If you’ve ever watched as dysfunctional leadership slowly but surely destroy a once great company, then I’m sure you recognize exactly what’s going on in American politics today.
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You probably also understand the rise of Donald Trump and the threat he represents to those in power – those who would milk this nation until there’s nothing left but massive debt and a culture in steep decline.
If that sounds dramatic, it’s not intentional. It’s just that I’ve watched the demise of Sun, Nortel, Kodak, Blackberry (BBRY), Yahoo (YHOO) and countless others, sometimes too close for comfort, I’m afraid. And that’s exactly how it always goes down.
Such an unravelling can take years, even decades. And during that time, leaders responsible for massive layoffs and loss of investment capital will inevitably fight to maintain the status quo. CEOs may come and go, but they’re usually disciples who are just as brainwashed as their predecessors or hamstrung by oppressive bureaucracy.
Ironically, it’s always the stakeholders who can see what their leaders can’t. Not every employee, investor and customer has that sort of perspective, mind you, but many do. Unfortunately, they’re helpless to stop what’s happening to their beloved company. That is, until someone intent on leading the fight comes along.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but that’s where many Americans stand today. They’re ready to put up a fight. And like it or not, Trump is their champion. He’s the activist investor, the turnaround CEO, the new sheriff in town who’s supposed to lay down the law and take no prisoners … if only he can get the job.
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At least that’s the plan. The only problem is that nobody knows if he’s capable of doing what Steve Jobs did with Apple (AAPL) or Lou Gerstner with IBM (IBM). Both companies were on the ropes and needed a new leader to shake things up and execute a complete, top down restructuring to turn them around. And they somehow managed to pull it off.
But successful turnarounds are few and far between. They’re extremely challenging, even for the most seasoned veteran. And they’re even harder when half the stakeholders think everything is fine and have no interest in changing a thing. That’s what makes the turnaround of America Inc. so challenging.
Then again, Gerstner somehow managed to change an 80-year-old culture and turn a computer hardware company into an integrated IT services powerhouse. He likened it to teaching an elephant to dance. And a decade before, Ronald Reagan turned around America – and took down the Soviet Union in the process.
It can be done. But only if the champion gets the job.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Trump follower. But on the day he announced his candidacy for president, I knew his message would resonate with those who could see that a chronically incompetent ruling class has its head stuck too far up its own inertia to fix what’s wrong with America. They were finished with politics as usual in Washington.
Look, I can see Trump’s issues. And I’m concerned about them. But then, nobody’s perfect. Some of the best CEOs who’ve ever lived – Jobs, Andy Grove, and Bill Gates, to name a few – were at times about as brutal, petty and aggressive as anyone you’d never want to work with or compete against. But they were effective.
I’m not saying Trump is in that class, but I’m not saying he isn’t. I really don’t know. Actually, nobody knows. Nobody ever knows until after the job is done.
At this point, every American has a simple choice to make. I can’t imagine it being more binary. It’s either more of the same or take a chance on Trump. That’s all there is to it. If the status quo is working for you and you think we’re on the right track, you’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. If that’s not the case, you’ll vote for Trump.
Want to know where I stand? As a small business owner and former senior executive, here’s my fiscal wish list for the coming administration:
The federal government cut to about half its size with appropriate authority returned to the states; a budget surplus that will eventually erase our debt; a flat tax code with no loopholes allowing for the repatriation of more than $2 trillion sheltered overseas and incentives for onshore manufacturing job creation; and business friendly regulations.
Of course, keeping America safe and secure goes without saying. That alone would require the biggest restructuring in history, and one thing I know for sure, you can’t accomplish that by sticking with the status quo. If you want a turnaround, you’ve got to roll the dice.