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The Debates

The Debates - Lessons for Entrepreneurs

We imagine that most people know that it is “debate season” here in the U.S. as the 2012 Presidential debates dominate media coverage throughout the month. More than 70 million people from around the world watched the first Presidential debate; over 50 million folks watched the Vice Presidential debate. It is estimated that the second Presidential debate had higher viewership than the first.

It occurred to us that these debates provide a teachable moment for entrepreneurs.

Now, Why is that, you ask?

The reason is simply that many of the qualities that are required to be successful in an important debate are the same qualities an entrepreneur must have to be successful in a starting and growing a business.

Let’s run through some of these qualities and see if you agree:

  • Preparedness – The participants in these debates spend days and possibly weeks of their very precious time preparing for a 90-minute opportunity. They review and commit to memory an amazing array of facts and figures. They practice endlessly their prepared remarks and responses to their opponent’s claims. Entrepreneurs must do the same with the opportunities that are presented to them. Entrepreneurs have meetings with their bankers and investors, meetings with staff or with colleagues, and most important of all, meetings with potential customers. How prepared you are will almost always be the determining factor in whether or not you make the sale. Will you be more prepared or less prepared than the competition? It’s up to you.
  • Knowledge – You may not love everything (or even anything) that these politicians have to say or the way they say it, but you have to admit, they know a lot. Sure, they sometimes tell half-truths or actually lie, but they know what they are lying about. Well, we don’t recommend that business owners ever lie, but we strongly recommend that you know your stuff. You must have intimate knowledge of every aspect of your product or service. You must know your financial numbers and what they mean. When you are the boss, your employees and your customers expect you to have all the answers.
  • Poise – Don’t think for a minute that these pols aren’t under pressure. They need to be careful, thoughtful, personable, and “quick on their feet” all at the same time. Well Ms. Entrepreneur, so do you. Most entrepreneurs operate under the theory that if the sun comes up today, something will go wrong. That’s how business works. Your success will depend on how you handle these challenges. You must think things through and then make the right decisions. Take your time; just not too much of it.
  • Confidence – I don’t know if all of these debaters are always confident, but they sure look and sound like it. They have confidence in themselves and confidence in the people surrounding them. Successful business owners must also be confident in their ability to succeed. Hey, you’ve gotten this far based on your talent and skill. Keep learning, keep listening and keep innovating just the way you have been. You can get to the next level.
  • Passion – Passion can be manifest in a number of ways. You might argue that the participants in these debates are driven by power. So, the ability to achieve power is their passion. You might be passionate about success or taking care of customers or your product or service. These are good things to be passionate about. Being a successful entrepreneur is not about going through the motions. If you are a successful entrepreneur, there is a good chance that you can’t wait to wake up in the morning and get to work. You can’t wait to talk to the next prospect or customer. You won’t go home until you’ve solved the problem you’ve been working on all afternoon. That is passion, and it is one of the most important qualities in any successful entrepreneur.

We realize that the Presidential debaters also have some qualities that we really don’t need to emulate as we grow our businesses. You know what they are, so we won’t list them here. Just remember that even people we don’t particularly like can still teach us valuable lessons.

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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