Donald Trump is a terrific marketing agent. Unfortunately, many people who follow Trump's escapades by watching "The Apprentice" or by reading about him in the press don't realize that Trump's tremendous marketing talent hides an important flaw: He teaches terrible lessons about business.
Trump Un-Lesson #1: Bankruptcy is Not OK
Trump very publicly said that he saw no shame in declaring bankruptcy. But while Trump shrugs off bankruptcy as "a legal mechanism," his creditors lost $544 million when Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts went through Chapter 11. While Trump himself may have emerged from bankruptcy smelling like a rose, his creditors, vendors, and employees all suffered because Trump's casino management was not up to the task. Bankruptcy is nothing to be proud of -- instead, managers and business owners should avoid it at all costs, acknowledging the serious human toll of business failures.
Trump Un-Lesson #2: Real Business Skill is Proven by Incremental Improvements
On "The Apprentice", Trump laid proud claim to the phrase "You're fired." Competitors win the TV game show (that's all "The Apprentice" really is) by avoiding the pink slip longer than anyone else; the game is usually marked by big, spectacular competitions between teams organizing and promoting big events or developing and pitching big marketing campaigns or otherwise "proving" themselves in events that make for dynamic television but terrible business instruction. Winning "The Apprentice" is a matter of emerging victorious from a sequence of business stunts; real victory in business is much more subtle than that. The best people in business are the ones who can faithfully and steadily guide their firms through times of boom and bust while constantly re-investing in research and development and other methods of improving the firm's success.
Trump Un-Lesson #3: What's Most Important is How Little Firms Are Doing
Trump is famous for his obsession with "big" things -- big skyscrapers, big casinos, big arrivals wherever he goes. The problem is that Trump started his checkered business career with millions of dollars in the bank and access to loans and credit that are far beyond the means of most entrepreneurs. But a healthy environment for small businesses is not only the best engine of economic growth, it's also the best safeguard most employees have against harm/ from their employers. While big and flashy make for exciting television, they're almost always inadequate to the task of fundamentally improving the economy.