My Entrepreneur Can Beat Up Your Politician

entrepreneur beat up politician***Disclaimer: So, sometime on Tuesday afternoon, I forgot that I’d dropped an Aleve-D two hours prior and threw back two REAL Sudafed red devils. Having been plague-ridden for nearly a week, I just wanted the congestion to subside. What resulted, however, was a thorough understanding on why kids cook this shit down to create crystal meth and an evening filled with productivity on most offensive levels. And, this blog post.

The setting is Houston, Texas. The subject, a certain then-bleached-blonde adolescent girl with oversized glasses (complete with purple tint) and a penchant for social and political issues. For nearly five years, I immersed myself in political studies and competed in Lincoln-Douglas debate, extemporaneous speaking, Mock Congressional Hearing competitions, and every political science/history fair I could get my hands on. AP U.S. History and Political Studies classes meant that I was dropped into a sea of upperclassmen studying the same issues. They wouldn’t ask me to Homecoming, but they sure as shit would clammor to sit next to me on test day. And in those competitions? I won. My dream was to become an attorney and specialize in international law, and these were the stepping stones for an awkward, geeky girl to make her mark on the political systems she admired so very much.

Flash Forward to 2012

So, I ditched the purple-tinted glasses and never went to law school. I turned out to be a writer and an entrepreneur – which is precisely where I should have ended up. Hell, it only took me 17 years of living a life filled with Shouldas, Couldas, and Wouldas to get here. My passion for social and political issues has never waned, however – and I can definitively say that everything about this election year irritates me to no end. My country’s political system is in shambles – a complete joke to outside observers – and I have to listen to dribble on the State of the Union Address that spews useless statements like, “The American Dream is in peril.”

Really. Which one is the American Dream? The one where I’m dressed up like a cheerleader in front of the Senate building with a felt USA blazing across my breasts? I really like that dream…but I digress.

I would think that, as a country, we’ve gotten past the Hooverisms and dispelled the myth that there will be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Who are we as people and a nation to believe that we are entitled to anything and that dreams are things achieved with anything other than ass-breaking work, blood, sweat, and tears? As an entrepreneur, I don’t get entitlement. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck and had my 10-for-$1 Ramen days. I’ve failed miserably after a load of ass-breaking work. No one handed me anything and I wake up each day grateful for the people in my life and what I’ve earned.

Yeah. Earned. Earning things for myself – the goal-setting and subsequent accomplishments and failures – that’s my American Dream.

And given the work that I do every day with the startup community and other entrepreneurs, I’m overcome with one thought and one thought alone:

That my entrepreneur can kick your politician’s ass. Period.

And it got me thinking: what do entrepreneurs know better than politicians? Seems to me it’s most everything.

Integrity

I can’t log in to YouTube these days to watch a Van Halen video without some mudslinging GOP ad bogarting my bandwidth. You won’t find that in the startup community. Entrepreneurs who fuel successful startups understand integrity to the Nth degree and skip the dirty trash talking because they know what’s important: building a product for the people who will love what you’re building. Entrepreneurs don’t rise because they bash the competition with paid ad space. They rise because they’ve built a product that solves a pain point for a certain audience.

Let’s face it: we all have a one-night stand that we’d rather forget. A phrase we wish had never come out of our mouths. Pieces of our lives we’d rather keep private. Entrepreneurs put their companies and products first and themselves second – just ask any founder’s wife/husband/kids. Our political system wants to muckrake, dragging everyone’s personal lives out into the open and the politicians are the first ones to play the blame game. They’d do well by looking at what builds successful, industry-leading companies that are putting our country on the map as contenders in the global technology space – it’s a commitment to integrity and knowing that your product speaks for itself. For entrepreneurs, it’s not about pushing someone else down that brings success as it is with politicians. Great entrepreneurs believe that they can only succeed if the people surrounding them succeed, as you can’t build anything in a vacuum. And you can’t forget your audience.

Audience Rules

As I sit and watch the epic tardsparring that is the caucus and primary season this year, it’s evident that the GOP candidates aren’t interested in anything but their own individual agendas. For people who have committed to a life in public service, they seem to have forgotten the “public” part of that equation.

Plain and simple, entrepreneurs understand that their audience is the only reason they have a business to begin with, and that every business decision they make must be proven to add value to that demographic. Politicians? Be it a kind of shitty truth, but it is a rare politician who remembers that the people behind the votes are the reasons they get to serve in the first place.

Simplicity

When’s the last time you went to the website for an emerging startup – one getting noticed and building a buzz – and you had no bloody idea what the company did or why the hell you should care?

That’s because it doesn’t happen.

