The Skills Political Industry Entrepreneurs Need to Succeed

A couple of years ago for the very first time, I punched my very tiny little hand through a thick sturdy piece of pine while a couple of hundred people watched. I had never attempted to punch through a board before, and I have zero training in martial arts. 

What I do have is two decades of training as an entrepreneur. It’s the skills I’ve built in that arena that allowed me to break through the board on my first try. Here’s how:

Goal Clarity

In board breaking, the winning outcome is clear: the board either breaks or it doesn’t. 

In business, this gets a little muddier. Of course, almost everyone in business wants to make money, though you might be surprised how little some entrepreneurs actually care about that.  Beyond that, the goals diverge wildly. 

In any business, hopefully the owner is motivated by helping clients achieve their desired outcomes. In politics, this effect is usually amplified by a factor of 10,000: political business owners want their clients to win and are usually quite emotionally invested in the consequences of getting people they agree with elected to office. 

This may all seem intuitive to you, since you wouldn’t have bothered starting a business at all if you didn’t have serious motivations. It’s still worth a gut check. What outcome are you hoping for? What is the definition of success in your eyes? If you can’t answer this question with crystal clarity, your business is going to twist in the wind.


Before breaking a board with my bare hand, it was crucially important for me to visualize myself doing so — many times. 

As the leader of an organization, your main job is to be able to create the future in your head and then show it to the people on your team so that you can all work together to make it a reality. This particular skill actually tends to come a little more easily in “normal” industries. In politics-land, it’s often hard to see anything beyond the end of the cycle. 

My clients who work in the industry tend to get pretty whiny when I make them focus on 5- and 10-year future horizons. I make them do it anyway, because you have to see it before you can be it. 


After determining that I wanted to break a board, but before actually breaking the board, I needed to learn the mechanics of how-to break a board. 

When it comes to running a political business, there’s often tons of focus on client service. After all, this is a special kind of clientele, and they often expect the impossible on insanely tight deadlines. Because of this, focus on the rest of the business suffers. 

If you can’t maintain focus on your financial picture, creating efficient systems, or taking care of your staff, you’re going to struggle to achieve your desired outcome (unless your desired outcome is creating a miserable workplace).


I know a particular guy who has broken hundreds of boards himself and coached thousands of other people to do it. So, when it came time for me to break my board, I took his advice and let him show me how. 

Every entrepreneur I know has an inner toddler that screams “I wanna do it myself!” That’s important sometimes, but if you let the toddler take over and run things, you’re going to cost yourself a lot of time and money figuring things out the hard way when you could be learning from masters and rocking it out much faster. 

Figure out what you don’t know. Find a specialist to teach it to you. Compensate them for their expertise. Listen to them and do what they say. Rinse, repeat. 


In entrepreneurial circles there’s a lot of talk about “risk tolerance.” In order to grow a business, you’ve got to be able to do scary things. There’s no guarantee that the money or time or emotional energy you’re investing is going to lead to anything. The people with the guts to try it anyway without too much second-guessing are the ones who succeed. 

Political operatives with years of experience bringing their expertise to bear when making split-second decisions are uniquely suited to kill it when they apply those skills to execute the quick pivots often required to succeed in business. 


Success in business isn’t about nailing everything you try the first time you try it. It’s about taking failures as feedback, learning from your mistakes, and trying again. Folks in our industry come to the business table with this baked-in: years of campaign life teaches political entrepreneurs how to take a loss and bounce back stronger.

I’ve seen these entrepreneurs persevere through bankruptcies, personal tragedies, and horrible circumstantial events and go on to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. In business, just like in politics, the only real way to fail is to quit.