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Exclusive Q&A With Trump's First 'Apprentice': Think Big, Throw Out The Box


Before his  White House run, Donald Trump springboarded to superstardom by showcasing his business acumen on The Apprentice, a reality TV show where contestants competed for a spot as his personal "Apprentice." But before the TV gimmick, Miami deal-maker Senada Adzem worked with The Donald on several projects as VP, helping develop the Trump brandand she even trained a winner of the reality show for his spot at the company. Here's what the "original Apprentice" learned working with the real estate superstar.


Bisnow: You spent a while working for Donald Trump, what are some things that you did with him?

Senada Adzem: I was VP of marketing for four different Trump International projects. They were actually all mixed-use projects. I was in charge of putting together everything, from the marketing, sales, creative teams, to launching the project, which was quite a bit of responsibility. 

Bisnow: Trump is obviously prolific when it comes to marketing, his name is everywhere. What are some of the things you picked up working with him?

Senada Adzem: The most important thing that I picked up was being truly creative and innovative when it comes to marketing. The one thing that Mr. Trump used to say was “don’t even bother thinking outside of the box, forget about the box.” That really stuck with me because most people who are really innovative marketers tell you to think differently and think creatively, but with him it was about shifting the paradigm. That, in my opinion, contributed to his tremendous success in the real estate field. 

That’s one thing—the second big thing for me was thinking big. I know he’s written books that refer to that phrase, but what it really means is that, sometimes we get stuck in a mindset where we focus on granular and a completely micro-level of thinking. But we have to force ourselves to step back and look at everything from a different perspective and say “are my goals big enough? am I thinking about this project in a way that’s going to get the highest price/SF?”

The last thing is “start from the end.” I was told that everyone on the executive team had one strict rule, which they gave to me on a plaque—it said “start from the end.” What I was later explained was that you have to get to the bottom line within the first two seconds or you’re going to lose everyone. You have to communicate in the most powerful and concise way so people want to hear and understand what you want to communicate.

Bisnow: While you were working for Trump you trained the first “apprentice.” What was that like?

Senada Adzem: I trained Sean Yazbeck, who was the winner of one of the Apprentice seasons, which was fascinating in the sense that these people had gone through so much to win a post. I had to bring him up to speed to understand mixed-use projects—because at Trump International you have to be bringing value as fast as possible.

Bisnow: What are you doing now?

Senada Adzem: I’m the director of sales for the new Mandarin Oriental in Boca Raton.

Bisnow: Can you comment on the drop in foreign cash coming into south Florida?

Senada Adzem: Yes, the currency fluctuations have had an enormous effect on luxury real estate, primarily because most of the Miami buyers do come from different countries. The confluence of currency fluctuations, the oil price drop, and the impact of a shaky stock market have led to a slowdown. But, in my opinion, it’s not as alarming as many people have made it out to be, it’s just a healthy correction. You simply couldn’t sustain such huge numbers in terms of growth—22%, 24%, and once you get down to 14% people start getting worried, but it’s just a correction that is possibly the beginning of a healthy cycle in Florida.

Bisnow: Yeah, I suppose 14% isn't exactly slow growth.

Senada Adzem: Exactly, you have to look at it from a relative perspective. You get some very catchy headlines, but I’m very pragmatic, and look at the numbers carefully and, more importantly, I listen to clients. The thing that comes up over and over again is that they feel safe here. So regardless of currency fluctuations, the fact is that, if clients come to Miami, Boca Raton, they feel safe, and that is the market segment that will continue to drive the ultra-luxury market towards continued and sustainable activity in the Miami market. I’m happy to hear that we don’t have that exuberant growth that’s simply not sustainable.

Related Topics: Donald Trump, Senada Adzem