Entrepreneurs (and great PR professionals as well) understand that when you try to say 83 things, you say nothing at all. The startup world is based on solving complex problems in an elegant, seemingly simple fashion – even if there is a basement full of code monkeys hammering out Ruby-flavored splendor to make that simple solution appear simple 18 hours a day.

Politicians are adept at taking something simple and bastardizing it through riders, lobbying, and self-interest. The resulting product is never one that the American public can understand. And if you doubt me, why don’t you check out all of the Medicare updates? Seems that folks shouldn’t have to rifle through a Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D in order to figure out how and what is covered. If a startup did that with their product messaging and documentation, they’d fall flat before they ever had a chance to soar.

Q: How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Politician’s Answer: It would appear as if the rider on this Lightbulbs bill supporting tax breaks for corporate environmental initiatives is prohibitive to the actual changing of the lightbulb due to some loophole about an endangered species that may or may not come into contact with said lightbulbs. Therefore, it seems the only logical move is to add an additional rider removing the three-toed sloth from the endangered species list, which will free up approximately $600,000 annually, thus making it possible to procure a lightbulb and send out RFPs for government-approved contractors to complete the work roughly 24-26 months following bipartisan acceptance of the legislation.

Entrepreneur’s Answer: Why the fuck are you still using lightbulbs? I know at least six companies with better products. Let me introduce you to them.

Killing Your Darlings

Out political system is brilliant at heaping shit upon shit when shit doesn’t work. Our public education system and social welfare programs are but two examples. Politicians keep applying laws and acts on top of laws and acts until the original legislation’s intent is lost in the noise. The process fixes nothing. It simply creates more problems. Which, of course, will be solved by layering more legislation on in search of a solution when the entrepreneurial community actually holds the answer.

Entrepreneurs understand the value in killing your darlings. Great entrepreneurs have failed – and miserably – on multiple occasions. With each failure, they learn to accelerate the failure process so they can get on with the business of things that actually work instead of being burdened by the things that don’t. You’ll never see a successful startup that’s a Joe’s Mortuary and Fine Sausage Emporium. You’ll see focus. Commitment. And if it doesn’t work, entrepreneurs are standing by with a bottle of kerosene and a BIC lighter to burn the motherfucker to the ground.

There’s much in this country on the political and legislative front that needs a good burning to the ground – and Washington needs a few more entrepreneurs to help them get over the fear and make the leap.

And So It Comes Down to Business

I don’t understand the vitriol directed at Mitt Romney (disclaimer: NOT a supporter) for his experience in the private equity sector. Well, I suppose I can if I figure in that the majority of the US population doesn’t understand what private equity firms actually do. Their goal, in many cases, is to take an ownership share in failing companies and turn them around so they’re profitable again. For the financial sector, they’re the ones that set containment fires. Some things in a PE-owned company burn to the ground so that others have a chance of succeeding. That means downsizing, or in unpretty terms, layoffs. JOB LOSS. While you might not like it, it’s good business. And it works. And yes, people make money from it. (Oh, the horror…)

Our government is bloated. Our nation’s legislative record is bloated. And we could do with an entrepreneurial infusion to lean-up our nation’s infrastructure. Great entrepreneurs know that good business can only be done when you put the foundations in place to support growth. And now, we’re a nation stymied by our political obesity – as we’ve overburdened the frame our Founding Fathers built.

And before you launch into something like “times are different in 2012 than they were in 1787” – no shit, Sherlock. Really? But that doesn’t mean that our nation is even remotely prepared to do good business – the business it’s tasked with: Serving its citizens. Entrepreneurs know that lean companies are more nimble and successful in the long run – a lesson that our nation’s politicians are loath to understand. I think Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup should be mandatory reading for anyone elected to public office.

***

So that’s it. It’s all I’ve got. And perhaps the title of this blog wasn’t really accurate in retrospect. My entrepreneur won’t ever beat up your politician. They’ll just quietly create a better product based on solid business principles that will put you out of business.

31 comments
J.T.
J.T.

Word sista-  As someone who literally feeds themselves (and kids) based SOLELY on my physical output and reputation, I'm with you in regards to the "let's get it done quickly and efficiently" vibe. I've always said that if the government was run like a true business, the lights would have gone out a LONG time ago.  As you well know being in the middle of things - of yourself, by yourself, and for yourself, the learning curve on the bullshit meter looks more like a poorly built wall from the side. Part of our job (and success) is seeing throught the B.S. and scams, andI'm pretty sure that is what really scares the people in suits.

mikelking
mikelking

You have a brilliant way of putting what I'm thinking into words... Great work! Cheers, Mikel king http://jafdip.com

Cardiogoop
Cardiogoop

I re-posted a line you scribed on FB.  However, I did give you the credit. Hope it's okay :) 

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika, Years and years ago, when I was about 15, I became quite interested in politics. The more interested I became , the more I realized that almost every politician had the same middle name: duplicitous. I was complaining about this to my father one day and he simply replied, "Don't worry son. They're only politicians." The older I get, the truer his words ring. Just try to have fun Regards Leon

Cassie Witt
Cassie Witt

I gotta agree with Isabella. This is one of the best things I've read by you, yet. I suppose those drugs are good for something ;).  But, seriously, this was a very well-written and pointed post. Here's hoping us entrepreneur's put the politicians out of business!

