My career was leasing. By that I mean, I made a market in, negotiated and wrote real property leases. I made a good living doing this for over three decades.
In the course of pursuing my business, I would often lease small “incubator-sized” retail spaces to starry-eyed, under-capitalized business beginners, beguiled by notions of riches and dreams of independence.
Unfortunately, time inevitably made the vast majority of these dreamers curable optimists. Few, very few indeed, found their path led to a Scrooge McDuck version of wealth and independence. Most failed within a year or two, losing their grubstake, if not their retirements and their homes.
Those lucky enough to survive the nascent years of their enterprise found themselves earning just enough to live decently, and not much else. Of course those very few who did prosper did remarkably well … but, now, even after 30 plus years, I can still count them on my fingers.
When I’d first meet those Pollyannaish entrepreneurs, I’d quickly try to calculate the odds of them making it. Whenever I heard that after they got their business off the ground they’d find the right person to run it and enjoy life I knew the odds were long against them.
More damning words have seldom been uttered. Find the right person? Do you realize how many people have looked for the right person since that vagabond Diagones hung a lantern on a pole? History is full of them, and, as always, the odds against finding that right person are about the same as always, roughly those you get in the Mega-Millions lotto.
Why? Because if they’re so right, why would they want to work for you? That right person is out there starting his or her own business!
Of course business failures are tragedies, but failure is also part of life. They’re almost always the result of flawed strategies and poorly thought-out dreams. The successes? They obviously incorporate strategies, goals, fall-back positions, sacrifice and 24/7 immersion in the business. Kicking back to enjoy life while someone else works hard running the enterprise usually isn’t part of that mix.
So for those of you planning to go into business for yourself, don’t … unless you love the work enough to marry it and pursue it through worrisome hours, both day and night, for a long, long time.
But there’s another lesson to be learned from all of this as well. One for all of us to consider, especially when viewing the architecture of governance. For when you think how hard it is to find the right person person in a micro-business, imagine how impossible it would be to find 200,000 right people for a program such as Homeland Security? Or even for a paltry 15,000 at Immigration and Customs Enforcement?
Staggering, isn’t it! Do you honestly think all those government bureaucracies with their millions of employees have found the enough right people to make them run smoothly and carry out their legislative mandates as intended?
Of course not, it’s impossible. But why do we keep doing it when we know what we do won’t do?
Perhaps it’s just naiveté on the part of starry-eyed legislators and those who vote for them. Or perhaps all the activists and special interests and public employee unions and jabbering politicians create these programs so they can feel good about about solving a problem. Or maybe they’re looking to enrich themselves with all the money that new government program will spin off … and thus having solved the problem and enriched themselves they can turn-up their holier-than-thou noses at anyone who doesn’t agree with them, or has the temerity to complain about having to pay for a solution to a problem they don’t agree with, and probably weren’t even aware of in the first place.
It’s a classic case of high-faluting theories meeting reality.
And so we end up with bungling bureaucracies mostly staffed by not the right people who endlessly interfere with, and regulate our daily lives. Doesn’t quite sound like a place where you can pursue of happiness, does it?
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Count me in as one of the hapless few of your former starry-eyed tenants who made it through the blood and gore of the start-up years. I’ve learned a lot from you and grateful for your wisdom.
With much sweetness,