Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has adopted a "Fire. Aim. Ready." communications strategy that, in some instances, has proven remarkably successful (Note: The events in Charlottesville this past weekend notwithstanding).
However, be advised: What's worked for POTUS will destroy your business faster than a strong endorsement from David Duke.
Here are five Trump tactics that DO NOT translate well to an entrepreneurial business model:
1.) Playing to your base. When the president finds himself under attack from all sides, he responds by reinforcing his campaign pledges and doubling down with his base.
That's a poor strategy for small business owners. Yes, it's critical that you always surprise and delight the original customer base that enabled you to post your first profitable quarter. But, the best entrepreneurs are constantly testing their product or service with new audiences. Your original customer base will stay loyal for only so long. Stay focused on them, but always be thinking of new, and untapped, target audiences.
2.) Embracing bluster and bravado. As we know, Trump is in the middle of a war of words with the certifiably insane dictator of North Korea, Kim Jung Un.
Time will tell if Trump's war of words strategy will play out, but I'd strongly advise ANY reader NOT to pick a fight with a competitor. It's a losing proposition since your customers hired you to provide a service or sell them a product and NOT to spend your time fighting a marketing communications war with your direct competitor.
Customers want you focused on their wants and needs. They couldn't care less if one of your competitors allegedly stole your intellectual capital. Stay focused on product quality and service and avoid internecine industry warfare the same way Sarah Huckabee Sanders ducks a direct question.
3.) Tweeting before thinking. No matter who's been empowered to control or review the president's Tweets, no one can (or ever will).
His seemingly long-ago attacks on Morning Joe are just one example.
Cutting-edge entrepreneurs regularly engage in social media. And that is as it should be. But, I've found it invaluable to create a small, trusted internal editorial board who review every blog, Tweet or Inc.com column before anything sees the light of day.
They've not only provided invaluable editing and story angle suggestions but, critically, prevented me from publishing content that might inadvertently offend or alienate employees, clients, prospects or the general business community.
Do yourself a favor and create your own internal editorial review board. The reputation you save may be your own (and your organizations).
4.) Undercutting your investors or key hires. For reasons known best to him, Donald Trump is waging war on Mitch McConnell, the single most powerful Republican in the Senate, and the man Trump needs most to push through his agenda.
Regardless of the crisis du jour, small business owners should never publicly criticize their investors, their board or their senior executives. They're the people who originally bought into your dream and agreed to either loan you money, provide invaluable advice or do the work necessary for your business to flourish. Scapegoating any of the above for a dip in sales, a product recall or a financial scandal is a sure-fire guarantee you will NEVER have a second chance to create a new business. Who wants to collaborate with a CEO who, if things go South, will point the finger at everyone but herself?
5.) Alienating the one person who risked her own reputation to support you. Not surprisingly, candidate Trump didn't find very much support among the gay, lesbian or transgender community. But, there was one, high profile transgender "star" who was willing to endorse him: Caitlyn Jenner. The former Olympics gold medalist and Kardashian reality TV sensation actually supported Trump when she appeared on The View.
Then, Trump decided to ban transgender troops from the military. Guess who no longer supports POTUS? Trump's #1 transgender supporter: Caitlyn Jenner.
Diversity & inclusiveness should be a given in any entrepreneur's belief set. It's not just the right thing to do. It's smart business. And, regardless of our country's current course, diversity & inclusiveness WILL become table stakes for any start-up looking to succeed in the future.
Purposely alienating any segment of our nation's rapidly changing workforce population may appeal to a small minority of customers, prospects and recruits, but it's not a sustainable model.
Trump & Co. may want to turn back the clock to 1964; but the business world is fast-forwarding to the year 2020, and beyond. Embracing the past by alienating the "new" America is another minefield you should avoid at all costs (because it will cost you dearly).
Note: A special shoutout to Peppercomm intern John Tompkins who provided the research to support my opinions. You're fired, John!