The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics
Portfolio/Penguin (September 2018)
“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” Ronald Reagan
As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of that observation attributed to President Reagan but probably crafted for him by Peggy Noonan. Why did Bradley Tusk write this book? Its purpose “is to help startups think intelligently about politics so that they can counterpunch or, ideally, avoid getting hit in the first place [defenders of the status quo]. The more you understand why politicians and regulators don’t want you to launch a new hotel system, a new transportation network, or a peer-to-peer insurance pool without their consent, the easier it is to figure out how to change the political equation and convince them to go along.” There are startup founders and their associates who have done that. They have avoided “death by politics.” Tusk shares what he has learned from startups –both dos and don’ts — that include (in alpha order) Airbnb, Care/of, DraftKings, Eaze, FanDuel, Handy, Lemonade, MyTable, Tesla, and Uber.
However, especially today, there seem to be far more politicians at federal, state, and local levels than there are public servants in the best sense of the term. A friend of mine recently told me there is a popular joke now making the rounds of research laboratories. Why are they now using politicians rather than rats? Three reasons: There are more of them, you don’t become fond of them, and finally, there are some things that rats simply won’t do.
Of course, many (if not most) public officials exemplify what Robert Greenleaf once characterized as “servant leadership” — “leadership” synonymous with “taking initiative” — who consider it a privilege to help those who have questions to answer and problems to solve as well as transactions to complete. They are not knuckle-dragging bureaucrats but too many others are.
Tusk explains how to work effectively with the “public servants” and cope with the others.