The Blog

Go to for Don McNay's column and other articles.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Running Government Like a Business

Running Government Like a Business

“Are you playing possum, keeping a low profile?”

Are you just playing possum for awhile?”

-Carly Simon

I don’t like politicians who worry about keeping a job instead of doing a job. Some won’t make a decision if it will make anybody mad.

I’m looking for a leader who won’t “play possum” every time a tough issue comes up.

Career politicians fear losing their jobs. Business people who come into government don’t.

I was on Comment on Kentucky last week when John Y. Brown, Jr. was mentioned as a possible candidate for Governor in 2007.

Brown became a multi-millionaire at a young age and helped Kentucky Fried Chicken become a brand known around the world. In 1979, he married former Miss America Phyllis George and suddenly announced for Governor on his honeymoon.

He won.

He was more inclined to cut state jobs than to put somebody’s idiot nephew into one. He saved the taxpayers a lot of money.

When Brown served as Governor in 1980, I was a college intern in a state government agency. Brown’s job slashing meant I couldn’t stay in state government when the internship ended.

Thank God.

Life worked out well when I created my own business.

As a 46 year old businessman, I have a much different impression of running government like a business. At age 21, I hated it. Now, I am all for it.

Government needs to show compassion for the underclass and not fire workers for having tattoos. Businesspeople don’t always get that.

On the other hand, business people are inclined to make bold moves and be responsive to their customers.

John Y. Brown was able to get W.T. Young to work in his cabinet for $1 a year. Young was not there for the money. He was there to make a difference.

I long for leaders with courage and vision.

I once gave substantial sums to a politician who has disappointed me. He is bright and in a position to make a difference.

Instead he pumps out news release after news release on inane issues.

His last bold stand was to tell people to support grandparent’s day.

I’ve found many career office holders who will say anything to get elected, then ignore their supporters until the next election rolls around.

People don’t complain unless the matter is important to them.

Business people know that. If our customers have a problem, we get back to them right away. If not, the customers will find someone who will.

Politicians have a guaranteed paycheck and many think they can blow off their supporters and then expect them to pony up again.

I’ve had several big supporters of candidates tell me horror stories. The candidates were their buddies when they needed money. Now in office, they can’t be bothered with supporters’ phone calls. They ignore the calls or get a flunky to email or call instead.

If the politicians were in business , they would starve.

Some politicians do get it.

When I supported Jody Richards for Governor in 2003, I told Jody that I would rarely call him but if I did, I wanted the call returned personally. I called Jody four times and he called back immediately each time.

Jody runs a small business and knows that customer service keeps a business alive.

I think that John Y. Brown would be a better Governor now than he was in 1979. He has the wisdom that comes from experience.

Most of Kentucky’s Governors served at a young age and drifted away from politics. Governor Julian Carroll could have rested on his laurels but was elected to the State Senate last year and is using his knowledge and skills for the public good.

Governor Fletcher needs to be getting advice from former Governors like Carroll and Brown, who have walked the walk. It might have stopped a lot of indictments and bad decisions.

I doubt Brown will run, but it would be interesting. As Bill Bryant pointed out on Comment on Kentucky, Brown has experience, money and universal name recognition. He would be a tough candidate to beat.

He would also make bold moves. You can never accuse John Y Brown of “playing possum”.

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group, where we like to make bold moves. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at