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Donald Trump - Firing's High Priest




Excerpted from
Fired Up! : How the Best of the Best Survived and Thrived After Getting the Boot
By Harvey Mackay

It wasn't until Super Bowl XXVI weekend in Minneapolis in 1992 that I actually met Donald Trump. I had heard of him long before that. And I had actually heard from him in 1988. That's when my first book, Swim with the Sharks, made its appearance. His book, The Art of the Deal, appeared earlier in the fall of 1987. Sifting through my mail one day in 1988, I happened upon a beautiful congratulatory letter on Sharks. It was from Donald. Here am I, a little envelope peddler in the flyover state of Minnesota who goes through his mail and finds a letter from Donald Trump to say he had read my book. I actually put it in my pocket and couldn't stop reading it for two weeks because I couldn't believe it was for real. Donald Trump was already a legend, and his praise was a high-octane jolt.

Four years later in 1992, things didn't have exactly the same slant. In the early 1990s, Trump was in the red. Not millions. But billions. He had guaranteed almost SI billion in loans. Personally. At the time, the Gulf War had KO'd his tourism business, his former wife was suing him for a couple of billion bucks, and the Atlantic City casinos he had built were floundering. On the Saturday before the Super Bowl that matched the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills, my friend Larry King and I met with Donald Trump in Donald's suite in the Radisson Hotel. It was a casual breakfast. And there was no reason on God's green earth for Donald Trump to explain what he had on his mind to me, this little envelope entrepreneur in Minnesota.

"Harvey, news of my demise is greatly exaggerated," he said with no little passion. "Let me tell you that every single one of these articles will be proven wrong. The newspapers and the magazines will regret the fact they ever printed them. You just watch my comeback." Then he took an envelope out of his pocket and drew out the business plan for his turnaround. How exciting for him to do that! How exciting for an envelope guy that he did it on the back of an envelope!

Although he was never in his life actually fired from any job, Donald Trump experienced far worse. The financial community and the press pulverized him. This was an enormous setback. Yet, even in the darkest moments, the electricity flashed and flickered around him like a trillion fireflies. The next day, during half time of the game, Larry King and I were sitting in my suite at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Donald promised to drop by. He was watching the game at exactly the other end of the stadium. Through my binoculars, I witnessed an unforgettable sight. As Donald Trump walked through the aisles, people rose, peered, and pressed to see him. To get close to him. Never had I seen a crowd react this way. This guy made interpersonal magic, magic like Merlin the Wizard could only dream of. I have never seen anything like it before or since. He was the real half time show of 1992 ... in those tame days, when no part of Janet Jacksons anatomy was anywhere to be found.

How many billions does Donald Trump now have? More than dreams of avarice. He's certainly on that list of the top one hundred in the United States. In his book Trump: The Art of the Comeback, he chronicled perhaps the greatest personal rebound in financial history. Then he went on to share what he knew. In 2004, he launched an NBC reality-TV series called The Apprentice. It became the number-one-rated television show. Over fifteen weeks, sixteen contestants (drawn from 215,000 applications) pressed themselves to the max. The payoff : the one survivor would earn a $250,000 paycheck and the presidency of a Trump corporate division. One person would win. Fifteen folks got fired. Overnight the show positioned Donald Trump as the most perceptive and successful authority on the hiring and firing of talent in business.

Who better to ask advice of than the man who made famous the phrase "You're fired"?

Having a phone chat with Donald Trump is a little like a high-speed chase in a Bruce Willis movie. You put the questions fast, and he nails the answers even faster. If you can't keep up, you're fired!

Donald, what are the things you look for when you must decide if you will fire someone?

"First, I look for their level of energy. Next comes competence. Are they prone to making mistakes? Have they been making minor or major mistakes? Can they recover from those mistakes? Everyone is entitled to make mistakes, but you want people who make recoverable mistakes. Can you learn from them or are they very destructive? Then comes brainpower. A lot of times, you hire someone who you drink is very smart, and then you learn that person isn't very smart at all. Energy level, drive, competence, and brainpower. Harvey, does anybody give you an answer like that so quickly?"

Donald, the amazing thing is that nobody gives me a really commanding answer so quickly. How different are the firing criteria you use in real life from the ones you used in the TV show The Apprentice?

"Same criteria. I use the measures I just mentioned. I also evaluate personality. Sadly, even looks are important. It's not a question of good-looking or bad-looking. Some people just can't get through the front door because they're stupid in the way they dress. It's not a question of money. They could spend less money and still dress better. ... Are they home run hitters? Are they singles hitters? Harvey, the criteria will never change. Intelligence ... drive... stamina. They never have in millions of years and they never will."



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