Donald Trump's and Robert Kiyosaki's book, Midas Touch: Why Some Entrepreneurs Get Rich--And Why Most Don't (Plata Publishing, 2011), is targeted at "people who are entrepreneurs or those who would like to be." It is not their first collaboration; in 2006, they co-authored "Why We Want You to be Rich" ("one message--two authors").
The book is organized around the metaphor of a hand, with each finger representing an important trait or principle for the entrepreneur. The thumb stands for character, the index finger for focus, the middle finger for branding, the ring finger for relationships and the little finger for "little things that count."
One merit of the book is the interleaving of the perspectives of Trump and Kiyosaki. You might think this kind of book would be ghost-written, at least by Trump, but the authorial voices sound authentic. In each chapter, both have their say--with Kiyosaki opening, and Trump responding--and there is some reference by each to the other's experience.
And yes, the two men do have things in common, including having had rich fathers whom they have since greatly surpassed in wealth [recall that Kiyosaki is author of the bestseller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad (2001)]. Neither Trump nor Kiyosaki could rightly be called "self-made" men, but both are self-invented. It seems to be mandatory in the self-help genre to have overcome extreme setbacks, and both Trump and Kiyosaki have plenty of that kind of trial to tell about
When we discuss the capabilities of the successful entrepreneur, the outer triangle of this diagram lights up. The entrepreneur must be a gifted generalist, who understands how to build a team, lead and execute on the corporate mission. The inner layers reveal specialized problems that the entrepreneur's team must master. There are many professionals--accountants, lawyers, programmers, marketers, finance people, and others--who greatly serve the mission, but who could not themselves lead. Trump usefully suggests sorting out, as a threshold question, which type of person you might be: entrepreneur/generalist or employee/specialist. Trump goes on to elucidate Kiyosaki's "quadrangle" of mentalities: Employee, Small Business Owner, Business Owner and Investor. One problem that Trump doesn't address is the entrepreneur who can start a great business but who cannot scale it up, later needing to be replaced by a proven operator.
The chapter on brand is perhaps the strongest in the book. In his discussion, "What's in a Name?" Trump suggests that entrepreneurs ask whether their business concept is meaningful (p. 122), posing such questions as:
What is the problem you want to solve?
Why is it a problem?
If your business were gone tomorrow, what would the world lose?
What makes you think you can solve the problem?
How does your product or service solve the problem?
How does your product or service make your customer's life better?
What do you think your customers really need from a company like yours?
Kiyosaki starts Chapter Four, "Relationships," with the proposition, "You can't do a good deal with a bad partner," and I found myself nodding, "Yes." Kiyosaki opened his selling career with some ruinous partners, but he restored himself and his honor. Indeed, in terms of resilience, one would have to say that the authors epitomize this quality and it is part of their winning way and maybe even their collaboration. Trump faced down the big banks during his ruinous financial squeeze, 1989-1994, and Kiyosaki was later able to repay the investors whose money his dishonest partner had pocketed (according to his own account).
Donald Trump has a brash personality that perfectly suits his mission, which is to polish the Trump brand at every opportunity. Trump has branded his own real estate projects, and those he lends his name to, in a way that greatly enhances their market value. His success in real estate branding is unprecedented. Why do people pay more for the Trump brand than for generic real estate? To be sure, there is a representation of quality, good location and successful execution. But in the end, it may be because you believe the brand premium will be repaid in the future by someone else who believes in the Trump brand. It's like what John Maynard Keynes said about market speculation: like a newspaper beauty contest, it's not about choosing the prettiest girl, it's about choosing what the voters will consider the prettiest girl, and they may in turn be considering what other voters will think, even to the fourth, fifth or higher degree--see his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936).
The chapters are headed by apt quotations. I liked this one, from Alexander Graham Bell: "Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." (p. 45) Also, from Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com): "A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well." (p. 87)
One potential challenge for Trump, or for that matter, Kiyosaki: to the extent that you make your name into a brand, you face temptation to license it out; licensing can dilute your scarcity value and cloud your reputation for quality and performance. Pretty soon, your name is everywhere, and it may lose some of its caché. As James Baldwin once wrote, "Where everyone has status, it is also perfectly possible, after all, that no one has" [from Nobody Knows My Name, essay on "What it Means to be an American" (1964)].
The authors apparently view the power of a "Midas Touch" as an unalloyed good. In Greek myth, Dionysus granted King Midas' "insatiable prayer" (Aristotle, Politics, Book I) that whatever he touched might turn to gold. King Midas recognized his folly when his food and drink (according to one account, even his own daughter) turned to gold when he touched them. The king died of hunger. There is some unintended irony here. Trump's signal early success came when he transformed the decaying Commodore Hotel next to Grand Central Terminal into the gleaming Grand Hyatt, which he covered with a reflective glass facade. He did something similar with Trump International Hotel and Tower, at Columbus Circle, where he stripped the building to its skeleton and layered on a shiny new facade designed by Philip Johnson and Alan Ritchie. Here is a man who with his touch adds a surface that glimmers like gold--and whose added market value can be converted to hard currency. As far as I know, Trump eats and drinks comfortably, and his daughter Ivanka seems to do just fine.
Generally, if you're looking to emulate the entrepreneurship and brand-building prowess of Trump and Kiyosaki, this book would be a good investment.
(The author of this review, Andrew Szabo, is founder of MindBodyForce.com)