This post was edited by senoritazhao at 2017-3-17 16:07|
Q With headlines of Mark Zuckerberg eyeing up a future career in politics, do you think entrepreneurs can make it as politicians?
A You might think that the election of Donald Trump means that we’re about to find out how easy it is to move from business to politics, but Trump isn't a typical entrepreneur and so far has shown little evidence of being a typical politician.
However, many of his predecessors moved from commerce to the White House: Herbert Hoover made his money in mining, the Bush family was involved in oil and Jimmy Carter came to office with experience as a peanut farmer.
The UK electoral system makes it pretty well impossible to jump from the boardroom straight into 10 Downing Street, but plenty of business leaders, from William Lever (Lord Leverhulme) to Alan Sugar and Karren Brady, have thrown their hat into the political ring. It must be good to have a wide spread of experience in parliament, including entrepreneurs.
Business people entering politics discover that they have entered a parallel universe. Career politicians that go straight from university to a support role in Westminster enjoy an apprenticeship that gives them an instinctive advantage over any business-wise but politically-naive newcomer.
I saw the contrast in 2004, when I was invited to spend a week at the business department (then called the Department of Trade and Industry, or DTI). It was a week in which Yes Minister came to life. I discovered that no member of the team received training in trade or industry; they were totally involved in politics. Their biggest satisfaction came whenever they scored a point over The Treasury.
The best business brains have plenty to offer. Central Government lives in a world of process, rules and strict guidelines. I’ve seen how trust, freedom, flair and true delegation create much more prosperity than a system based on orders and regulations. An entrepreneur with the courage to back flair and imagination could do lots of good.
But why would a successful executive want to make such a career change? They would have to take a big drop in salary, swap their comfortable office for a broom cupboard, and will find the whips office and constituents more demanding than customers and institutional shareholders.
People usually abandon business for politics because they want to “make a difference”, but their good intentions may well be viewed with suspicion by cynical public opinion and critical journalists.
We need business experience in parliament, but any executive moving into politics must learn how to survive in a completely different role.