This week’s question: Do you think business people make good politicians? Why or why not?
When business issues such as budgeting, debt, economic development, and trade agreements are to be addressed, there are definite pros to having a business person in office. A good example is Governor Scott. As our state was moving forward out of the great recession, he utilized his experience in understanding how to grow a business, and thus, the economy. He put his business practices to work in marketing Florida to companies around the world, which resulted in the production of a tremendous number of jobs in the state, and as a result, capital investment flourished.
Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young
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I believe that politicians should represent their constituents and that they should be a diverse group, bringing many perspectives to government, in other words, “for the people, by the people.” I don’t have a specific position on whether or not business people make good politicians. However, I do hope for our politicians to be good people, dedicated to service, disciples of peace and objective in their decision making.
Adelee Cabrera, Regional Director, Starr Catering Group
It depends on if we are talking White House or starting at a local level to “learn the ropes” and work your way up in politics. There are a few exceptions, but just because you’ve been successful running a business doesn’t mean you ought to run the government. Business leaders have the single goal of making a profit. Political leaders have multiple goals, multiple constituencies and responsibilities measured by political polls and elections. Even in the area where businesspeople claim expertise, such as the economy, their experience is of limited value at best.
Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida
Strong principles and the willingness to assume the role of a public servant — rather than simply seeking political capital — are what make a great government leader, regardless of one’s business or civic background.
Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg
There are many brilliant business people who can bring a wealth of knowledge to politics, but by the same token, they have a learning curve in the political arena because of relationships and ties that may exist and preconceived notions that may impede or challenge their ability to execute swiftly.
Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System
Successful business people generally have excellent skills in leadership, delegation, communication, advocacy, personnel management and goal attainment. These are the same skills needed to be successful in politics. Running a successful political organization requires the same skills necessary to running a successful business.
Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change
I have seen it go both ways. In Latin America, there have been many businessmen turned politicians who have done a relatively good job. Or at the very least, a better job than some career politicians. However, the key factor that a successful businessman must do to effectively go into politics is to conduct himself or herself differently in public office than they would in perhaps the boardroom. First and foremost, they must do more listening, and then build a support team that really understands how to navigate the murky and often chaotic political waters. The person also needs to over-communicate with the public to ensure that their intent and message is clear as to not be diluted by the political class. Not an easy thing to do, but I welcome successful businessmen and businesswomen to lead the way in politics.
Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development
During the course of history we have seen good and bad political leadership from the business community, the military, academia, and other fields. I think the best leaders surround themselves with top talent that complements their skills, which often means building teams with diverse backgrounds.
Jay Pelham, president, TotalBank
It depends on the person and their conviction toward making change, as well as their willingness to conduct their own due diligence in understanding the issues facing the community they are serving.
Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus
Well, the government is a business of sorts. I am of the school of thought that a successful businessman can run government better than a politician who has no sense of what it takes to make a business successful. In corporate life, you learn how to handle workplace politics but also meet payroll and earn money. In the government, the money is always there, and it’s easy to have “someone else pay for it.” A perfect example of this is the current situation with Air Force One, where President Trump is determined to save taxpayer money on a traditionally bloated government contract.
Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group
Generally, yes, because they are solution-driven. They want to get things resolved quickly, efficiently and practically. A good politician is someone who is interested in the well-being of their community and their quality of life.
Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade
A diversity of perspectives in government is critical. Strong leaders with business backgrounds often deliver cost-efficient solutions in time frames that matter. Public service-oriented professionals better understand that the right answer isn’t always at the bottom of a spreadsheet.
Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries
It certainly depends on the individual. I believe business people can bring an acumen to the political scene that is needed; unfortunately, our president doesn’t fall into this category. The downside comes when business people are not familiar with the assistance the government provides to many Americans on so many different levels; this is reflected daily in Trump’s poor choices.
John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association
No. In my experience, business people have a totally different mind-set from those who devote their life to public service. I’ve known some very talented public servants who could have done exceptionally well in the private sector, but for altruistic reasons, chose public service.
Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos
The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included: