The Making It! Institute 
For The Advancement of Business 
Making It!

The Call to Service

Business owners and entrepreneurs are very proactive people, which is one of the critical keys for a high level of success. Conversely, I believe that career politicians are tragically reactive, and that kind of behavior has left us in a mess. There was a time when their calling cards said that they specialized in fixing the messes, but today, the problems loom larger, and their abilities seem to have shrunk. These are times in which being only reactive is a very poor strategy and can be dangerous to an entire nation’s future. With our cities, states, and indeed the entire country in some level of crisis right now, I feel that the call must go out to seasoned business leaders who have a new and critically necessary role to play. I want those men and women to recognize our present difficulties as a loud and irresistible call to service.

In the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century, when we found ourselves up the mythical creek without a paddle, it has been the private sector forming a posse to rescue the politicians, not the reverse. Whether it is the dysfunctional legislature in California or the dollar damaging spending in Washington, we really are a country searching for capable leadership and a way forward.

As a business owner, I believe that clear goals provide the roadmap for any successful venture. Right now America needs some clearly articulated goals infused with inspired leadership. Have you recently heard any senior level politician lay out a list of real goals and strategies for us?  What do we stand for, and what do we need to do to bring benefits to our country and the world? Even the smallest of businesses have to answer those questions if long term survival and prosperity is to be theirs. The natural laws of the universe apply equally to individuals, enterprises, and countries.

When America was born, most of the founding fathers were business owners operating enterprises such as farming, import-export, and manufacturing. They learned hard and practical lessons in self reliance without the benefit of safety nets. These were the people who signed the declaration of independence and formed the scraggly legislative body that battled over where to establish our national capitol. Because they had businesses to run, hammering out legislation in Washington was a part time job. They took the lessons of business to Washington and the lessons of the capitol back home to their civic and business lives. The fact that we still exist as a nation lets us know it worked pretty well that way.

I think the simmering anger and disappointment that seems pervasive in our country today can be traced back to an acute leadership vacuum. We have a surplus of politicians but a shortage of leaders who can get the necessary things done. In these confusing times I’m thrilled to see people of proven business abilities throwing themselves into the hurricane that running for office has become. A few weeks ago, while in New York, I saw Mayor Michael Bloomberg campaigning in the city’s Columbus Day parade and was reminded that he’s perhaps the most visible example of what I hope is a new movement: successful entrepreneurs who want to serve in elected office and relish the idea of tackling the big problems, those that have politicians cowering and dithering.

The financial crises at all levels of government are revealing a horror list of just how poorly the pure politicians have done by failing to develop any long term strategy and hiding from hard decisions. Here in the tarnished golden state, ex business executives Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have slipped on their pumps and begun running for office. I’m impressed not by their particular party affiliations, but by the fact that they don’t really need the job, and yet they are willing to trod the grueling path to elective office anyway. Surely there are other smart, capable, and accomplished entrepreneurs and senior executives around the country who care enough to make the Power Point pitch of their lives seeking to be elected! To me that is one of the highest forms of public service.

Years ago I met Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and instantly liked him a lot. I discovered that he was independently wealthy and that fact seemed to free him to make key decisions and lead without reading political polling data first. He showed no fear in taking on unions and other entrenched groups. That was a light bulb turning on for me. I’m reminded of historic notes on how America was able to mount a supreme effort during World War II when our armed forces and those of our allies simply didn’t have the equipment to win. The much revered President Roosevelt called upon industrialists such as Henry J. Kaiser, Henry Ford, and others to quickly turn their factories to shipbuilding and manufacturing tanks for the war effort. He knew they could reduce mountainous obstacles to mere nuisances. Kaiser created an unprecedented assembly line whereby ships could be constructed in less than five days. With Ford’s help the USA produced more tanks in WW2 than any other country, 60973; Russia, 54500; UK, 23202; Germany, 19926.  These business owners changed much about America in less than two years. It wasn’t the legislative bodies.

Right now key infrastructures such as air traffic control are shaky and crumbling, social services programs are basically broke, and we have young men and women in distant lands fighting undefined wars. Add to that the decline of the American dollar, banks that are “too big to fail,” and the very long list feels punishing. Doesn’t this all point to the need for a corps of experienced, butt kicking practical business people who know that getting it done is the only route to survival? The entrepreneurial spirit that brought us greatness in the first place can still be found across the country. It is time to harness that force to recalibrate large chunks of our present life. President John F. Kennedy got it right when he threw down the ultimate call to service.  “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

- Nelson Davis | Small Business Expert