America, The Beautiful

I recently attended a Boy Scouts campout with my son.  Before, we began our campout dinner, we collectively sang “America the Beautiful” as we gazed at the blue sky, trees and hills ahead.  It had been a very long time since I sang this song and I was reminded of the beauty of America and all she has to offer.  I immediately thought of her as the land of opportunity as this has rung true for my immigrant parents and family.  I also thought about my business and how I work directly with other entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurship emphasizes creativity, individual empowerment, hard work and commitment.  These are all values that are fundamental to the United States.  The most important characteristic leading to the success of entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurs are willing to take risk.

The appetite to take risk is supported by the fact that the US provides a climate to encourage and reward this type of risk-taking. 

I had the fantastic opportunity to live in Mexico City with my family for two years and observed how special this notion of entrepreneurship is in the US.  As I provided counsel to start-ups in Mexico, I learned the tough reality entrepreneurs face there.  Bribes are an absolute must in order to get ahead. Also, once an entrepreneur achieves success, a government official is likely to knock at the door demanding profit sharing in exchange for the business to continue to remain open. 

The United States provides a plethora of programs and tools to help launch entrepreneurs and maximize their success.  We have created a strong network of angel investor groups, venture funds and banks that are willing to finance entrepreneurs.   We have tremendous educational resources via local SBA offices and Centers of Entrepreneurship across the country.  We also have a culture in which those that have benefited from our system and launched successful enterprises make themselves available as resources and guides to future entrepreneurs who are just getting started.  Most importantly, we have laws that level the playing field and protect entrepreneurs giving them a chance at success.

This is truly special and something that I believe is our greatest export.  I wonder if we are doing enough to export this model to the most unstable parts of the world providing opportunities to youth other than joining organized crime, terrorist networks, etc.  The recruiting of young men and women to join these types of organizations seems to have increased over the years likely because these organizations have successfully exploited the large numbers of unemployed or underemployed youth.  Providing these young folks with opportunities other than crime is the fundamental problem we need to solve. 

Transforming economies in places like Mexico, Brazil, Syria, Iraq, etc. take time and require the support and commitment from the national governments.  Larger companies will not make the business decision to locate to unstable regions until the political and economic environments support and protect foreign investment.   Exporting the US model of entrepreneurship may be the first step in building economies in which local small businesses drive the future economic growth.  I wonder if there is more that the US government can do as a first line of defense to bring together the brightest minds in government, education, private sector, etc.  to collectively build strategies and programs that bring the US entrepreneurial spirit to countries that are fast losing their youth to organized crime and terrorist networks.

I am committed to applying my talents and experience to advancing this issue.  As I think about the future for my own 8-year-old son in the US, I also think about what the future holds for 8 year old boys growing up in the most unstable regions in the world.  Our commitment needs to be focused on providing better choices for this Class of 2026 across the globe.