Ivanka Trump, 28 — daughter of the irrepressible Donald and his first wife, jewelry and cosmetics entrepreneur Ivana Trump — first drew the public’s attention as a judge on her father’s hit reality-TV show, The Apprentice. Behind the scenes, she has been studying her father’s real estate business since she was a teen. Today, she serves as VP of real estate development and acquisition for the Trump Organization. She has her own line of jewelry and an eponymous boutique in Manhattan, and most recently, she wrote her first book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life. Trump spoke with Canadian Business editor Steve Maich.
What does a typical day look like for you?
One of the beautiful things about what I do is that there really isn’t a typical day. Whether it’s flying to Turkey — which I’ll be doing on Sunday because we have a great mixed-use project there. Or meeting with the president of my diamond company — I started a jewelry collection two years ago. Or whether it’s working on Trump Panama, working on the Trump Hotel Collection, shooting The Apprentice or promoting the book, our days are just very diverse. And that’s one of the things I love about the real estate field generally.[It gives you] exposure to so many different facets of business — financing, sales and marketing, construction.
In your book, you address people’s tendency to underestimate you because you’re young or you’re a woman or because you’re attractive. I wonder if there’s a way to take that and turn it to your advantage.
Absolutely. I mean, I’d prefer to be underestimated than overestimated. If you take ego out of the equation, it’s always better to negotiate against somebody who doesn’t necessarily attribute that much skill to your skill set. Obviously, that changes over time, and a lot of that was when I was younger, and most people I have business dealings with will cease to underestimate me! But I do think that it’s definitely to one’s advantage, and I joke about it with my father: sometimes it’s easier for me to negotiate than for him, because people will be substantially less prepared for discussion or negotiation with the daughter of Donald Trump than with Donald Trump, so it’s always good to get people off guard, and if they’re unprepared you really have an edge.
Is it difficult to remove ego from the equation?
No. I mean, I think naturally one doesn’t like, instinctively, being underestimated. With that said, it’s based on prejudgement, so it shouldn’t affect one too personally. If you’ve had multiple business dealings with a person and they continue to underestimate you after they’ve had the chance to discover who you are, maybe [the problem is] you, not the other person.
What do you think makes a great negotiator?
I think it’s a mixture of skill and instinct. I think fundamentally if you’re not good at reading people, there’s no amount of practice that can totally overcome that. I think you have to have good instincts for people. I think you have to be a very good listener. One of the mistakes people often make in negotiations is they spend too much time talking as opposed to listening. Also, to be able to negotiate well — and this isn’t so obvious to a lot of people — you have to go into the negotiation knowing what you want. Through the course of it, your objectives may change, but I’m always surprised how many people figure that the negotiation will allow them, through the course of discussions, to identify and solidify what the end goals are, and I think that’s a mistake.
Your father more or less invented the idea of personal brand — he really personifies what the Trump Organization stands for. Do you see yourself as part of that brand or do you feel you’re creating your own personal brand?
Well, I think both are important because, again, as you mentioned, we’re a personality-driven brand, so we have a personality as an organization, we have personalities that reinforce my father’s brand, and then in order to be able to take the company forward and contribute as part of my generation I have to have a unique personality, so I think all of those things come through. But I’ve definitely learned many a lesson from my father about brand, just through observation, and I think that one of the reasons why he is so effective is that his brand isn’t fabricated. He is exactly who he is. Nobody handles him, nobody can handle him, and nobody tells him what to do or how to respond, and I think there’s a genuineness to who he is that people are very drawn to.
Do you consider him your mentor?
Absolutely. Both parents have been great mentors.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your mother?
My mother is incredibly precise when she takes on a project, and she has a passion for details, and I think that’s why everything she does is executed so well. I think, you know, when you separate the good from the great it tends to boil down to attention to small things, especially in our business — in luxury hotels and condominiums, jewelry, etc. — it really does boil down to the details.
Is there anything you’ve learned not to do from watching your parents?
No, not per se. I think where we differ is that, you know, I represent a female viewpoint, I represent the viewpoint of a younger generation. I don’t think that has to [conflict], it’s just sometimes different.
On a personal level, there are a lot of people who must wonder why you bother to work at all. Why not opt for a life of leisure? What motivates you?
Well, I don’t think I could opt for a life of leisure, fundamentally. Not if I wanted to live a certain quality of life. My parents would not support me if I chose to squander away my 20s and 30s. That wouldn’t have been a viable option for me. Fundamentally, it boils down to finding something you love doing. I know a lot of young people who are trying to find what it is they love doing, and I know a lot of young people who don’t make any effort in trying to identify that thing, and those are people who sort of go through life in a much more lackadaisical way.
The many careers of Ivanka Trump
Real estate executive: Trump is VP of development and acquisitions
Jewelry designer: Her Manhattan boutique opened in 2007.
Reality-TV star: She is a boardroom judge on NBC’s The Apprentice
Socialite: Husband Jared Kushner owns The New York Observer