The current times are disheartening. We are in uncharted waters. Nevertheless, through my columns, I admit to being a cheerleader. I do not apologize for this. As an entrepreneur, I find it useful to think about where we are, where we have been, and where we can go in the future.

Primarily due to the character and creativity of the American entrepreneurial class, as well as the philosophical footing of the American Republic, I am confident the United States will be prosperous and secure in this century. But, I believe we must continue to have a can-do attitude.

Americans, in this second decade of the 21st Century, find themselves constantly bombarded by the chant that America’s best years are behind her. Malcontents of all political stripes warn us that our politics and economy are no longer the envy of the world. Furthermore, we are accused of being a people who lack strong personal and public values.

On a daily basis, Americans have been labeled as undisciplined and irresponsible. We often are defined as people who have squandered the wealth of this country without regard for the well-being of future generations. Much wealth has been squandered for sure, but not only by American citizens.

We often are told that our political leaders have conspired with certain fellow citizens in ways that could place the government on a reckless and foolish path that leads to national insolvency. I say to all of this: ridiculous! As Winston Churchill asked in the dark days of 1941, “What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible that they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere?” Persevere we shall.

I know that we are indeed living in challenging times. And we have made mistakes. Americans are far from flawless. We are, after all, human beings. There are many things we could have done better, and we will learn from our mistakes. Having said that, I believe this century can and will be an American one.

I am not so naïve as to assume future prosperity will be ours without creativity, hard work, and discipline. Of course, it will take all that and more. I have idealistic, optimistic and ambitious views concerning the future of the people of the United States. I am mindful of the great upheavals taking place politically, culturally and economically in our country and around the world. I see our present national security situation as difficult, and sometimes dangerous and insecure. But, I also see it as hopeful. I see many things that are interconnected.

I have a strong belief that America has many overwhelming competitive advantages: rule of law, a long history of entrepreneurship, the openness and freedom of a democratic republic, hard-working and honest citizens, a free-market economy, substantial national net worth, a large corps of veteran entrepreneurs, and an adaptable form of government that has permitted us to grow, change and recognize the value in everyone. We have a sound philosophical foundation.

With these invaluable advantages in mind, it is important to understand the role of entrepreneurs as the innovators in any national economy today. Why? Technological innovation is the vital component for any economic transformation. And modern economies are economies of knowledge and ideas.

As a result, we must encourage creativity and innovation, and promote conditions for entrepreneurial accomplishment. Skilled people are America’s greatest asset. Placing people and their ideas at the center of a country’s development is the difference between rich and poor societies.

I am a champion for all citizens who choose to start a business. In future columns I will draw strength and wisdom from more than two millennia of Western thought and history. I draw upon this insight not because I think it is perfect and the only compelling collection of social thought, but because it is time-tested, convincing and part of our history.

The United States is in the midst of an upsetting process of reinventing and transforming itself both domestically and globally. The changes in political, cultural and economic paradigms are trying the patience and confronting the intellect and ingenuity of American citizens.

These alterations to American life will require time, resources and perseverance to satisfactorily resolve. This reinvention will not be easy; but it is required. Fortunately, the American people are imaginative, resilient and tough.

To our benefit, we have a $16 trillion economy to work with (25 percent of the world’s gross domestic product), and household net worth of $64.8 trillion. And this does not include the very valuable public and intangible assets of the United States. We do, however, also have large private and public debt, and we need to reduce it. This will take time.

Our population consists of a disproportionate share of risk-takers. Consequently, I think America is at its best when faced with new and demanding challenges. I believe this renewal is a generational revolution that President Thomas Jefferson foresaw.

This upheaval will rejuvenate our spirit and re-focus our vision. I think a review of President Washington’s Farewell Address reveals a vision for America that is still relevant more than 200 years later. America will be a role model for others to follow because of our justice, benevolence and commerce. Washington’s vision remains. The opportunity is there for us to seize! It is not the time for “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.”

This article is the first in a series.
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James Wilfong
About The Author James Wilfong
James Wilfong is Chairman of Innovative Applied Science. He also is an international business practitioner, educator, Veterans business advocate, public servant, and a member of VET-Force and the President’s Task-force on Veteran’s Business Development.




