Welcome guest columnist, Leonard Pellman to Triple F.
90% of all new businesses fail. Most entrepreneurs who succeed do so by failing their way to the top, meaning they try idea after idea until finally one works. My friend and former pastor, John Maxwell, wrote a bestselling book called Failing Forward shortly after one of my most spectacular failures, and I’m certain that my career was at least one of his sources of inspiration! But it’s one thing to concoct an idea and have it fail on its merits, and quite another thing to have your own government — a government that purports to hold the pursuit of success as a sacred and fundamental human right — crush the spirit of innovation.
Case in point: in 1974 I came up with the idea of selling filtered water in 16-ounce soda-pop bottles. I talked with the local Culligan franchisee and he agreed to use down-time at his plant to produce enough product to test market the concept locally. But we knew we’d need additional financial backing to set up county-wide or regional distribution, much less go state-wide or nationwide, so he and I formed a Subchapter S corporation (Spring-Fresh Water, Inc.). I had a printer create some labels with white daisies surrounded by swirling bubbles on a green and yellow background in the colour palette of Squirt and pasted them over the original labels on some water-filled Pepsi bottles as mock-ups of our product, and wrote up a 90-page prospectus for potential investors. Then my buddy and I began talking to people in the service clubs in which we were members. One day I was pitching the idea to a table of friends at the Lions Club and a fellow Lion who was an assistant DA asked for a copy of our prospectus. I naively handed him one, thinking he might not only invest but also possibly serve on our board, so we would benefit from his legal expertise.
Instead, about a week later he and two of his assistants barged into my office without an appointment and began threatening me with prosecution for fraud because “water comes out of the faucet for free, so this is obviously just a scam to bilk little old ladies out of their pension money, and I’ll put you behind bars if I catch you selling so much as one share of this bogus stock.” I was only a year out of college and didn’t have the money, courage, or inclination to battle the DA’s office for years on end, so I dropped the idea … and two or three years later Perrier hit the US market and the bottled water craze began!
There is no assurance that Spring-Fresh would have been a runaway success. By the same token, being first to market with an idea that becomes a nationwide craze is a huge advantage, and those entrepreneurs often wind up billionaires, don’t they, Mr. Gates? Mr. Jobs? Mr. Zuckerberg? What I do know is that the Assistant DA made sure I wasn’t one of them! Because he lacked the foresight and vision to see market potential for a product that no one else had yet conceived, he was unable to see a product that soon became commonplace — practically a household essential — as anything but a scam. He went on to became a multi-term California assemblyman who sponsored a mountain of business-stifling regulation … and somehow managed to retire a multimillionaire in Rancho Santa Fe.
Bureaucrats are bureaucrats precisely because they lack the vision, creativity, courage, and/or ambition to be entrepreneurs. They follow and enforce rules because they lack the ability and freedom of thought to lead. By creating massive bureaucracies at every level of government, our nation allows these very bureaucrats to impose their own lack of vision and creativity on the innovators in our society … and then we wonder why we have lost the creative spark that once made America the world’s economic engine!
AUTHOR: Leonard J. (“Len”) Pellman is now an adjunct professor of business and management and chief instructor at the Nippon Budo Seishin-Kan dojo, following a 25-year career as an entrepreneur in the fields of transportation, military contracting, industrial espionage, real estate development, property management, data processing services, thoroughbred racing, and manure sales. He is the co-author of two books on classical martial arts and six unpublished novels.