Politics and real estate intersect a lot. If you think about it, very little that happens in the hallowed halls of Congress doesn’t have an effect, somehow, on the market. Whether it affects property rights or taxes, financing markets and regulations, or the economy as a whole, politics has always and will continue to impact real estate. Even analyzing a candidate’s successes and failures can teach us a thing or two about our own real estate business.
Scott Walker, upon his entry into the Republican Presidential primary field, was the presumed favorite amongst the grassroot conservative groups and many in the establishment as well. He was the odds on favorite to at least be in the final two or three left standing from a group of 17 candidates. Last week, long before the first votes in Iowa are to be cast, Scott Walker dropped out of the race. So, how does a front-running candidate go to completely out of business in just a few short months? Those are the lessons we can take and apply to our business.
If you think of a campaign in the terms of a start-up business, you will see that there are a lot of similarities. In Scott Walker’s case, his campaign was like a start-up that had amazing success upon entry into the market. So, how could he go from red-hot to ice-cold in less than 75 days? Let’s take a look…
Resting on Your Laurels
In my opinion, the Walker campaign, because no candidate runs for President all by himself/herself, failed on this item on two totally separate fronts. First, and foremost, they failed by resting on his accomplishments as Governor of Wisconsin. Now, in their defense, that’s all they had to go on in the beginning of the campaign and was what had been used to prove his street cred to the conservative base. We’ll get to it in a minute, but it never really progressed from there and that was the failure. As a business person, your value proposition has to stay current with your client’s needs. The road of failure in business is littered with companies that used to be great.
Secondly, just because you have done something successfully in the past, like run a major political campaign, doesn’t mean you can just plug and play on a bigger (50x bigger, to be exact) stage. For those of you who follow politics, you will know that Scott Walker effectively ran 3 gubernatorial campaigns in four years and won each. In his recall election, he received 300,000 donations nationwide, leading to his national surge in popularity. However, scaling isn’t the same when you’re talking about running a statewide operation versus a nationwide operation. As your business grows, make sure you have the people and processes in place to successfully transition the organization from one phase to the next before you make that move.
Believing the Hype
For months before Scott Walker even entered the race officially, the media, internet, and armchair pundits everywhere were buzzing about Scott Walker for President. The grassroots organizations loved him for his fight against labor and conservative values in government. He had a boyish charm about him that got people excited. He was just entrenched enough in the establishment to be a magnet for the big money donors that normally back the party-endorsed candidate (in this case assumed to be Jeb Bush). His SuperPAC raised nearly $20 million before he entered the race. However, after entering, he found it hard to raise funds necessary due to a poorly run campaign on a number of fronts. The lesson is that regardless of how much hype and buzz surrounds you early on, unless it’s putting dollars in your pocket, it means nothing.
Delivering Your Message Effectively
At the end of the day, the reason Scott Walker will not be President of the United States in 2016 is that he failed to deliver a message that the American people wanted to hear. He was a dud at both debates, effectively killing his buzz and money influx. He was overshadowed by his competitors who had a clear, concise message that resonated with voters. On the stump, Walker was referred to as a robot. He plodded along through the same boring speech time and time again. Like we talked about before, he played up his past without putting forward a plan for the future. In your business, you have to know your value proposition inside and out, be able to communicate it effectively to your consumer, and get their buy-in. Without the ability to do so, you will find yourself lost in the crowd.
Decision Making Based on Other People’s Opinions
There were a couple of memorable errors on the campaign trail that hurt Walker more than will probably be acknowledged by most. Walker was backed by the grassroots conservatives in the GOP, the “tea party”. One thing that those people don’t tolerate easily is flip-flopping based on headlines. One example would be the firing of Liz Mair, a strategist who made some negative comments about Iowa. The problem was that the very people who supported Walker mostly agreed with her comments. He fired her because it made news that he didn’t want. He was seen as weak by those supporters and they moved on. As a business owner, you have to keep what your consumer wants in mind as you make decisions, but you also have to know your core values and stick to your guns sometimes regardless of popular opinion. Not everyone runs your business. You do.
Surrounding Yourself with the Right People
Based on the hype and his ability to raise funds for his SuperPAC, the Walker campaign expanded in a big way. He had a staff of over 90 including high-priced consultants and a full-time photographer. In the opinion of many, his campaign manager was not cut out for the job. He ran up a hefty debt quickly when his early fundraising success didn’t translate to the general campaign. In the last days, based on the urging of donors and supporters, Walker attempted to revitalize his campaign, but it was too little, too late. In business, surrounding yourself with the right people, whether staff or mentors or supporters, is vital to your longevity.
There are always lessons to be learned when you look at any failed operation. There will, when it’s all said and done, be 16 casualties of the Republican primary process. Each will have its own autopsy and people will point to the failures. Scott Walker, due to the meteoric rise and just as phenomenal demise, makes for a special case though. I doubt we will see another case similar to this for a long time, so hopefully we can take what we’ve learned and not repeat those mistakes.