Sunday, December 25, 2016

How Trump runs his business

When Tiah Joo Kim arrived at the Manhattan headquarters of the Trump Organization to pitch a hotel and condominium project in Vancouver, British Columbia, he expected the famous company with ventures across the globe to come with capacious offices and a staff of hundreds. Instead, he was led through a mere two floors with what appeared to be no more than a few dozen employees. “Lean,” Mr. Tiah, a young Malaysian developer, remembers thinking as he walked the halls.

The first stop was a conference room, where Mr. Tiah was required to sell his vision to the boss’s three oldest children. Only after securing their support did he advance to the inner sanctum, with its sweeping views of Central Park.

Mr. Tiah was not sure what to expect from the man whose face was beamed around the world through the reality television show “The Apprentice,” but the conversation that afternoon in 2012 was casual and warm. Donald J. Trump spent more time showing off a Shaquille O’Neal shoe and a Mike Tyson championship belt — prize artifacts from his display of sports memorabilia — than interrogating Mr. Tiah on the details of his business plan. “You’re a good-looking guy,” Mr. Tiah recalled Mr. Trump telling him as he gave the project his blessing.

Then Mr. Trump’s trusted lawyers and other top executives swooped in to play hardball — working alongside Donald Trump Jr. to negotiate the confidential agreements that would allow the Vancouver development to be branded with Mr. Trump’s name and managed by his company. The talks consumed 16-hour days for nearly a week, Mr. Tiah said, explaining: “It was tiring. They’re tough.” ...

His company is a distinctly family business fortified with longtime loyalists that operates less on standardized procedures and more on a culture of Trump. Mr. Trump may leave the details of contracts to his deputies, but his name — and influence — is stamped on every deal the company does.

In an interview last spring with The Times, Mr. Trump explained that he approved new ventures based on his personal “feel.” And while in recent years his three oldest children have taken on more of a leadership role, Mr. Trump has the final say, sometimes weighing in on the most minute design details of planned hotels, golf courses or other properties the company owns or manages.
This makes sense to me. It's what I would have expected given what we've seen of him during the election and in the transition (so far). But can he run the government that way? The man's style is the man's style and I assume he'll do his best to mold the White House to that style – what else could he do?  

That description suggests that his subordinates are extraordinarily important, as they're the one to take care of details. But surely at THAT abstract level of description that describes any role at the top of a large organization, and the US Federal Government is a very large organization. Any president is going rely on subordinates. 

Trump's business, by his own favored characterization, is a business of deals. His subordinates vet the details and he makes the decision based on his "feel" for his counter party, like Mr. Tiah. How does that translate into government business? Who is the counter party for a piece of legislation, a treaty, or policy in general? Who's the person Trump schmoozes with to make the yes or no decision?

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