What entrepreneurs can learn from watching the GOP debates

Published by Upstart Business Journal on September 15, 2015

All the world is a presentation, as a particular group of people are learning right now. I’m talking, of course, about what seems like throngs of people running for president.

So far, we’ve witnessed 17 Republicans in one debate last month and will see most of them again tomorrow in another two-tiered discussion format. The top 11 candidates according to how they stand in polls will be in the main event, while four more will be in an opening act (former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore is being left out because he’s not polling well enough to be in either discussion and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race)/ The GOP presidential primary is shaping up to be greatest reality TV show of all time.

Based on their performances in round one last month, here’s how some of them stood out and what the takeaways are for entrepreneurs.

Donald Trump

Presentation: Trump says what he thinks and means what he says, with no PC nonsense or apologies. His candid and confident nature is in direct contrast to perpetually scripted candidates. He says what people are thinking, intuitively using words and emotions that resonate within peoples psyche, and he does this all without focus groups or polls. As a result, he hasn’t spent a dime out of pocket for advertising, but always leads the headlines. Trump is the master marketer.

Takeaway: Be like Trump; intuitive, candid and confident.

Carly Fiorina

Presentation: Fiorina displays an intellect that instills confidence. Her command of the issues combined with her ability to communicate shot her to the top, outperforming everyone in the “Happy Hour” debate. Her presentation style is thoughtful, direct and straightforward, which builds trust and helps solidify relationships. She comes across as a calming, stabilizing leader, someone you trust to solve problems and lead through chaotic situations. She is an intelligent leader.

Takeaway: Be like Fiorina; display high intellect with strong communication skills.

Ben Carson

Presentation: Carson’s soft spoken feel gives a feeling of understanding. As a kid, we used to say “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to…” Well, this Washington outsider is a brain surgeon. He is wise, in a Yoda kind of way. He is calm, analytical and presents no drama. His style, especially when addressing complex issues, makes people feel at ease. If America is looking to heal and trust again, Carson will rise. If your business depends on ultimate trust, you need a healer on staff.

Takeaway: Be like Carson; bring a wise calming approach and make people feel at ease.

Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul

Presentation: Although these three have different personas, they present their arguments in a similar style. All three start with rational arguments. They present clear facts and paint visuals with their words. And you are taken in. As they make their argument, their tone and energy level rise, and before you know it, it feels like they are preaching. This style plays well when selling to clients, but the masses can be turned off. Having preachers on your staff helps in industries where high touch and heavy commitment are a must, but try not to go overboard.

Takeaway: Passion and energy help sell products. Total commitment is necessary to succeed.

Jeb Bush

Presentation: Pop-n-fresh. Jeb comes across as the “moldable” candidate. While son of one president and brother of another president, he may have solid beliefs and convictions; but his presentation feels rehearsed. His words conform to a calculated common denominator: focus groups, donor base, the media and both parties. His biggest asset is also his heaviest anchor – his last name, Bush. Still, Jeb needs to add depth of character and conviction. Bush represents the establishment. In business, the establishment has a leg up others do not have.

Takeaway: The establishment usually wins the race, so whenever possible; bring an established player on your team.

Marco Rubio

Presentation: Rubio is a student writing a good essay. He’s the freshman. The youngster of the bunch, the Florida senator can easily identify with a new generation. He is rehearsed and presents well, but feels like the rookie. What he lacks in experience, he makes up with a commanding and authoritative voice. But, he does not seem to command the authority of a true statesman … yet. He needs to be beaten up a bit before he could truly lead the masses. He presents as the fresh face but lacks the feel of experience.

Takeaway: Having a freshman on your staff tells your customers you are looking to the future.

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