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I don’t often respond to other bloggers but today I was asked to do so by my friend Dr. Steven Berglas who blogs for Forbes and is quite an expert on executive and entrepreneur psychology. Steve wrote recently about President Obama’s call for shared sacrifice in the current budget fistfight with Congress, claiming this was exactly the wrong message for the President to send to American entrepreneurs, effectively discouraging entrepreneurism. He asked a number of bloggers including me to comment for a follow-up post. My response (Steve’s wrong) ran so long I figured — what the heck — I might as well make a couple bucks from it. So here goes:
I don’t think either you or President Obama will like what I write here so you may not choose to use it.
President Obama has a message problem, true. He’s simply out of his depth.
Here’s a guy who has always been the smartest in the room, noted for his Teflon smoothness and turn of phrase. But in order to turn the right phrase, no matter how smart you are, still requires an understanding of context — an understanding he simply doesn’t have. And why should he? Obama was always a political operative. Michelle has more real world experience.
He’s not dumb, he’s not shallow, but he is inexperienced.
Shared sacrifice (and calling for it) works when you have no easier choices, when the alternative isn’t just a different policy but military defeat and potential annihilation. That’s why Churchill could make so well those very calls that Obama is frankly attempting to emulate now. Only this isn’t the Blitz — it’s the Great Recession — and the GOP isn’t Hitler, just a bunch of pols. So this was a misstep on Obama’s part.
But you are wrong, too. You know a lot of entrepreneurs, but I’m not sure you have ever been an entrepreneur. I have. I started and helped to start several companies that failed completely. I also helped to start three companies that have a combined market cap this afternoon of more than $500 billion.
One question I am frequently asked because of my background is if this is a good time to be an entrepreneur — a good time to start a company? Understand people have been asking me this question for 30 years — a period of time that encompasses some major booms as well as two of our deepest recessions. And the funny thing is that my answer to this question never changes: it is always a great time to be an entrepreneur and start a business. And with the passage of time I tend to think it has only gotten better, even today.
The sort of entrepreneurism I know, which is technology entrepreneurism, is acyclical. It doesn’t matter what the economy is doing, what interest rates are, even the mood of the venture capitalists. People will still start new technology companies to develop their great ideas. Understand that they do so with a 95 percent chance of failure, again no matter how the economy is doing. Against an obstacle that huge, factors like government policies and political talking points are inconsequential.
Entrepreneurs start companies compulsively. It would take medication to force them to stop, thank God.
So what we have here with President Obama and Congress is at best positioning and at worst posturing and it will have no impact whatsoever on entrepreneurial energy in this country.
Entrepreneurs have more important things to worry about.