Message from the Chair
Steve Imke, Chapter 206
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Natural resources no longer the key

The events to jumpstart peace talks between Israel and Palestine got me thinking about the huge disparity of national wealth, the role business plays in the overall health and wealth of a nation, and the role a nation’s business climate and its entrepreneurs have on world affairs. There is a stark contrast between the relative prosperity of Israel and the poverty of Palestine. Per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is roughly 25 times higher in Israel than in Palestine. Why would Israel, literally intertwined geographically with Palestine have a per-capita GDP 25 times greater than Palestine?

Not too long ago a county's wealth was defined in large part based on its natural resources. A country with a mineral resource to make better steel could exploit its natural resource to produce superior weaponry and conquer its neighbors. More recently, energy resources allowed nations to take full advantage the industrial revolution. While Palestine’s GDP is largely based on agricultural products, a natural resource, Israel’s GDP includes high tech products like aviation and communications equipment and medical electronics, which are not rooted in the country’s natural resources. So what elements led to the vastly different national economic conditions of these two countries, and what can we learn from it?

If natural resources no longer play the pivotal role it has throughout history then what is the new currency of national wealth, and what role do small business owners play in world affairs? I think the answer lies in a nation’s attitude toward business, its attitude toward education, and most of all, the culture of its workers. Embracing these attributes stimulates investment, and the prosperity that follows.

America was built on a culture of hard work. American workers work harder than the Germans, French, and even the Japanese. Even during their leisure time, many Americans build furniture and grow gardens just for fun. They coach soccer or baseball teams and volunteer to help non-profit organizations. Overall, most Americans are just not happy sitting still. The spirit of the entrepreneur permeates America’s culture.

As entrepreneurs we have a double dose of this hard work ethic, which fuels our nation’s economic engine. Many entrepreneurs work 50 to 80 or even more hours per week, and when they are not working they are reading books or attend training programs to keep their skills up. If there is any time left, perhaps they volunteer their time to help the less fortunate. I have never met a successful entrepreneur who is truly happy not working on something all the time, even after retirement.

Government has an important role to play in maintaining incentives for business risk taking, as well as protecting and enforcing a pro-business culture. Corrupt or ineffective governments can squelch entrepreneurialism while supportive governments can spawn and nurture it.

Entrepreneurs are at the core of what defines us as a nation and makes this country great. Teddy Roosevelt summed up the spirit of the entrepreneur in this famous quote:

…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

When you look at yourself in the mirror what do you see? Do you see a warrior with battle scars from his life in the business arena, contributing to our nation’s greatness, or do you see a person who has seen neither victory nor defeat, but who enjoys the fruits of others and secretly covets what the other has obtained?

Entrepreneurialism is the cornerstone of our nation’s economic success. We need to encourage it at every level to maintain our place as the leader in the world’s economy.