Ivanka Trump describes her life as the daughter of a potential US president, running the Trump empire, and building her own brand
You saw her introduce Donald Trump when he formally announced his presidential candidacy last year, and since then you've seen her at his side on the campaign trail.
But Ivanka Trump has a lot more going on in her life than politics.
As executive vice president of development and acquisitions at The Trump Organization, she's taken over running Donald's real-estate empire with her brothers, Donald Jr. and Eric, while her father focuses on campaigning.
And as head of the Ivanka Trump lifestyle brand, she's aiming to inspire women with articles about #WomenWhoWork while promoting her clothing, jewelry, and accessories line geared toward young professional women.
Business Insider recently spoke with her about her life, what it's like running the Trump empire, and the challenges of building her own brand.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Rachel Gillett: This must be an exciting time in your life. What is it like to be Ivanka Trump at this moment?
Ivanka Trump: It is rather busy, although that seems to always be true, or at least has been for the past several years, having two kids at home. We now have one on the way that's due literally any day now, so we're all very excited about that. And then obviously in a work capacity I've been tremendously busy running The Trump Organization now that my father's on the campaign trail and my own company and the growth of that. So it's been an amazing time, a wild experience, and an incredible one.
Gillett: You've also been campaigning with your dad. What's that been like?
Trump: Well, in the capacity of a very proud daughter. Obviously to be able to see this transpiring, to watch him achieve so much as a politician — and we're certainly not a family of politicians, and politics is certainly not our family business — it's been amazing.
So it's exciting for me to be able to be with him for major moments and stand by his side, and I'm very proud of him as a daughter and as somebody who's worked beside him for the past decade at The Trump Organization.
Gillett: What does a typical day look like for you?
Trump: There is no typical day, and that's especially true these days and part of what is exciting about my life, both personally and professionally.
Having toddlers always means that there's a fair amount of chaos at home, but that's part of the fun. And from a work perspective, we have projects under construction all over the world, including many right here in the US.
We have the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue — the most sought-after hotel and redevelopment opportunity in the country, which we were awarded a couple of years ago — that's under construction and opening in the next six months in September. So that is a project that I am very, very focused on.
For me professionally as well I've built an incredible business that I'm very proud of that is my own brand and that is both creating incredible content to empower and inspire this next generation of working women through a digital platform, mainly through my website, IvankaTrump.com, our email newsletters, and our social-media platforms.
We're generating an enormous amount of content geared at this young professional woman, which has been resonating strongly. We also have been creating solution-oriented products for that same person that will help her transition in life through her many roles, whether they may be mother, girlfriend, professional, and really everything in between.
So there's no typical day, but I transition through the course of my business day by doing everything from construction meetings on the development project under construction to design meetings for an upcoming apparel delivery to acquisition meetings about projects we're looking to acquire. It's very diverse in terms of content, substance, and what I address on a typical day.
Gillett: Do you have any productivity hacks that help you balance everything?
Trump: From a productivity perspective, prioritization is key. And it's very easy to focus on clearing the decks of minutia, especially when one's very busy. It's almost easy to want to sit down at your desk when you have a free five minutes and try to clear out some of the incoming emails rather than address things strategically and foundationally and deal with the most important objectives for you and the company. To the extent I can, I try to maintain a laser focus on what needs to get done from a priority standpoint.
And not just from an urgency standpoint, but from a value-added standpoint. So where can I add the most value? Where is my time best spent?
Part of being able to make great decisions around that and to really grow a business and scale a business comes down to people. I spend a lot of time building teams at both businesses — both The Trump Organization and my own — and thinking about who to hire to supplement the team and allow us to best achieve our goals.
Hiring great people is almost the most important thing you can do as a leader because they enable you to scale, and they create better leverage for you and your time.
Gillett: How do you find great people to hire?
Trump: We want self-starters. We want people who are optimistic, who see challenges as opportunities. People who are dedicated, who really are accountable to one another and toward achieving shared goals, who are ambitious. I like people who aren't shy about the use of that word.
