Some days I like watching Donald Trump on the “Apprentice.” Some days, not so much. But I always enjoy watching George Ross’ reaction to the shenanigans that make up so much of the show.
Ross is the executive business and legal advisor to Donald Trump, and co-stars with him on the show. He and Carolyn Kepcher are Trump’s bookends on his side of the table, and his eyes and ears outside the boardroom as they attempt to keep track of each team’s progress.
But happily, all of these responsibilities have not taken up all of Ross’ time. His new book, co-authored by Andrew James McLean, is called Trump Strategies for Real Estate: Billionaire Lessons for the Small Investor (Wiley, $24.95, Wiley.com).
Can’t afford to spend $40 million on some vacant land? No matter. Ross claims Trump’s strategies will work even on a modest investment property purchase.
Ross appears to be a modest, humble sort of guy, who — at least during the show — always has a smile playing about his lips. In business, however, he was a tiger, representing his clients with a tremendous amount of autonomy through the years.
One of the best pieces of advice in this readable book comes at the beginning of the first chapter: it isn’t just about the numbers. Ross says that there are five personal qualities you need to succeed in real estate.
First, you must use your enthusiasm for the project to inspire other people around you to get involved in the deal and work on your behalf. Next, you should build relationships with everyone involved in a deal, even those on the other side. Third, Ross believes that showmanship is a real estate strategy. You’ve got to “sell yourself like Trump” does in order to succeed. “To get them to share in your dream, you have to come up with a way of making it interesting to them. This is called showmanship — and it is one of Trump’s signature traits,” he writes.
Ross also believes that you must be better prepared than anyone else if you want to get the deal at your price and on your terms. And finally, you must be tenacious. If you just keep coming back, eventually you’ll get what you want.
More than almost any other book on real estate investing I’ve seen lately, Ross deals with the nuts and bolts of negotiation and creative problem solving. He uses real-life examples of well-known properties that Trump and other famous real estate investors he has assisted have bought through the years.
One of the best pieces of advice he passes along in the book, and attributes to real estate mogul Sol Goldman, is that “every problem has a price tag.” As he later explains, “Some of Trump’s biggest profits have come from properties he bought cheap because they had complex problems nobody had been able to solve. After he solved the problem, he reaped millions of dollars in profits.”
By translating legal problems and risks into dollars and business sense, Ross says you will be able to purchase property for less money.
Ross spends a considerable amount of time discussing the complex art of negotiation. If you want to negotiate a better deal, you must first learn what the other side wants, then understand the “constraints surrounding the transaction,” such as timing, competing offers, tax implications or possibly required approvals.
The words “fair and reasonable” mean different things to different sides in a transaction, he points out. Understanding what this means is “necessary before you can start to reduce the gap in perception between the two sides.”
Although the book is extremely complimentary to Trump, who continues to employ Ross, the deep knowledge Ross has gained from watching the man who defined the “Art of the Deal” does live up to the promise in the title: Even if you’re only buying a two-flat, you’ll do a much better job after having read this book.