October 13, 2004
Trump Opens Couture Conference
"I've bought some diamonds in my time ... but I haven't been so lucky," says Donald Trump, referring to his marriage breakups. "I've bought great diamonds always D Flawless. They go up in value. Too bad I never benefit from it!" The chairman and president of the Trump Organization and star of "The Apprentice" appeared Oct. 13 as the opening speaker at the Couture Diamond Leadership Conference at the Plaza Hotel.
Trump went on to detail the principles that have led to his current success, while touching upon the period in his life in the early 1990s when he owed $9 billion to creditors and had to rebuild his business. "The Guinness Book of World Records says I had the greatest personal comeback of all time," says Trump. "But to me, it wasn't a comeback ... I just kept working really hard until the market started to come back in 1995. It wasn't like I stopped cold and then started again."
Trump says to be successful in business, you must continue to love what you do, never think about quitting, always think big and stay focused. "I allowed myself to get distracted and that hurt me in the early '90s," he says. "A magazine reporter said everything I touch turns to gold and I believed him. I got caught up in believing that."
Trump told a story about meeting Fred Levit, the famous real estate developer of the Levittown communities in the 1950s. Levit had quit the business, became distracted by his wealth and late in life he went bankrupt. When Trump asked Levit what happened, Levit told him "I lost my momentum." Trump says he never forgot that statement. "You have to keep a sense of momentum, even when things aren't going well," he says.
Among his other tips for the jewelers and suppliers gathered to brainstorm how to meet the challenges of selling diamonds in the current market, Trump says jewelers should go against the tide, choose products that others don't have and have the courage to take chances. He also advises hiring good people, paying them well, but never trusting them completely. "I have always wondered when I go into a jeweler, and I see $50 million in merchandise, then you hire a security guard who's paid badly to guard the jewels. There must be a lot of theft."
When it comes to competitors, Trump advised jewelers to get even when treated badly. "If somebody screws you, just screw him right back ... and don't give him a second chance."
Trump says the key to his brand is that he's always stood for quality, whether it's in real estate, golf courses or television shows. "I believe that when I buy diamonds too. But I have to tell you, I negotiate hard."
by Peggy Jo Donahue