Traditionally women have been more reticent to acknowledge their ambition and to say it with pride. So I like having people who work for us who are ambitious, engaged, respectful.
Mis-hiring is a huge mistake. It's a tremendous opportunity cost throwing the position to the wrong person.
If there's one single thing that I do every single time, it's require references and, ideally, at least one reference from every company they've worked at. It's always a huge red flag for me when somebody's reticent or reluctant or a little slow in providing thoughtful references that are a testament to them as a person and their professional accomplishments.
Gillett: How would you describe your leadership style?
Trump: I set very bold goals. It's how I've always been. I'm definitely somebody who swings for the fences, and I expect very high performance.
Gillett: You've worked with your family most of your life. What do admire about them and what have they taught you along the way?
Trump: Working in a family business, which obviously The Trump Organization is, is an incredible thing, but it's complicated. It's complex.
I've seldom met somebody who is merely satisfied working alongside siblings. You typically have a binary outcome. They either are miserable and everyone starts to hate each other, which is an unfortunate outcome that we see too often, or it is really incredible, and there's tremendous energy and mutual respect, and the parties work really well together. I've found that the middle road typically doesn't happen.
Working in a family business, you just have to be cognizant of being respectful to one another, treating each other in a professional way when you're in an office environment, because it's very easy, especially with siblings, to let down your guard and say exactly what's on your mind when maybe that doesn't serve the situation well and can create ill feelings. It's important to be honest with and respectful of each other and deal with issues as they arrive, as opposed to letting them simmer.
I have the good fortune of working with two brothers who are very accomplished, incredibly smart, and very capable. So thankfully there is not an issue in that regard where somebody isn't pulling their own weight.
We collaborate all the time. We tend to take different paths, but we tend to reach very similar conclusions. It's actually great because it allows us to be much more creative in the process of getting things done. We all have different perspectives but we tend not to disagree with each other very often in terms of where we want to get or where we want to be. So it's been amazing working with my brothers.
And my father is incredible. He's an amazing leader. He's built an enormous business. He's employed tens of thousands of people over the years. It's incredible to watch how he is able to inspire people. He has a very clear vision for each of his businesses in terms of what he wants to accomplish. He will lay out bold goals, and then he will enable people to work very hard to achieve them. And he'll encourage them and he'll support them in those efforts. So he's taught me a tremendous amount about how to be an inspiring leader and how to try to do that as well.
Gillett: If your father wins the presidency, what will the new Trump Organization look like? Will one of you become CEO?
Trump: We're taking it one day at a time. But right now my adult siblings and I run the business. My father is very focused on the campaign and his goal of making this country great again. So that is his primary focus, and we're running the business.
In terms of the logistics of that from a title perspective, we have not talked about that nor do we typically care very much. We're not large on bureaucracy. My brothers and I said to each other when we started in this business that as a collective we can do far more than any one of us can do individually. And that's really what guides our relationship — this sense of camaraderie. And it is a family business, and we work together collaboratively as a family.
Gillett: How does the Donald Trump brand affect your brand?
Trump: My father has created an enormous business and he's created an enormous brand for himself, and I'm contributing to the business that he's built every day at The Trump Organization.
But I've also built my own business, and obviously it's a brand that I've built and it's wholly owned by me and something that certainly my experience observing him and working with him and for him has informed how I make business decisions around my brand. But it's my company.
Gillett: For all the supporters your father has, he also has detractors. What are your strategies for dealing with the backlash that comes your way?
Trump: I don't have a strategy. I am my own person. So if people disagree with the opinion of my father and want to dislike me because I'm his daughter, then I'm probably not going to be able to discourage them from that.
I haven't seen too much of that, though. And people respect the fact that my father is very honest with his opinions, and they respect the fact that I am my own person and I have my own opinions. So I don't give a lot of thought to what detractors might say. And I'm a human being who stands on my own two feet.