“It is money — and only money — the reason we are leaving today.” With that statement former Governor Tom Vilsack closed his campaign for the presidency in 2008. Sorry, Governor, it was not only money that drove you from the race. It was a host of other factors, including lack of a compelling vision, failure to connect with voters, and an ability to make your cause resonate with people outside of Iowa. Vilsack was by all accounts a good governor but he did not demonstrate what it takes to be president. That’s why he’s out. (Source: CNN )
Vilsack’s money woes echo the complaints of far too many managers I have heard moaning the failure of their products. They are fond of launching into the “If only” lament which goes like this: “If only we could have spent more time in design… If only we could have afforded more engineering tests… If only we could have run more TV spots…” And on and on. True, money is vital the development of every new product. But money is not the sole basis for success. If it were, the Sultan of Brunei would be king of the world and not simply of his oil fields.
Success depends on factors like vision, execution, and perseverance.
A compelling vision. You have to bring people to your idea because they want it as badly as you do. Whether you are proposing a brand new widget or the revolutionary new process improvement, you have to demonstrate that your idea is more than an idea; it’s a bold step for a brave new future.
An ability to execute. Ideas are a dime a dozen, even good ones. You have to bring your idea to fruition by getting competent people to fulfill your vision. First step is to make it our vision and then get everyone pulling together to pull it off.
A power to persevere. Visions are about blue skies; life is not. You and your idea will likely get knocked every which way till Sunday until you can make it happen. Good ideas rarely occur overnight. They may take months or years or even decades. Perseverance is what often distinguishes the successful from the also-rans.
There is no question that money plays a central role in the political process. In fact, it may play a too powerful role. Too often good and honorable candidates, like Governor Vilsack, do drop out because they cannot raise money. Public financing would help to a degree, but public financing is not the sole answer. Besides, the high-rolling candidates ignore public monies to raise their own money and in the process bypass federal spending limits.
Rising to the presidency, just like rising to any goal, is a matter of vision and ingenuity as well as persistence and power. No one gave Henry Ford a blank check to create a car company more than a century ago. Ford failed in his first car venture and fellow owners of his second company (Cadillac) preferred to do without him. Likewise venture capitalists were not seeking to fund a milkshake salesman named Ray Kroc who had an idea that what the McDonald brothers were doing in San Bernardino, California, just might catch on in the rest of the country. And he was right! But it took Kroc more than a decade of working without pay from McDonald’s to make his franchise dream a reality. Again when Chad Hurley and Steve Chen were creating a video share site, called You Tube, no one wrote them the big check, until they had demonstrated that they had something different as well as scalable to meet an unmet need.
Not being elected president is not a bad fate. Vilsack is bright and savvy enough to find something that will capture his enthusiasm, energy and commitment to public service. And that drive has nothing to do with money. It’s all about what’s inside.