September 15, 2009 – This week the publisher of Forbes Magazine was in town to talk to more than 550 of the area’s movers and shakers who are members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Steve Forbes, former presidential candidate and devotee of strong monetary policy, delivered a succinct and compelling description of what went wrong in the financial meltdown of exactly one year ago. Forbes was invited to be this year’s kickoff speaker at the NVTC Titans Breakfast series. He was good. A good speaker, yes. And, Forbes provided the most understandable and simple (but not simplistic) explanation I have heard yet of the current economy.
But the Forbes magazine tycoon did not dwell on the negatives. He reminds his audience that nothing in the fundamental producing economy – the carmakers, the software makers, the hospitals, or the nonprofits – was different a week before the collapse, or a week after. The collapse was in the financial sector (Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, AIG, et al). It was the financial system, the regulators, the banks, Wall Street, and the central bankers, who went all wrong. Our underlying economy – and our underlying system of business – was and is still sound
Of the many things that struck me, I liked Forbes’ phrase: “entrepreneur-capitalism”. Forbes wasn’t being political, he was talking about “the system” and what worked and what didn’t. Arguing about capitalism isn’t so much a political debate as it is a question: what makes “the system” go? When you throw in the word “entrepreneur” it gets more interesting, and much more real. Who makes jobs? Who invents better medicines? Who makes cleaner, more efficient, cars? What actions improve the lives of the undereducated, or the underprivileged, or the simply underclass?
It’s all about the entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs make things, invent things, and improve things. Not just new startups, but nonprofits, associations, and even government agencies. Of the many definitions of “entrepreneur” I like this one: An entrepreneur is one who takes on the challenge, even when the assets to meet that challenge are not immediately at hand.
Clearly, you don’t have to be in a startup company to be an entrepreneur. You don’t even have to be in a business. Many of our J Street clients are in associations, nonprofit foundations, or in very large corporations. The common theme is that each is trying to be more innovation, more strategic, and more entrepreneurial in facing the big challenges before them.
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