Usually, receiving a gift doesn’t generate controversy. Well then, why is the stimulus package Congress approved not receiving overwhelming support from all of us citizens? Perhaps it’s because we can’t understand or support the way the politicians came up with it.
I thought about how business would have developed such a process. Leaders of both big and small businesses understand that “cash is king.” Without it, there is no way to meet payroll and other important commitments necessary for existence. So if business leaders were tasked with making investments to stimulate economic growth, the very first step would be to set a budget.
This first differentiator between a business approach and that taken by public officials is that the very first thought by business leaders would be to determine what level of spending is affordable. It’s true that businesses can’t print money to pay for investments, but they can utilize credit. The key difference seems to be that most business leaders see themselves as the stewards of their constituents’ money, while this idea seems to escape politicians no matter what party they represent.
Next, I believe business leaders would look at the goals of the investment, requiring a great level of detail and defining the objectives narrowly. Businesses would be dedicated to avoiding what they call “scope creep.” They would insist on timelines and clearly defined waypoints to ensure that progress was on or ahead of budget.
Lastly, if the projected results were not being achieved, changes would be made until the initiative was back on track to deliver the desired and budgeted results.
The reason for the difference in approaches is not that business leaders are smarter or more dedicated than public officials. The intensity to achieve the stated goals comes from the greater accountability business achieves. Goals, timelines, and measures are clearly defined in business and largely undefined in government. Company quarterly statements document the achievement or lack thereof. Accountability drives ingenuity and extra effort.
This is not a column about politics; rather, it is about good business. Each reader can assess the results of the programmed spending developed by our public officials. It just might be that politics and good business are an oxymoron. We could change that if we could reign in accountability to quarterly progress rather than just holding a new election every two or four years.
Jim Rohrer is a business veteran who has succeeded in big, small and medium-size businesses in Colorado.