With this month’s lifeskill, Career/Money Management, coming to an end and Recordkeeping next, I thought it appropriate in the series ahead to see how business and our nation’s bureaucracy could actually help each other. After meeting with truckers, President Trump announced this week he was bringing in small and corporate business leaders to help government operate more efficiently and effectively.
Maybe we can gain a glimpse into what those business elements would possible be. Trump early on was wooing business leaders to come to the table, such as small businesses owned by women, as well as giant corporate leaders such as Bill Gates, and companies like Apple, and Tesla.
Before we begin to review those business essentials, we need to first ask ourselves, “Can government really be run like a business?” According to Andrew Rudalevige of the Washington Post, Note to Donald Trump: This is why you can’t run government like a business (October 21, 2016), Trump has had considerable advantages over public sector managers. “. . . it does make clear that as president he would have to deal with far more constraints on his managerial desires than he does as a private sector chief executive. Efficiencies in governmental processes are surely possible and desirable, but success as president is not simply about turning a profit. That makes “success” hard to measure in the first place.”
President Obama at one of his press conferences (October 13, 2016) even addressed the often complex differences between running a business and government. “. . . government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs because, by definition, democracy is messy. This is a big, diverse country with a lot of interests and a lot of disparate points of view. And part of government’s job . . . is dealing with problems that nobody else wants to deal with . . . That's not . . . to say that there aren't huge efficiencies and improvements that have to be made.”
According to Steve Forbes, Can The Government Run The Economy (Economics Course, Prager University), when it comes to government running our economy there are several ways to impact our economic future—via taxation, monetary policy, government spending, and government regulation. When these tools are sensibly used, our economy grows and our lives tend to prosper. Overuse these tools, our economy slows down, our national debt goes up, and our lives often become more difficult.
For some, running a business infers turning a profit as the main reason for existing, and the only measure of “success.” However, as anyone knows who owns a business or even simply works at one, it’s much more. As essential as turning a profit may be for survival, elements of success are multilayered. That also includes at the core customer service. Unless a business offers a product or service you want, as well as good customer service, that business won’t last very long. In this fast paced and often impatient world, we will more likely find the product, service, and good customer service with someone else.
That is why business targets a market share and runs the business to support and hold on to their shareholders. Yet, government could shift their mindset to see us all as shareholders who invest tax dollars in a way that more effectively, efficiently, and profitably serve its purpose. Our government will then hopefully succeed keeping us safe, help the underserved, while sharing the load with the private sector via nonprofits, other philanthropic organizations, and even businesses.
In the public sector, for the most part, many don’t see profitability as a core element of success. Also, how many of us have experienced poor customer service in our public sector, like at the post office or DMV? Yet, we need to be careful about lumping poor customer service and public sector as a given, since there are a variety of public sector services that are already trying to improve their customer service (such as North Carolina DMV).
Since the media tends to headline extremes and biases in their reporting, let’s at least try in this article series to find common ground between running a business and bureaucracy of government. We all know it’s not an all or nothing proposition but an adapting and adjusting process to improve operations and services by incorporating certain business elements and efficiencies. With part two (coming with next month’s lifeskill, Recordkeeping) we will need to focus first on what defines profitability for both private and public sectors, business and bureaucracy. Let us also include how debt can drown both without a balanced budget recorded and followed.