published on January 17, 2017 - 2:47 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
For years, those of us who grew up in the private sector have heard the phrase, “If only they would run government like a business.” Yet, there are many who argue that government and business are two very different animals and the policies for one can’t be duplicated to the policies of the other.


As Donald Trump takes office Friday, it will be unprecedented in American government. No former President has ever held this office without some form of government experience — whether it is a high position in government, an elected position or a high military rank.

It is a position that has been debated for years without resolution because, until now, there was no “laboratory” to test the process or analyze the results.

History has witnessed the collection of successful politicians in our nation’s capital but the majority of these have come from areas other than business. In fact, many have argued that no decent minded “business person” would ever want to inject him or herself into the cesspool surrounding campaigning for elected office.

However, this recent election just might has given America a chance to find out to what degree government really can be “run like a business.”

There have been business people who have become president but all have some earlier exposure to government before assuming office, coming from either the legal profession, as career politicians or having military experience.

For example, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were plantation owners; Warren Harding was a newspaper publisher; Calvin Coolidge was in the banking business; Herbert Hoover was a successful mining engineer; Harry Truman was a haberdasher but not particularly a successful one; Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.  Both Bush Presidents were in the oil business while George W. was the first to have earned an MBA from Harvard.  

Challenge for Donald Trump will be to design an approach that precludes his international business activities for being an on-going question of possible conflicts of interest. It will be the first time a president and a nation have had to sort through this exercise. He will also have to prove that surrounding himself with other successful people, such as fellow billionaires and generals, will bring to government a high level of accomplishment.

The theory is that the decisions made by business people are better at motivating and managing others, negotiating international agreements while at the same time visualizing the impact of long term and short term policies.

In November, America voted for a change on how government works. It’s time to prove or disprove the theory.

Al Smith, former president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, serves as a leadership coach for local companies as part of the John C. Maxwell leadership-training program. For more information, contact Smith at

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