Clint Conley, PE
Clint Conley, PE

May be the best post yet.  You should run - I'd vote for you.  Oh wait, you, like anyone else that is intellegent enough to make a difference, does not have the insanity that would be required to run for office in our current system.

Ed Mahoney
Ed Mahoney

If my comment is overly cynical, then my disclaimer is that I just received a disappointing performance review from my employer.  Performance reviews are stupid.  If you won't digress Erika on your cheerleader dream, then I won't digress either either.  But I will if you will. Two points, the rise and fall of America and Mitt.  America is no different than any other company or alcoholic.  It's gonna get worse before it gets better.  We tend to elect Presidents with little or no experience because we know the system is jacked up and we want to shock it.  Given that, Paul has a good shot at the GOP nomination. And I have nothing against Mitt really, other than his lack of a heart-felt plan.  I don't believe he's the Wall Street Gecko.  But I also don't think business people with little gov't experience make good politicians.  For the same reason entrepreneurs can't run a mature business.  Start-ups and mature businesses are two different things.  Government should be run by politicians.  We just need some good politicians - which according to my first point we won't have until things get much worse.  We might have to go through a military coup first. 

Bret Juliano
Bret Juliano

Like others have said, a great post! In retrospect, I think that the title of this blog was perfectly accurate to its subject manner.

Betsy Kominsky
Betsy Kominsky

Last night's #sotua had a killer sales spin on it, but I agree with this red head.  As someone who's been working since the ripe ole age of 12, and having had to manage many 20 something darlings when they come out of college, entitlement is a huge problem in our society.

Puck90
Puck90

It's much easier to start something new than clean up something loaded with 200 plus years of  human corruption.  However, the idea of starting over from scratch every so often is disconcerting at best. 

HeatherO
HeatherO

I've said for some time now that I will never again vote for ANYONE who hasn't run a business. Having gone to law school doesn't in any way make someone a good President (or candidate) IMHO.

Vicki Kunkel
Vicki Kunkel

Bravo!  Nail, meet head.   Spot on, as usual.

James Johnson
James Johnson

Great post as usual... Our opinion of the state of political rhetoric can be summed up as follows--my wife and I skipped 1/2 the SOTU and fell asleep during the GOP response. Honestly it's just the same shit, different day. We do need an entrepreneurial spirit (and ethics) injected into our government...and 4-year term limits for congress, and that's it you're done for life, new blood please! I'm tired of the blah, blah, blah. Can we have some social and political innovation pu-lease?! Peace, Red.

SL Clark
SL Clark

Okay, I'll bite: I'll polish your ass kickin' boots if you can bring the VC community an entrepreneur building a product to replace the *mega* corp fueled US government. That startup is *the* ultimate takeover target or will be declared an Enemy of the State before it gets out of diapers. The angels will be rich, but the 99% will *never* see the Beta. That said, it's staring to happen in education: http://www.kurzweilai.net/sebastian-thrun-resigns-from-stanford-to-launch-udacity The rules are rigged by the 1% to keep us feeding their machine. IMO,  IPO causes evil, eventually. Even the mighty Google has turned dark, no telling what evils Facebook will unleash with their upcoming capital payday. Hell yea, bootstrap a great product for your bloated customers, and so it goes, round and round.

D.T. Pennington
D.T. Pennington

Yet, people still look at me weird when I say I can never trust a man in a suit.  I have zero faith in politics for most of the above reasons. All the GOP debates and related news-cycle horseshit picks up where Jersey Shore left off. Leaving us to vote for people to lead us even though they have no connection to us. 

pjmcleod
pjmcleod

PERFECT!!! WHY-oh-WHY can't our government "leaders" (and I use the term loosely) understand this...and more importantly...do something about it????? ERG!! 

Isabella Jones
Isabella Jones

This might be my most favorite of all favorite posts of yours I have read so far and I am very fond of the ones so far.  well said Red.

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  2. […] on Politics says everything I would love to be able to say so well summing up what is wrong with the US political system and how Entrepreneurs are better than our […]