Welcome to the Private Sector

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When someone asks me about what you need to do to be a successful entrepreneur, it really comes down to some very simple stuff, as Dan Sullivan says in “How the Best Get Better.”

· Do what you say.
· Finish what you start.
· Show up on time.
· Say please and thank you.

Any individual or organization that consistently executes these intuitive principles will never lack opportunity. While is seems simple, the trick lies in the consistency of service. Opportunity doesn’t always come between 8 and 5 on weekdays, and the most successful organizations will figure out how to deliver whenever an opportunity for service presents itself. The original mission statement for the U. S. Post Office sums it up pretty clearly: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Likewise, there are a couple of business no-no’s that apply to all organizations.

1. Don’t spend more than you make.
2. Deliver products (or services) that people are willing to buy.

Organizations that fail to observe these principles may survive for a while; however, the long-term difficulties they encounter will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Financial difficulties are easy to visualize. Anyone who has racked up a significant credit card balance understands that bills come due.
More importantly, an organization’s reputation will be irreparably damaged if it doesn’t deliver products that provide value. The concept of value can be a little tricky, so let’s be clear: To have value, people have to be willing to pay money. By definition, if an item is free, it has no value.
This is the point where the some folk will make the argument, “Charity is free to the recipients. Are you saying that charity has no value?” Far from it. To those truly in need, charitable gifts provide a value beyond their ability to pay.
That said, organizations that embrace the delivery of charitable services as a core mission must play by the same rules. Specifically, someone must be willing to pay for the charitable services, whether it is the recipient or some other third party (for instance, through a grant or donation). Otherwise, the organization is headed for problems.
Now time for a pop quiz: Name an American organization that, over the past 50 years or so, has consistently failed to observe any of the basic principles of organizational success that I’ve discussed here. Here’s a hint — they’ve recently closed their doors for business.
You are correct! The United States government.
If Washington were a private sector company, the case study might read something like this:

· The company is currently executing a business model that is not financially sustainable. Over the past few years, prices have gone up with more price increases expected.
· Customers are getting frustrated that the organization isn’t delivering services as promised. Customers are also upset with the price charged for the services that are delivered.
· Recently, a group of activist stockholders put several new members on the Board of Directors. These members are committed to changing the business model and eliminating poorly performing products to ensure long-term financial health.
· Another group of the Board of Directors, along with the CEO, are opposed to any changes in business direction. They strongly disagree with the need to eliminate any product line, even if these products have not produced the promised returns.
· Overall, the company’s shareholders agree that change is needed, but the current Board of Directors seem incapable of making the tough decisions to get the company back on track.
Throw in a couple of romantic story lines, and we’d have a great miniseries!
Bottom line — when organizations fail to perform, bad things happen. This is true whether you’re a start-up or whether you are Too-Big-To-Fail. Likewise, when you deliver great service, nothing can stop your success.
Don’t be misled… the environment for private enterprise right now is terrible. But look around and you see numerous entrepreneurs and organizations succeeding. And I expect these organizations to continue to succeed, not because of the government but, in most cases, in spite of it.

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.

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