Talkback (11)

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  • Guest (James Wilfong)

    In reply to: Guest (Michael Gagne) Permalink

    Michael, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Most of which I also agree with. I also wish for leadership from the top but I don't expect much to be forthcoming. I think we must force this from the grassroots. We can't wait for Washington to figure this out. They might have to stop fighting! The American people will indeed have to get off the couch and figure out how to be a Citizen in a democratic republic. They will have to commit to a vision for their community and demand local, state and federal policies that will support community efforts. Thanks again for your remarks and please keep your business going and growing.

  • Guest (Lisa Burns)

    Permalink

    Go, Jim!!! Always a pleasure to hear your insights and know you are still a cheerleader!
    I hear Karen Mills is stepping down. Are you stepping up!!?? Keep these articles coming, Jim.
    And to Michael Gagne, you are right. The middle class must be rebuilt and we must all keep
    our eye on the prize in these incredibly difficult times for the "little guy" entrepreneur.
    Just keep on truckin' and we will prevail!

  • Guest (James Wilfong)

    In reply to: Lisa Burns Permalink

    Thank you Lisa for your comments. The middle-class does have to be rebuilt. Community and middle-class re-newal will be part of the discussion in this series of essays. Thanks again! Don't lose heart!

  • Guest (John Kirschner)

    Permalink

    Jim, Great to hear from you. Sounds like you are doing well. I love your article & concur with everything. I am living in Vail - a long way from the couch at Attitash. John

  • Guest (James Wilfong)

    In reply to: John Kirschner Permalink

    John, Great to know you are alive and well. Thank you for your comments. I hope the skiing is good at Vail. Take care, Jim

  • Guest (David Brochu)

    Permalink

    Jim, it is time to shrug!

    We the risk takers and job makers keep on doing what we do no matter how up hill the battle is. I became self employed at age 23. I have built a number of companies, not all by myself granted, but I like so many others was the driving force. I have created hundreds of jobs over the last 27 years. While paying my share of taxes.

    The battle we all join every day is part of the challenge and I accept it willingly. I have little issue with paying my share of the Nations bills, in fact I don't mind paying a bit more than my share. I love creating and I find creating Job's to be one of the most rewarding things I can do in business.

    That said we have lied to ourselves long enough. There are a great many people who will take as much as they can while giving as little as possible. I am not referring to the poor and the needy, they are our sacred charge. Rather it is those for whom too much is never enough. Too much power, too much money, too large a piece of the pie.

    While we who live to create had our backs turned the free market system that has created so much wealth and for whom so many have died to protect has been hijacked. From Wall Street to Washington the game has been rigged. Bank bailouts. Free passes for corrupt public officials. Rules changed to suit the needs of whatever constituency is being served at the time. There is no end to how far those who live off the creation of others will go.

    Entrepreneur's are optimistic by nature. Who in their right mind wakes up and decides to risk everything on an idea? We do. We have let our optimism blind us to what has been going on around us. Our Country has been stolen from us, not by the Republicans or the Democrats, not even by the Tea Party.

    We have lost the Country to the Technocrats and their henchmen, corporate lawyers. What they know and we have forgotten is that we hold all the cards. We drive the machine that is the United States. All we need do is shrug of the yoke of byzantine rules that can be manipulated in any manner the user sees fit and in insist the "law of men" be followed. Individual actors, be they Corporate or Real Person's are accountable for their actions. Companies fail and law breakers, no matter how high their office might be, pay the price.

    Maybe then we'll have a chance to restore this Nations greatness. If not I assure you she shall sink under the weight of all her debts, just like every other empire before her.

  • Guest (James Wilfong)

    Permalink

    David,
    Thank you for your comments. I agree the times can look bleak and daunting but we can not let the circumstances of the moment dictate our future. As American Citizens it is our responsibility to take charge and address the challenges. Entrepreneurs have been leaders throughout our nation's history and we are now. I have great faith in the resiliency of the American people and their entrepreneurs. We can't wait for our political leadership in this time of economic paradigm shift. They are trying to be relevant and they are not having much luck. Entrepreneurs and other Citizens will lead the way and our politicians will have to catch up. David, maybe I am crazy or maybe it is my Marine training or my small business ethos of being dogged and persistent but in any event what choice do any of us have but to make it work. Take care and thanks again.

