The polls never predicted President Trump. Pundits literally laughed at his chances of victory and even members of his own party said he wasn’t fit to lead. Unfazed by the critics and haters, Trump steamrolled Clinton to victory, taking more than 300 electoral votes on his way to the White House.
So how did he achieve the mother of all upsets?
You can’t achieve greatness on your own: For all the headlines about the size of Trump’s ego, he acknowledged and openly relied on rural America to win the presidency. He relied on this demographic to fill arenas, finance his run to the White House, encourage him when the Access Hollywood scandal broke – and for their enthusiasm to get out and vote. Without them, Trump never had a chance, and he let that be known. He played to their wishes for America and consistently vowed to address issues that were near and dear to them.
Be true to yourself – you can’t please everyone: Love his views or hate them, Trump stuck to his beliefs throughout the entire campaign, knowing they would offend some while energizing others. He believed that his views would create an enthusiasm among a conservative base like never before – and he was right. This is a great lesson for entrepreneurs. Your brand should have personality, not just a nice logo.
Get out in front of your problems ASAP: Trump’s campaign was riddled with controversy – putting a large question mark beside his values and character. But when the media came with pitchforks to crucify him, he was waiting, ready to take the tough questions. Unlike Clinton, who held very few press conferences throughout her own controversies (namely the FBI investigation), which let the public speculate as to why she was so quiet (sign of guilt?), Trump either doubled downed on his remarks or apologized immediately and pivoted out of danger.
When you have momentum, hit 6th gear: After the FBI reopened its probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, momentum clearly shifted for Trump. Following that announcement by FBI director James Comey, Trump picked up the tempo, visiting 4 to 6 cities per day. And he didn’t stop until election day – literally campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan (a state he was projected to lose), until the wee hours of the morning on November 8th. Not coincidentally, Trump ended up winning Michigan, a state that hasn’t gone Republican in almost thirty years…
Momentum is a powerful thing, and it can disappear in a blink. As an entrepreneur, Trump knew this better than anyone. He didn’t take that momentum for granted and left it all on the field.
Keep your finger on the pulse of the market: Trump had been pondering running for President for two decades. He was encouraged to run by celebrities (who largely turned their back on him), the business community and even other politicians for many years. But it wasn’t until 2015 when he finally pulled the trigger. Why? Trump is an opportunist, and he had his finger on the pulse of the American electorate, particularly the rural voter. They had hit ‘peak frustration’ once Obamacare was enacted and the fossil fuel industry chastised (an industry many were employed by).
Trump waited for the right moment to release his brand into American politics. And he based the theme of his campaign around a message that resonated with his base: Make America Great Again…
Reward loyalty: It’s important to recognize the efforts of others. Success is never a one man show, and it’s critical to remember this. In the early days of his campaign, Trump had very few supporters. But those who did support him, when no one else would, are now reaping the reward. Trump has made it clear he will be naming many of his earliest supporters to his administration. From Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, to Laura Ingram, the only prominent conservative talk show host who supported him from day one, to Chris Christie, the first ‘establishment figure’ to back him, Trump is making sure these loyal teammates remain with him as President of the United States.
The more loyal and appreciated your team is, the bigger the accomplishment potential.
No matter your political stripes, as entrepreneurs, we can learn a ton from Trump’s victory. He achieved the so-called impossible and did it by understanding his target audience, rewarding loyalty, being authentic, owning his mistakes and capitalizing on momentum.
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