The Trump Card INTRODUCTION:
GET OVER IT
You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.
In business, as in life, nothing is ever handed to you.
That might sound like a line coming from someone with a back-story like mine—and a load!—but if you know me and my family, you’ll understand that I come by these words honestly. Yes, I’ve had the great good fortune to be born into a life of wealth and privilege, with a name to match. Yes, I’ve had every opportunity, every advantage. And yes, I’ve chosen to build my career on a foundation built by my father and grandfather, so I can certainly see why an outsider might dismiss my success in our family business as yet another example of nepotism.
But my parents set the bar high for me and my brothers. They gave us a lot, it’s true, but they expected a lot in return. And you can be sure we didn’t rise to our positions in the company by any kind of birthright or foregone conclusion. My father is definitely not the kind of guy who’d place his children in key roles within his organization if he didn’t think we could surpass the expectations he had for us. You see, in the Trump household, it was never just about meeting the expectations of others. It was about exceeding them. It was about surprising people. And being the best. Anything less was second-rate, which probably explains one of my biggest worries starting out—that I would merely be competent at my job in the Trump Organization. Good enough, and nothing more.
I can still remember how anxious I felt, how completely out of my element, when I was appointed to the board of directors of Trump Entertainment Resorts, the parent corporation of our casino operations in Atlantic City. Realize, this was no closely held family business. It was a public company, so there was enormous pressure to prove that I belonged. Some of that pressure was real, and some of it was imagined—but that didn’t make it any less terrifying. I can still remember walking over to my first board meeting at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, feeling incredibly nervous the whole way. It was just a five-minute walk, but that was more than enough time to think through every worst-case scenario. It didn’t help that just before I left my office someone pointed out that I was about to become the youngest director on the board of a publicly traded company in the United States; I had enough to worry about already. I was twenty-five years old, just a year or so into my tenure at Trump, about to sit around a conference table with a group of middle-aged men—some of whom, I’m sure, would be wondering what the hell I was doing there. On some level I knew that I’d been tapped to represent the voice of a younger generation and to represent my family’s interests in the company that bore our brand. But on another, I worried that I’d be exposed as a kid in over her head. My formal appointment was still subject to board approval, and I still had to apply for a gaming license and gain other clearances, but I vowed on that uneasy walk that I would never give these people a reason to question the value I brought to the table.
The whole way over to that meeting, it felt to me as if my appointment to the board was stacked all the way against me: I was young and inexperienced; I was a woman; and I was Donald Trump’s daughter. (It might appear as if this last would be a plus, but I didn’t see it counting for a whole lot in my favor; if anything, it might have given the impression that I had been tapped only for some vague public relations value.) Growing up with two brothers, I’d watched enough baseball to know that you get only three strikes, so I might have counted myself out before I even stepped to the plate. But then I realized that what some people might regard as a negative, others might see as a strength. Maybe my relative youth and inexperience would help me offer a fresh take. Maybe the board needed a young woman’s perspective. Maybe the fact that I was Donald Trump’s eyes and ears on the board, as I was at the Trump Organization and on his reality television show, would make me uniquely qualified to offer insights and strategies for positioning the three Trump-branded casinos that were the primary assets of the company.
In any case, it was overwhelming. Intimidating. So how did I handle it? I dug in, breathed deep, and vowed to do whatever it took to show my new colleagues on the board and the company’s management team that I added real value. And merely belonging wouldn’t quite cut it, in my estimation. I was determined to play an integral role. I might be nervous, but I wouldn’t show it. I might be intimidated, but I wouldn’t show it. I might even be a bit overmatched, in my first few meetings, but I’d get up to speed before long. And sure enough, that’s just what happened. By the end of that first meeting, most of my anxieties fell away, and I walked back to my office in Trump Tower feeling as if I had made a contribution, after all. As if I would make an even greater contribution going forward.
Let’s face it, when you come from a place where good enough
is not quite good enough, you’re bound to push yourself. You’re disinclined to take anything for granted. And you’re not about to be dismissed just because someone might think you’ve had an unfair advantage. These days, I try not to let it bother me when someone jumps to conclusions about my abilities. I have a tough skin and enough confidence not to worry too much about being underestimated because of my last name, my relative youth, or my modeling background. It comes with the territory. I’ve reached the point where I know I’m no lightweight. I’m perfectly capable of separating my colleagues and associates from this type of snap judgment when it comes up—which happens less and less these days, I’m happy to report.
