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The Chairman's Blog
How to Reverse the Decline of Startups
The Chairman's Blog

How to Reverse the Decline of Startups

Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton was recently interviewed on the topic of entrepreneurship by George Sifakis for Ideagen's Global Podcast. The following is adapted from that interview.

IDEAGEN: Why did you write Born to Build?

Clifton: We're all celebrating one quarter of 4% U.S. GDP growth right now, which is great. But GDP per capita has been in decline for well over 30 years.

A lack of new business startups is at the very core of the problem of this decades-long declining economic dynamism. Gallup finds that America lacks highly intentional early identification systems for students coming out of high school and college who could start and boom a big business.

We have to fix this, and that's what the book's about.

You've written in the past that businesses are dying faster than they're starting in the United States and to reverse this situation, we need more builders.

A big mistake that leaders and well-meaning institutions make is they think innovation is the solution. But innovation has no economic value unless an ambitious builder commercializes it and creates a business model around it. Innovation has no value until a customer appears.

We need to build, not just invent.

Where's the best place to find the builders of the future?

Gallup's recently released BuilderProfile 10 assessment identifies who has the special tendencies to build an enterprise from scratch. We need all college students and high school students to take this assessment to find the next generation of gifted builders. The assessment identifies people who have rare determination and drive -- and an unusual relationship with risk -- as well as an insatiable need for independence and freedom.

You can find high-potential builders anywhere. Gallup has created a builder lab at the University of Nebraska. We also started a really inspiring program in Washington, D.C., where we're giving the builder test to freshmen college students out of the very low-income Wards 7 and 8. We found 15 high-potential builders who we believe can build something just as big as what a student at Stanford or MIT might build

Gallup discovered we are just as likely to find students with unusual builder talent in low-income neighborhoods as in high-income neighborhoods.

Are we all born to build? Can anyone be a builder?

The answer to both questions is 100% yes. Our research found that there are three alphas that a startup needs to succeed -- an Alpha Rainmaker, an Alpha Conductor and an Alpha Expert. The trick is to know which one you are.

Alpha Rainmakers are the key. An Alpha Rainmaker is the salesperson who runs through walls to create customers.

The Alpha Conductor is a great manager. Somebody's got to keep the company running, make the promises good to the bank, to the employees and keep all the relationships strong. They hold the place together.

You also need an Alpha Expert. They're the genius programmer, the great chef, the advanced analytics specialist. The Alpha Expert is the best in the world at making the product or service. If a business begins with all three alphas, its probability of success is exponentially higher. The three alphas can fix America and save the world.

Education leaders: Take a closer look at how you can transform your schools:


Jim Clifton is Chairman of Gallup.

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