Eric Trump started getting a taste of the family business at a young age, tagging along with his real estate and hotel tycoon father Donald Trump as he visited job sites and finessed deals on the golf course. He still recalls sitting in his dad’s office, building an empire out of Legos while his dad was constructing a much larger empire over the phone.
That early immersion set the stage for Eric’s involvement with the Trump Organization as an adult. It’s a situation that is becoming increasingly rare, as family-run businesses today face a tough time enticing the children to take over after their parents exit.
Trump, 27, executive vice president of development and acquisitions of the Trump Organization and the youngest of Donald’s three children with his first wife, Ivana, says his father’s influence had a significant effect on his career path and personality.
“Both of my parents were incredible role models. Although we were privileged and traveled around the world extensively and had the best education, we were expected to work hard and they they always wanted us occupied,” recalls Trump. “Every summer, I was working. I was either mowing lawns at some of our properties, laying tile with some of our stonemasons or some other job.”
He noted his father has a strong work ethic, a trait that was passed onto him and his siblings Donald Jr. and Ivanka as children. All three currently serve as executive vice presidents at the Trump Organization and are touted as the “next generation.”
“We also love our jobs and we’re often working seven days a week, looking after our properties, returning emails or phone calls,” says Trump.
A Disciplined but Fun Upbringing
Discipline and manners were also drilled into the kids early, with the dad quickly correcting them if they began to goof off, Trump recalled. You weren’t likely to see Trump children bouncing from one bed to the other in a hotel room, or sliding down a sweeping staircase banister. That disciplined behavior carried them through the tumultuous teenage years and into young adulthood.
“We knew our family had a reputation to uphold. We’re one of that last families you’d ever see going to a club and dancing on tables,” says Trump. “The family name is very important to us, and we’d never let it get disgraced.”
That said, Trump noted his father is not humorless. He described his dad as a funny guy, and that sense of humor is something he and his siblings have inherited, which, Trump says, results in a fun working environment.
But it wasn’t also so clear to Eric that he would be following in his father’s footsteps. Trump said he entertained other occupations as a youngster, such as fighter pilot or firefighter. But when he was in high school, his decision to pursue a path with the family business began to crystallize.
“I’ve always loved buildings and the tangible nature of it,” says Trump.
While at Georgetown University, he wrestled with becoming an engineering major or going into finance and management. He discussed his options with his father and other mentors before going into finance and management because it would offer greater versatility across a number of business areas. As a minor, he picked psychology.
“I found it teaches you more about yourself than other people,” says Trump. “It teaches you about your personality traits, what you enjoy and why, why people think a certain way about you, and personality traits you want to exemplify.”
Teaching How to See the Big Picture and the Tiny Details
The one trait of Donald Trump’s that Eric says he hopes to one day exemplify is his vision.
“He doesn’t think about building one building,” says Eric Trump. “When he thinks about building, he envisions 30 skyscrapers, a whole city. He has big thoughts and that vision sets him apart from other people and me.”
In the meantime, though, Eric Trump says he’s inherited some other traits from dad, among them loyalty, honor and an eye for detail. Trump says his father can pick out a single burned-out light bulb in a densely packed ceiling of lights, or variations in sheet rock texture.
The younger Trump also learned valuable lessons learned from his father when the family business faced financial adversity. Since 1991, Donald Trump’s corporation or companies that bear his name have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcies in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009, according to a Forbes report.
When Eric Trump joined the Trump Organization in 2006, he recalls, the stock market was going gangbusters. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, reached an all-time high of 14,164.53 in October 2007.
Trump and his siblings were champing at the bit to ride the “up cycle,” pressing their father to build, build, build. But the elder Trump tempered their enthusiasm.
“My father said this market will always have its ups and downs, and to be more conservative and back off,” recalled Eric Trump.
Dad was right, of course. By late 2008, the markets suffered a meltdown and the Great Recession ensued. And in 2009, three highly-leveraged Atlantic City, N.J., casinos that were once run by Donald Trump filed for Chapter 11 reorganization — for the third time.
A Tangible Legacy
Although the younger Trumps have learned a thing or two from dear old dad, Donald Trump is also learning some things them about the Internet and social media. The elder Trump prefers to communicate by phone, fax or letters, but his children are introducing him to Twitter and Facebook, giving a greater social media presence to their hotel properties and introducing apps for their golf courses that allow customers to book tee times, says the younger Trump.
Donald Trump invested a lot of himself in fatherhood: So what does Eric Trump hope he’ll receive as a return on that investment?
“I want to continue the Trump legacy, which values building, love of construction and love of tangible assets,” says the younger Trump. “I want to continue to build the biggest and the best. If I can continue that and my grandchildren can continue that, that would be the best ROI.”
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