Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Review of The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump

These days Donald Trump is known more for his reality television show The Apprentice, where he growls the phrase, "You're fired!" to losing contestants on a weekly basis than for anything else. Many young people who tune into the show are aware that Trump is fabulously wealthy, but they may not know how he acquired that wealth in the first place. Those who are at least in their thirties and have followed business news over the last decade or so know full well that Trump made the bulk of his money through highly successful real estate transactions throughout the 1980s. This is the time period that his book The Art of the Deal addresses.

The Art of the Deal sounds like it might be a how-to manual that will show readers how to work their way through any real estate deals they may be involved in. That's not exactly the case, however. The book is actually more of an autobiography than a business manual even though Trump's business deals are the focus of most of the chapters. Personally, I found that this approach worked very well and probably won't put off too many readers. After all, if someone is choosing to read a book about Donald Trump, they are likely to be at least little bit interested in his personal life and not just his big business deals.

The book starts out by giving the reader some insight into a typical week in Trump's life. This mainly consists of fielding phone calls, setting up meetings, attending said meetings, and things that you would normally expect a powerful business person to have to do at work. Even though there wasn't really anything out of the ordinary here, it was still a great way to open the book. We get right into the action, so to speak, and our first impression of Trump is that he knows what he's doing and that he's definitely the one in charge. A great feature about this book is that at the end, we actually get a chapter telling us how those opening week deals turned out for Trump.

The Art of the Deal contains a lot of insight from Trump regarding the kinds of things he looks for, both in people and in situations, that will tell him if a deal is worth pursuing or not. For him, the criteria is pretty straightforward. If he can make a significant amount of money on the deal, he's in. If the risks are too high or if the rewards aren't high enough, he passes and moves on to the next opportunity. This is of course a rather simplified version of what Trump actually does. After all, if successful real estate deals were that easy to pull off, I'd be a millionaire by now!

Being from Chicago, I wasn't very familiar with the properties that Trump talks about. Most of his deals took place in New York and Florida, and he describes them as though he were discussing the matter with locals who would know exactly what he meant without too many explanatory sentences. This certainly wasn't the case for me, so I was a bit lost as to the historical significance and value of some of the buildings named in the book.

I thought the parts covering Trump's younger years weren't as interesting as the business side of things, but they provide a nice change of pace from all the real estate talk and give the reader a bit of insight into how and why Trump became so driven to succeed.

The Art of the Deal was co-written by Tony Schwartz, so there is a pretty polished feel to the whole work. It flows pretty well, and the writers do a good job of keeping the readers interested throughout the entire thing.

If you want to read the behind-the-scenes details of how Trump's largest real estate deals from the 1980s were thought up, negotiated, and closed, then The Art of the Deal is definitely the book for you. It's a quick read, and many up-and-coming students of business have found it to be quite inspiring. Check it out for yourself and see a side of Donald Trump that most Apprentice viewers are not familiar with.

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