John Lefferts' Blog

Friday, June 11, 2010

Those who can...please teach!

There's an old adage that those who grew up in the trenches of entrepreneurial business often say... "Those who can't...teach". It was a reference to those who tried but never achieved any real business success, and left the risky and uncomfortable trenches for the perceptively cushy role of a consultant, trainer, or some position with a salary safety net and out of the line of fire. Clearly the saying was rooted in a bravado one must have to succeed in a high risk-high reward business environment. And just like many observations, this one too is often proven incorrect as there are quite a few people without successful "in the trenches" business experience who have done quite well. But, not so much to discredit the idea that having real life business experience often is an advantage over solely academic experience. Recent observations cause me to think that the saying should rather be said, "Those who teach...can't"

Events over the past couple years through the financial crisis, health care reform and now the financial services re-regulation being marked up this month have created a bright line divide between the public sector and the private sector. ..between the academics and the entrepreneurs...between government and business. Every time I hear Obama ridicule and ostracize business and business leaders, while some of it is deserved, it causes me to wonder if he and his administration really understand what they are throwing barbs at. Obama, while a great orator and politician, has never been exposed to life in the business trenches. Nor has 90% of his administration who are driving the agenda in DC. It doesn't make them bad people. They simply see the world differently than those who know what it's like to be an entrepreneur with a mindset of waking up unemployed every day. The solutions to problems from an academic public sector mentality will differ greatly from a entrepreneurial private sector minded person. This also plays out in finance where the economic academics always seem to overlook the fact that human behavior is a key driver in almost every economic outcome. Our academic leaders ascribe to a Keynesian public sector solution while those of us who have real life experience understand the power of the human element and a free market system. These differences have always been around, it just seems like the economic turmoil has exposed the glaring differences all the more. Needless to say, I'm a free market kind of guy.

I have tremendous respect for teachers. A real challenge we have nationally is a lack of high quality teachers. But, it's when the academics step over the line to both teach and run business through public sector driven solutions that gives me fits. We don't need any more government programs, handouts and overlapping regulation. We need more small business growth that has historically created 80% of new jobs. The recent political wave of free market candidates, particularly in California, are encouraging. November elections can't come soon enough. It's time for those who teach!

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