potential as an important task for the leader. Trump (25) also notes that “most people don’t want to stagnate” and describes how recognizing and encouraging talent allows a company to move forward. This shows how Trump’s management practices are based on a strong awareness of the value of people, with a major part of management involving leading, motivating, and inspiring employees.
A similar recognition of the value of employees is seen where Trump advises managers to make themselves accessible to employees, stating that managers who do not will miss out on a lot of good ideas. This shows that Trump does not consider that information and ideas should only flow down the hierarchy, but also considers that valuable information can flow up the hierarchy.
In “Your Personal Apprenticeship” Trump reveals that his approach to business is based on finding the balance between managing risk and remaining optimistic. Trump (56) states his advice telling people to “Be optimistic, but always be prepared for the worst.” In describing why this advice is important, Trump notes that there will always be ups and downs. A strategy that aims to completely prevent losses would not be possible, since it means that no action would be taken. For Trump, the key is to be prepared for the losses. Trump goes on to describe the difference between being cautious and being pessimistic, describing the best approach as involving “positive thinking with a lot of reality checks” (Trump 57). Another aspect of Trump’s management practices is described in the chapter titled “Change Your Altitude.” In this chapter, Trump compares to the altitude of one’s attitude, stating that “having a high frequency will attune you to a wavelength that exudes confidence and clear-sighted enthusiasm” (Trump 70). Trump goes on to describe his high frequency altitude as being one where he is able to let go of negativity and replace it with positivity. This belief in the difference that attitude makes shows a strong component of Trump’s leadership and management style. He is able to lead his organization strongly by inspiring others with his positivity. This is also referred to in part one, where Trump describes how being excited about what you are doing inspires people. His positivity also impacts the way he manages his business because he operates without fear, while always remaining aware of the positive possibilities. This makes it possible to take a considered chance that has the possibility of success, while not being held back by the possibility of failure. This shows that Trump’s management practices are not based on eliminating risk entirely, but about recognizing risk and preparing for the possibility of the potential problems.
Trump’s chapter titled “The Secrets of Negotiation” also reveals information on Trump’s management practices. One of the first points Trump makes is that negotiation is about persuasion, not power. In saying this, Trump notes that a negotiation is not about making a person give you what you want. Instead, it is about making them want to give you what they want. As Trump (116) states, “You want people to accept your ideas, not merely be resigned to them because they think that can’t fight back or are just plain exhausted by you.” This information shows that Trump’s management practices have a focus on considering other people and attempting to make negotiations positive for both parties. At the same time, Trump (117) does note that “sometimes a negotiation works best after a few screams and some table pounding.” Even with this level of conflict, Trump goes on to describe conflict as an opportunity. This shows management practices based on achieving the desired outcome, but also with consideration of the other side and a focus on gaining an outcome that is suitable for both sides.
A second book that offers insight into the business practices of a successful manager is Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity. The book is Branson’s autobiography and describes his business ventures from 1967 through to 1993. This includes launching Virgin Records, entering the airline business with Virgin Atlantic, taking on the giants of the soft drink industry by starting Virgin Cola, and introducing music retail stores with Virgin Megastores. While describing his own life in business, Branson reveals a lot about his management practices.
Like Donald J. Trump, Branson’s management practices shows a strong focus on valuing employees. As Branson (353) states,
Convention dictates that a company look after its shareholders first, its customers next, and last of all worry about its employees. Virgin does the opposite. For us, our employees matter most.
Branson goes on to states that a happy and motivated workforce results in happy customers. In turn, this results in happy shareholders. This shows that Branson’s approach is based on focusing on what he controls, which is the internal happening of the organization. Therefore, while shareholders are a consideration, Branson does not have any direct ability to influence shareholders. However, Branson does have direct influence over employees. Like Trump, Branson shows that he has an awareness that the organization has a responsibility to employees. Branson also makes employees one of his first priorities. This shows that management practice is based on viewing the organization-employee relationship as a partnership. The idea is that if the organization is good to employees, employees will be good to the organization.
Another key part of Branson’s management practices is based on limiting the size of the organization. As Branson (353) states, “every time one of our ventures gets too big, we divide it up into smaller units.” Branson describes how limiting the size allowed each organization to focus on its unique goals. It also made each organization manageable. In addition, the individuals that were part of the larger organization and then became directors of the new company were motivated by their sudden promotion.
The book also reveals that a major part of Branson’s management is based on recognizing the value of the Virgin brand. Branson considers this the organization’s primary asset and works both to enhance it and protect it. This includes Branson’s description of how his various business activities have also been focused partly on promoting the individual product, but also on promoting the Virgin brand. According to Branson, it is the brand that provides value to the company and allows it to succeed, while this advantage is also something that other organizations cannot simply replicate. This illustrates that Branson’s management strategy is based on a large-scale view where the overall value of the company is not dependent on the individual products and services that make up the company. This allows Virgin to operate as a diverse group of product and service offerings, with the link between them being the common brand name.
The management practices of Donald J. Trump and Richard Branson have now been described, based on a consideration of the business books they wrote. Considering that both Trump and Branson are successful business billionaires, it is suggested that their approach to management offers useful insights into what it takes to be a successful manager.
Branson, R. Losing My Virginity. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Trump, D.J. Trump: How to Get Rich. New York: Random House, 2004.