By Adam Mendler, CEO of The Veloz Group.
In today's political climate it can be challenging for entrepreneurs to look at politicians with anything but cynicism. A recent Public Policy Polling poll found that only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while a Quinnipiac University poll found that more than 80 percent disapprove. Dissatisfaction spans ideological and demographic lines, so regardless of your political leanings, you are unlikely to look to your political leaders for leadership advice. On the contrary, there is a good chance you have said or thought, "If only our politicians approached their jobs the way I approach my business ..." Yes, elected officials can learn a lot from entrepreneurs. But believe it or not, entrepreneurs can learn important lessons from those serving in elected office. Here are a few key takeaways from the world of politics that business leaders should have top of mind:
Don't Be Afraid to Ask
Whether you are running for office or running a business, you need to be able to make the ask. Politicians spend a significant amount of their time asking for two things: money and votes. Regardless of the office you are seeking, you cannot get elected without the requisite support from donors to finance your campaign and a plurality of the votes. Even candidates who "self-finance" rely on outside funds to supplement their personal investment. Those who are unable to effectively make the ask for financial support are at a deep disadvantage against adept fundraisers. And the best campaigners, who are able to ask for and get votes on the ground, are the toughest to beat.
In the world of business, it is equally important to ask for what you want and need, whether it is asking a member of your organization to execute on an assignment or a prospective customer to buy from you. It is important to offer something compelling to the party you are pitching to increase the likelihood that your ask is met affirmatively. If donors or voters like a candidate's message or platform, they will be more likely to say yes. As an entrepreneur, I try to offer customers products and services that are differentiated and provide significant benefit to them, whether they are ergonomic chairs, high-end gifts or technology resources.
You Are Accountable to Your Constituents
In business, as in politics, you are ultimately accountable to your constituents. Elected officials have to run for and win reelection to stay in office, so voters ultimately have the opportunity to decide whether or not their political leaders are worthy of continuing their political careers. To enjoy a long and successful tenure as a public officeholder, you have to stay attuned to the needs of your constituents and deliver at a level they deem to be sufficient.
Along the same lines, entrepreneurs must always act with their constituents in mind: the first thing you learn in business school is that there is nothing more important to any business than your customers. Without customers, you do not have a business, so leaders must make sure their company is meeting their needs and catering to them effectively. Like winning politicians, entrepreneurs should make use of surveys to analyze consumer preferences and must never forget the importance of a great ground game. Make sure you talk to as many people as you can, as there is ultimately no substitute for old-fashioned retail politicking and face-to-face interaction.
Nothing Significant Can Be Achieved Alone
In the world of politics, real achievements are the byproduct of collaborative efforts. Even the most accomplished presidents, governors, senators and congressmen have had to build consensus from key stakeholders to win the buy-in needed to drive their agendas. And even those who developed reputations for their propensity to go it alone had to rely on others to help them execute on their vision and mission. Entrepreneurship is no different.
Highly successful entrepreneurs are lionized for their achievements, but in actuality, truly significant accomplishments in any company are the result not of any one individual's effort but the output of an entire organization. Rather than operating in isolation, great leaders seek to inspire and drive those around them, building and leading teams that can scale the highest of heights. When faced with your next big challenge or opportunity, instead of trying to work through it singlehandedly, seek out others who can help you with your efforts and empower them to utilize their talent and skill-set to the best of their abilities.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.