Donald Trump and the Big Red Car here in the ATX — going to be another great day. On Earth as it is in Texas, y’all! [Haha, no Trump here.]
So, today, we turn ourselves to one Donald Trump as an exemplar of how a startup is able to grow and scale and deal with the issues of a startup enterprise. This is NOT a political commentary. It is about the startup business.
Trump, of course, is a businessman and has engaged in the Art of the Deal and the art of the spin off or side deal — Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, Trump Breath Freshener, Trump Deodorant Footpads — you get the idea.
In fact, the Trump campaign is a spin off of his own massive ego, natural leadership ability, and hunger for power. That is NOT intended as a slight but rather a recitation of the truth without serving any homage to political correctness. As you well know, dear reader, Donald does not approve of political correctness, so we follow his lead here today.
What Gandhi said to Trump
Gandhi, famously, said:
First they ignore you;
Then they laugh at you;
Then they fight you;
Then you win.
We are in the “win” phase of Donald Trump’s campaign as evidenced by his big blowout wins in the northeast, the strange alliance between his opponents, and his continuing strong polling in the remaining contests.
Earned media and Trump
You only have to say the words “earned media” and offer no other proof than you own lyin’ eyes, ears, and brain to define the magnitude of a win that Donald Trump has fashioned by using the very forces that lust for his failure — the media, the punditry, the cable outlets, the legacy stations, the newspapers, the magazines, the blogosphere — to his advantage.
[The GOPe is not included because they are not effective messagers. They will be discussed a bit later.]
If I were to look at a media outlet and not see sixteen new stories on Donald Trump, I would quickly check to see if we had suffered an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse).
The guy has not only written the next chapter on the subject, he has written the entire Library of Congress. It is truly amazing.
For startups, this is a very good lesson. He has done this for free. Free. Free. Free.
Next month, Megyn Kelly (she who went to his office to beg for the assignment, prodded by Roger Ailes, no doubt) will kiss his ring — perhaps other parts of his anatomy — and interview him on his terms. Ratings are real and she has to have an interview to drive her ratings.
Thus is the power of earned media.
Overcoming the opposition
Trump has triumphed in the face of very strong opposition. Folks should catalog his opponents, the unlikeliness of his winning, and the passionate nature of his opposition as an exemplar of what a startup CEO faces when trying to disrupt an established order or industry.
Nobody ever said disruption was going to be either easy or pretty.
Trump beat Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio — should we add in Ted Cruz and John Kasich or should we play along?
Wow, that’s a lot of political talent. Eight governors. Four Senators. A Fortune 50 CEO and a brain surgeon.
How many years of experience do those guys have? How many for Donald Trump?
His toughest opponent may actually be the GOPe — the Republican Establishment — who picked, dressed, slimmed down, powdered, and funded their boy: JEB BUSH. Boy, did he get a lesson.
Trump made bitch slapping the Bush Dynasty look like a day at Trump Parque (his Parisian amusement park).
Part and parcel of the GOPe movement is the #neverTrump bunch who don’t really champion a candidate, they would gladly back a Shih Tzu as long as it was not named Donald Trump. It is very difficult to win if your candidate is an idea or a ghost. Very difficult, indeed.
Messaging — Making America Great Again
There is a handcrafted nature to Trump’s messaging whether it is his call to action, Make America Great Again, or his nicknaming of his opponents (Lyin’ Ted, Corrupt Hillary).
His command of Twitter (not the midnight Tweets) and social media, in general, has made his every utterance newsworthy further expanding the scope of his earned media footprint.
The Big Red Car has as much faith in Make America Great Again as he had in Hope & Change. Of course, that Hope & Change mantra worked pretty well for someone, no?
This is all being driven by the startup CEO himself, Donald Trump.
Trump, Tapping into the market
On a modestly serious note, Donald Trump was, and perhaps “is,” the only politician this time around who learned the lesson of the 2014 elections.
The electorate in 2014 was and is ANGRY. Angry. Angry. Angry.
The President dismissed this but in the process dismissed the greatest reversal of political fortune in a century wherein the Republicans gained the Senate, strengthened their hold of the House, swept Governorships and State Houses into their corral and generally administered a barbed wire enema.
How the Republicans squandered this advantage is not germane to our exploration of Donald Trump’s startup learnings so we shall stop right there.
Donald Trump figured out the market better, faster than his opponents. Threw a saddle on it and is riding it into the sunset. [The White House, hopes he.]
The ability to take a hit and to persevere
Donald Trump’s campaign, like any startup, has made a few mistakes along the way. Haha. Big Red Car, really?
In spite of those missteps, he has driven on and none of them have derailed his efforts — though every pundit worthy of the name has said at least fifty times: “This is the one that kills him.” Remember when they used to say that?
Go back and look at the Gandhi quote. They were laughing at him. Remember that?
A startup CEO has to be lucky. The Boss used to say that soldiers like lieutenants (platoon leaders) and captains (company commanders) who are lucky. Luck is a fungible when it needs to be. It can be lifesaving.
Freakin’ Donald Trump is lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.
He is lucky that the GOPe and the nominating process is so damn corrupt at a time that the American voter is fed up with being ignored and taken for granted. This is the source of the anger. Trump was part of that system and now throws back the curtain and exposes the corrupt system that he was a participant in. Only a reformed sinner really knows the power and pleasure of sin.
OK, so there you have it, dear reader. The startup nature of the Trump campaign. Not really intended to be political but to be a thoughful insight for a CEO to see how she might learn from the lessons that are available to her.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. [I cannot vote. Damn it. Well, maybe if I were dead, I could vote Democrat?] Be kind to yourself, CEOs. You have a very tough job but, hey, you CAN do it.