  • Guest (David)

    Permalink

    Jim,

    Thanks for answering.

    It is that can do spirit that has made this Country what it was. I too believe in the American people. Taken as a whole there's no other people that can do what has been done in this country. We can recapture that, but we must address the political process. To keep pouring more and more of our talent, time and resources into a feed bag that has more coming out than going in is like trying to make up in volume, money lost on each unit sold.

    There is a place for Government in our society. Unfortunately, the size and influence of the government on the economy is crowding out the entrepreneurs and causing all forms of distortions in the National economy; take for example the Feds bond buying.

    History is pretty clear on the outcome of Government over reach. Slower growth, less tax income, higher tax rates, further burdensome regulations and less help for the needy.

    If we can get the bureaucrats out of the way, we can create the prosperity and generate the taxes we need to address the widening inequities in our society that are our biggest challenges.

    For my part I'll just keep on doing what I do, as I am sure you will as well.

    Thank for the dialogue.

    David

  • Guest (ed marsh)

    Permalink

    Jim - always reassuring to hear your optimistic thoughts. I share the perspective of some of the commenters above. I am afraid we might have passed the point of no return. BUT, that's also largely irrelevant to the question of entrepreneurship. Here's why.
    1. If one is going to thrive in today's world, one must be entrepreneurial. Period.
    2. We truly have a global market (presuming the same 'leadership' oft referenced above doesn't destroy that with catastrophic tariffs/duties/currency war, etc.
    3. We have pretty low manufacturing costs in the US now (between rising labor costs elsewhere, increased automation and manufacturing efficiency here, much lower - thanks to natural gas from shale - energy costs for energy intensive industries)
    4. Remarkable marketing tools that allow SMB entrepreneurs to "level the playing field" in competing against large foreign and domestic competition
    5. Consumers and businesses around the world eager to buy American products.

    So the solution is start a small biz. Be an entrepreneur. But leverage these opportunities for scale and competitive advantage. Take your business global (even small biz can do so with little risk and lots of profit) and position yourself properly. Therefore no matter where on the spectrum of wickedly selfish to nationally altruistic you might be in your motivation, you will create a business that is viable, profitable, and contributes to our fabric to whatever degree stifling regulations allow it to. And if the regulations get too bad, you've got a global asset that can go where it needs to.

    We can do our part, and hedge our bets if the government gets really onerous.

    And my contribution is helping companies go global (http://consiliumglobalbusinessadvisors.com/international-sales/) and develop evolutionary marketing (http://consiliumglobalbusinessadvisors.com/inbound-marketing-evolutionary/) to prosper.

  • Guest (James Wilfong)

    In reply to: ed marsh Permalink

    Hi Ed,

    Thank you for your comments. I have been pleasantly surprised by: the number of people who have joined in the dialogue, the quality and thoughtfulness of the comments. It makes writing these essays worthwhile. Now, concerning your remarks and observations.
    Point 1, Agreed. I have been making my own way as an entrepreneur since 1971. It is a whole lot less risky than being an employee. I teach my students that you don't have to start a business but you must be entrepreneurial.

    Point 2, I have always been a free trader. A trading system with boundaries but open and transparent. If you are a small business owner you must know what is happening in your industry globally. The great challenge will be to create mutually beneficial trade. Trade does not have to be a zero sum gain.

    Point 3, I agree our costs have come down and our investments in technology have created increased productivity. I also agree that with $100/barrel oil prices and new energy sources here in the USA we will be a manufacturing powerhouse once again. Especially in value added [read high margin] products. I also have thought for several years that 3 D print manufacturing technology will make small business competitive in the niche product areas.

    Point 4, Agreed. The marketing tools available for SB to extend market reach are terrific. When I think of what we used when we started Atomic Ski USA in late 1977 I feel like a dinosaur.

    Point 5, Agreed. I also think globally there is strong demand for goods and services. As a country we need to protect our soft power. As George Washington understood and passed on in his Farewell Address, we should be a role model for our justice, benevolence and our commerce. Pretty good ideas to live by.

    I know that the government can be out of touch and is trying to find relevancy. Perhaps it has always been this way but my money is still on the average Citizen making their way in the world. The American challenge is to re-new the country by rebuilding the base. Let the folks in politics try and catch up. Thanks again for your thoughts. Take care.

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