The Trump 2012 Lesson for Startups: Leverage Your Influence


The media is asking and being asked by many: how has Donald Trump become a relevant name in the context of the 2012 Unites States Presidential race? The answer is: they have all been trumped (pardon the pun) by a proven entrepreneur leveraging his influence.

I expect some months ago, people in the corporate world close to Donald Trump started massaging The Apprentice host’s ego to the extent that they made him believe he was the best man to run the country. I have no doubt Trump believed he was, even before their assertions.

The White House would just be his next startup or his next acquisition, which he would need to drag out of debt and put onto a path of prosperity. For Trump… this seemed simple and an option worth exploring.

As a property and media tycoon, Trump has made thousands of deals throughout his career and even written about the art of it in several best-selling books. These deals have perfected, among other things, his poker face, which stayed steady when he was under attack from President Barack Obama and comedian Seth Meyers from the stage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner over the weekend.

Meyers said: “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for President as a Republican, which is surprising for me since I assumed he was running as a joke.”

Joke or not, whether Trump officially runs or not, what has he lost and what has he gained as a businessperson during this will-he-or-won’t-he presidential adventure?

Trump’s losses are minimal.

His personal life was already well-documented and nothing new has come to the fore that would damage his business credentials. I also believe that most of us already knew he had shortcomings in the ‘hair’ department, despite his attempts to fool us otherwise with an ill-advised comb-over.

Trump’s gains are conversely tremendous.

His attack on President Obama’s birth record – which has since been proven unfounded – delivered to the man who owns the Miss USA Pageant an exposure wider than his exploits in the business world, as an author and as a television show host.

His use of the increased leverage won by this could-be presidential bid – which has included regular appearances on Fox News, a dominance of newspaper front-pages and consistent prime time news bulletin lead slots – has allowed Trump to remind everybody of his business successes, that he is a proud tax-paying American and has enhanced his overall brand as an outspoken personality.

In fact, his gains have been so tremendous that Trump has been the early leader in public polls rating the Republican Presidential hopefuls. This is despite widespread criticism of his attempts to enter politics by both Democrats and Republicans.

Trump is leading the Republican polls not because of his exploits in politics. Rather because of his ability to leverage his influence. His ability to bring his gains from other fields, or businesses, into a new field or business – in this case, a potential presidential bid. Trump leads the polls because people know him from his exploits elsewhere and he has used that to maximum advantage.

This is a great lesson for startups.

We have all read articles about startups with a high-profile investor, or a co-founder who has previously founded another successful startup, or a founder who has previously worked for a Google or a Facebook.

These startups are doing a Trump 2012-like leveraging of their influence for the benefit of their new venture.

If entrepreneurs look hard enough, they will figure out a way to promote their startup brand further by leveraging their influence. A journey in an entrepreneur’s life has led them to their current startup venture, and that journey can be packaged in a way that is noteworthy, or even newsworthy.

All entrepreneurs can find their inner influence, like Trump, and leverage it to their startup’s advantage.

At this stage, I doubt that Donald Trump will succeed in his presidential venture, but I have little doubt that he will register future successes in business due to the extra influence he will be able to leverage from the current ‘campaign’.