Are Your Plans Big Enough?

Donald Trump’s most important contribution to my thinking has been his constant mantra: Think big.

I’m not – I admit it – a Trump-sized thinker. For me, getting into the real estate business has been a decades-long process of moving from $65,000 condominium speculations to two- and three-million-dollar apartment complexes.

But sometimes I think I should have been more ambitious. In my main business – direct-response publishing – I’ve grown several $10 million ventures and played a key role in two $100 million businesses. In fact, until any publishing business I’m involved with has hit the $5 million mark, it feels flimsy, even insignificant, to me.

Frank McKinney, South Florida’s local Donald Trump, began his real estate adventures at about the same time I did. But he’s become a whale in the business – building and selling $25 million mega-mansions while I still tremble over a $4 million project.

I should know better. As a passive investor in Eddie P’s developments, I’ve gotten great R.O.I.s on projects that have ranged from $60 million to $600 million.

Real estate is real estate. The difference between a $5 million venture and a $50 million or a $500 million deal is mostly just decimal points.

Put differently, it takes about the same amount of hard work, perspicacity (see “Word to the Wise,” below), and caution to make a $10 million profit as it does to make a $100,000 R.O.I. “About,” I said. Not “exactly.”

My brother and I had this conversation the other day. He’s decided to crank up his efforts and move that decimal point over a notch. And I’m thinking, “I bet he can do it.”

Getting bigger isn’t always better. If you are happy with the size of your business as it is, more power to you. But if you think you might want to take it up to a higher level, spend some time thinking about how that could happen.

I read an article in a business magazine the other day that used the architecture of ancient Rome as a model for big thinking. And if you have ever been in Rome and seen the ancient ruins, you already know how masterful the Romans were at this. They thought big in three dimensions:

1. Size: The Coliseum is 15 stories high, covers an area as big as four soccer fields, and seats 70,000 people. Even today, that’s a huge arena.

2. Quality: “When I found Rome it was a town of bricks,” Caesar said. “When I finished with it, it was a city of marble.”

3. Duration: Many of these great buildings are intact today. They were built not only to astound (size) and impress  (quality) but also to last (legacy).

I’m not sure I’m ready for Donald Trump-sized ventures in South Florida real estate (especially considering how overpriced the market is), but I like the idea of bringing more size, quality, and scope to my publishing ventures and to the resort developments I’m involved with in Latin America.

What about you?

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]