The message I put out to people who are prepared to write me off before even meeting with me: get over it. It’s the same message I used to give to myself whenever I spent too much time worrying what people would think of me or how I’d risen to my position in the company or what attributes I brought to the table. I’d catch myself agonizing along these lines and think, Just get over it, Ivanka. Or, It’s not your problem, it’s theirs. After all, I eventually realized, we’ve all got our own baggage. Whatever we do, whatever our backgrounds, we’ve all had some kind of advantage somewhere along the way. Some break that might have gone to someone else. Some edge or inside track we couldn’t have counted on.
CONSIDER THE STAGGER
As long as I’m on that inside track, I might as well work that metaphor a bit more to make my point. That perceived lead I might have had starting out? It’s like the stagger you see in a middle-distance event at a track meet. You know, where the runners line up in a stepping-stone way in their separate lanes, the runner in the outside lane well ahead of the field before the starting gun goes off, the runner in the inside lane well behind. It’s set up that way so that each runner covers the same ground before she reaches the first straightaway, but it has the appearance of being an advantage. In truth, the only advantage is psychological; each runner ends up covering the same ground by the end of the race. With me, it probably looked as if I were in the outside lane, way ahead of the rest of the pack before the race even started. But I still had to run the distance. I still had to go to school, learn the basics, develop my own style, make and support my own decisions, and on and on.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that this all-too-common mis-perception usually runs hand in hand with another. It took me a while to recognize this, but there’s definitely a flip side to how other people might see you, way out there in life’s outer lane with that apparent jump start. On the one hand, you get the idea that my success is purely a by-product of privilege, proximity, or favoritism—or, relatedly, that Donald Trump’s daughter could not possibly have ascended to the role of vice president of his real estate company for any reason but filial devotion. People assume that I’m not smart enough or driven enough or savvy enough to have made it on my own. On the other, it’s just the opposite. People build it up in their heads that just because I’m Donald Trump’s daughter, it must mean I have an inherent understanding of all things related to real estate and finance.
(I guess it could be worse!)
I used to get this a lot when I was at Wharton, as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, where my classmates would turn to me whenever a professor posted a challenging question. In their minds, because I’d spent so much time with my father and shared the same genes and mind-set, I must know the answer automatically. And truth be told, I still get this kind of deferential treatment. People sometimes approach me tentatively or suspiciously because of my father’s reputation as a world-class negotiator, as if they think I’m about to take advantage of them. As if I know something I’m not letting on. It can be a big disadvantage, especially going into a negotiation, when I’d much rather be underestimated.
My brothers tell me that the same thing happens to them all the time, so we just deal with it and move on.
I get it from both sides, the good and the bad. Positive and negative. And I’ve learned to ignore it. To rise above it. I refuse to let the opinions of others define how I see myself, how I carry myself, how I get through my days. It’s just not relevant to me. If I got upset every time someone suggested that I was coasting on my last name, my looks, or the silver spoon that might or might not have been lodged in my mouth at birth, I’d be a basket case. And if I pumped myself up and found an ego shot in every tossed-off bit of undeserved praise, my head would be too big to get through my office door.
And so: get over it. Go ahead and bring it up if you feel you must. Acknowledge the elephant in the room. But then move on. Move on, because I’m way past it. Move on, because even though those who believe that my success is a result of nepotism might be right, they might also be wrong. Try as I may—and try as my critics may—there’s just no way to measure the advantage I’ve gained from having the Trump name, just as there’s no way to know if the person sitting across from you in a job interview or a negotiation is there on his or her own merits or with an assist of one kind or other.
What I do know is this: I’m incredibly and endlessly proud of what my family has accomplished. It starts with my father, I suppose— but then, he’d probably tell you it starts with his
father, my grandfather. And there’s also my mother to factor in. She’s played a big role in my development as a businesswoman: her strength, her discipline, her character. (She’d probably put some of that
on her parents as well.) My brothers, too, have had a hand in my success, just as I hope I’ve had a hand in theirs. I’ve come to realize that we bring something to one another, so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We’re a wellspring of individual talents and perspectives, and I drink from it all. We
drink from it all. So rather than worrying about what other people think or how they calibrate or credit our attributes and achievements, my focus is to ensure that these successes continue for the next generation of Trumps. After all, we Trumps don’t play to perceptions. We play to win.
