Business Professionals in Politics: Now that the results are clear, we may never go back

No matter what people think of President Trump’s ideology, there is no question as to his unequivocal success. Watching him speak at a kind of town hall, round table meeting in West Virginia we were seeing an Executive Branch veteran now taking charge of things as he’s come to know them, and it was pretty magnificent to witness. The difference really comes down to experience in life, in how career politicians used to do things and how people who have been successful in private enterprise have. I think this is historic because all of politics has been shaped by the aristocratic model of yesterday. Yet due to the economic philosophy of capitalism, which is unique in the world, America has produced different types of people who are now entering politics. Trump being of course the most obvious but I was at an event earlier today where Jim Renacci spoke at a meet and greet and he had the same kind of swagger—directly influenced by his similar background. There is a tremendous difference between successful people seeking important political positions and lawyer types who enter those fields to satisfy the reality that their field of endeavor is already saturated and political theater gives them something to do—even if they lack the experience to be effective.

Many years ago, I was working on a big deal and I had to sit down and work out the details of a project that had several multimillion dollar investors on the other side of the table. I wasn’t any older than 22 years old at the time, so I didn’t have much money to work with. But I did have a multimillionaire on my side who was very successful also and he quizzed me on the meeting before I left. He was satisfied with my approach but before leaving his office to go to the big meeting he gave ma a $100 bill and told me to put that in my wallet during the meeting. He said that knowing it was there would straighten out my posture and communicate nonverbally information in my favor. It was kind of a Dumbo carrying a feather thing believing it would make him fly kind of psychological element. He said that the people across the table would be able to detect if I had empty pockets and the meeting would be different if I did. They’d know if I was just an empty pocketed fast-talking kid, or an anomaly that had something they wanted and could be brought to the deal making table.

I did my thing and of course it went well, and afterwards the millionaire asked for his $100 bill back. I thought that was odd because he spent $100 bills like they were pennies, but I gave it back. As he took it he said, “now go earn your own.” I understood what he meant, and I worked hard to do just that and the process for me was certainly a building block experience. I learned that what I went through isn’t all that unique, most people who do those types of capitalist endeavors go through a similar process, and those experiences make a certain kind of resilient person forged through trail and tribulation into the proper conduct of business.

Years later when I was still pretty young I was on the Darryl Parks radio show being talked about as this cut-throat business guy who was giving public education a rough way to go because I was measuring success and failure based on real world business applications as opposed to political ones. For instance, I was crashing the argument that teachers had which stated they were overworked just because they took work home to finish on the weekends or had to answer an email while off normal operating hours. To my understanding that was normal behavior to work 7 days a week all hours of the day, even when on vacation, because that’s what it takes to be successful in business. Rivals of mine thought it funny that I was being referred to on the radio as this business tycoon because they wanted to believe that my pockets were empty and thus so was my experience level. That was largely because I only let them see a part of my life and not the whole picture because I had learned all those years before with that $100 bill lesson that the best way to get things done is with a variety of approach and that meant sometimes playing up or down the expectations of your opponents. At that time, I rode a motorcycle to work everyday of the year and even sometimes a bicycle the full 12 miles one way that I traversed in all types of weather the whole way. My rivals drove of course BMWs, Mercedes, and all the variations of Cadillac from the latest models and part of their reasoning for doing so was to impress their peers and set the table for any discussion that would take place to their advantage. They assumed that I was poor and had to live out of a box because I didn’t display the usual elements of success that they understood. So for them it was quite earth shattering to hear me talk on the radio and to learn that I had the leg up on them in every category of dealing, which of course, worked to my advantage.

Part of that hard commute wasn’t just to build an impression into my rivals, it was to give me that psychological advantage over those around me who had grown soft in their positions. Their expectations were a weakness I could exploit, and you can bet that I did. They made it very easy for me. It is always good to keep people off-balance when you have to deal with them on some important matter. In many ways its just like fighting another person, you don’t want to give away everything you’re going to do during the fight. Now you may be the superior person, but why make it harder on yourself by letting the people you’re fighting know your every move and defense. It’s good to be unpredictable and to keep those you are dealing with guessing as to what your motives are. By the time they figure it out, they will already be defeated.

That appears to be the big difference between Trump and the traditional caliber of politician. Even the China trade disputes and the NAFTA negotiations between Mexico and Canada are showing they are no match for President Trump who is just applying basic business ethics to the world of politics—and he’s easily beating everyone. The media trained to think of politics in the rules of university merit are bewildered as to what’s going on because nothing Trump is doing was taught to them by anybody. Trump is using every little trick he has ever learned about business negotiations to squeeze out better options for the United States and its beginning to show unquestionably—and people of all backgrounds and political ideology are enjoying the results.

You may have the best resources, and you may even be the best person, but you never want to give away the easy stuff. If you are not working with a lot, its good to show up to an important meeting with a $100 bill in your pocket. If you have a lot, but want to force others to underestimate you, its good to let them think you don’t have a $100 in your pocket and that you are in desperate need of a penny. Sometimes its good to show up to an important meeting where everyone has a $100,000 automobile in the parking lot on a bicycle dripping in sweat. And sometimes its good to raise tariffs on Chinese goods to force them to reveal how much intellectual property they have been stealing, or to send troops to the border to truly confiscate money from drug dealers so that a wall can be built along the Mexican border, or to get the Canadian Prime Minister to eat out of your hand so that he can’t be accused of bad trade practices. These are the skills of a businessman, not the politician. Typically, the politician shows up for hard meetings ready to shake hands and with an eye at the lunch menu. Their role in these matters has traditionally been cosmetic. But not anymore. Now that the world is getting a taste of business people in political matters. I don’t think they will ever go back to how it was—and that would be a wonderful thing to see.

Rich Hoffman

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