Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Remember Meg Whitman, the...

...former CEO of eBay (and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard), who spent almost $180 million in a losing effort for governor of California?

Ms. Whitman is a brilliant businesswoman who, according to Wikipedia, took eBay from a start-up company of "30 employees and $4 million in annual revenue to more than 15,000 employees and $8 billion in annual revenue." She's also the fourth wealthiest woman in the state of California with a net worth of $1.3 billion. Wow!

Remind you of anyone running for national office today?

Actually, it reminds me of a little story from a long time ago, in the early 1980s. I had a good friend who was a fabulously successful bond trader at the Chicago Board of Trade. His older brothers and some of their friends, who were also wildly successful traders, decided to open a bar and restaurant next door to the Board. Another friend of mine, who had actually run bars and restaurants in London before moving to Chicago, predicted they would fail miserably.

"Mike, I've seen this a million times. Guys who are good at something in business think they can run a restaurant. Trust me, it's a lot harder than it looks. You really have to know what you're doing to make it work."

Turned out my friend was right; the bar and restaurant proved to be an expensive debacle. They were thrilled to be done with it after about six months.

Which brings me back to that certain Somebody running for president right now. One of my brothers -- who kinda, sorta -- dealt with Him in business once, told me that the former CEO of Bain Capital was ... I can't remember exactly what, but it was something to the effect that He was a Great Businessman. And my brother, who's our family's idea of a Great Businessman himself, naturally admires the guy and thinks, well, of course He could be president of the United States. I mean, if you could build a fortune of $250 million in business, surely you could sit in the Oval Office. How hard could it be?

But as it stands right now (and there's still time to turn it around), the former governor of Massachusetts is looking more and more like that other frustrated CEO, Meg Whitman. Maybe my friend from London was right after all: just because you're successful in business doesn't necessarily mean you'll be successful at everything.

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