Gosh, I sound like my father, don’t I? But that’s what you get from this particular Daddy’s girl.
PLAYING YOUR “TRUMP” CARD
The perceived edge, the stagger
, the loaded or backhanded compliments, the unearned deferential treatment—it all takes me in a round-about way to the book you now hold in your hands, a business memoir, shot through with life lessons and hard-won insights for young women looking to jump-start their own careers. Yes, from the pen of a former model. Yes, from an entrepreneur who’s built her reputation on her family name—in the family business, no less. But you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? There’s a reason the phrase has become a cliché: it’s true. Okay, so I’ve had a bit of an edge getting in the door, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t developed an edge of my own now that I’m all the way in the room.
A word, first, on the title: The Trump Card.
It’s meant to signal that we’ve all been dealt a winning hand and that it’s up to each of us to play it right and smart. In bridge, of course, the trump card is the one that prevails, no matter what, and as a strategy it’s usually held in reserve for when it’s most needed. I’ve played it here because I like the metaphor and the way it shows how I’ve tried to play my own winning hand.
Lately, I’ve been playing that hand in a family business that would be all but unrecognizable to my grandfather, who started out building and operating affordable rental housing in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island in the 1930s. Now, as executive vice president in the Trump Organization, I’m on the front lines of such seismic change at our company that even I don’t recognize the offices I used to visit every day after school. Already I’ve played an integral role in developing more than seventy real estate projects around the world, including buildings in New York, Chicago, and Dubai. That role has very little to do with who my grandfather was or who my father is and quite a lot to do with what I’ve learned along the way. At one point, I might have been in just a bit over my head and pushed along before I was ready, but now my days are filled with meetings and decisions and prospects. I might talk over a potential branding deal with a developer in Indonesia in the morning and just a few hours later visit a construction site to negotiate price with a concrete contractor from the Bronx. I’ll sit down at a conference table with a group of bankers and lawyers to work out the financing for a new hotel, then return to the same table six months later with a group of architects and interior designers to define what that hotel will actually look like. I once flew to South America to meet with a developer and then spent several tense days negotiating the terms of a partnership relating to a 2.6-million-square-foot property, coming home with a deal my father called one of the best he’d ever seen. Or I’ll work with my jewelry design team to put the finishing touches on a magnificent new collection.
No one day is like another, and they’ve all added up to a wealth of experience. My
experience. I’ve been exposed to a level of responsibility that’s very rare for someone my age. My
responsibility. While most young people in business spend their twenties enduring the growing pains and lowly paper-pushing assignments that come with earning your stripes, I’ve been able to bypass (mostly) that sort of grunt work and have been part of upper management from very early in my career.
Have I had an advantage? Absolutely. Have I safeguarded the trump card I’ve been dealt in my winning hand for when I needed it the most? Again, absolutely. Does that mean I can’t play that card or build on those advantages and take away some insights and strategies that might help other would-be entrepreneurs from gaining an edge of their own? Absolutely not. In fact, one of the biggest advantages has come in a once-removed sort of way, and I hope to pass it along in these pages. You see, I’ve had tremendous access to some of the most creative, freethinki...
Biographie de l'auteur
Ivanka Maria Trump is a businesswoman, a one-time fashion model, and the daughter of Ivana and Donald Trump. Ivanka joined The Trump Organization in 2005 as a member of the development team and is currently Vice President of Real Estate Development and Acquisitions. She actively participates in all aspects of real estate development from deal evaluation, analysis and pre-development planning to construction, marketing, operations, sales and leasing. She has expanded the Trump Organization’s interests internationally, bringing the highly acclaimed Trump International Hotel & Tower brand to the global market. In addition, she joined forces with Dynamic Diamond Corp., a diamond trading company, to design and introduce a line of jewelry at the brand's first flagship retail store called 'Ivanka Trump' on Madison Avenue. Ivanka received her bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating summa cum laude.
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