Do failed businesses really mean that Trump is a “loser?”

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan

Alex Phinn is the president of Griff Paper and Film, a Fallsington, Pa. company that supplies thousands of unique types of specialty paper and film products to its customers around the world. Griff Paper has been very successful. Alex and his three brothers have more than quadrupled the company’s size since taking the business over from their father in in the mid-90’ and they now employ about 100 people in the three buildings they own. But not all of Alex’s ventures have made him money. Alex and his brothers have, over the past 20 years that I have known them, failed at running a restaurant, selling chocolates, distributing duct tape and promoting artwork. The company also lost a significant bet investing in solar energy products.

So is Alex a “loser?” Of course not. Alex is a business owner. He is a risk taker. An entrepreneur. An employer. No one would look at what he and his brothers have built and call any of them losers. Anyone who knows anything about business knows that making such a statement would be ignorant. That’s because business people “win” and “lose” all the time.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, would call Alex a loser. She did the same to Donald Trump Monday. Warren, a former Harvard Law Professor and bankruptcy expert tweeted: “Let’s be honest – @realDonaldTrump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he cheated people w/ scams like Trump U.”

Warren noted that “@realDonaldTrump kept his father’s empire afloat using strategic corporate bankruptcies to skip out on debt” and that “Listen to experts who say @realDonaldTrump might have more money today if he’d put his inheritance in an index fund & left it alone.”

She has joined the ranks of other celebrities, from John Oliver who, in a recent hilarious viral rant, said that the Republican frontrunner earned “a multimillion-dollar inheritance from his father, but he’s also lost a huge amount” and even Cher who once famously called him “Mr. Chapter 11.”

There are countless articles written by countless journalists, academics and politicians who have never owned a business, negotiated a contract or signed a paycheck but still feel justified in complaining about Trump’s “businesses that no longer exist,” his failures and the “myth” of his business success.
Would an experienced business owner call Donald Trump a “loser?” Of course not.

Please don’t read this as an endorsement of Donald Trump–I do like him and appreciate the way he’s rattled the cages of the political and media establishment. But I’m still very much an undecided voter. However, a respected senator like Warren calling this man a “loser” just because he’s had failed businesses is more than a little insulting to the millions of business people who take risks every day and oftentimes also come out on the losing end. This is why so many business owners I know find today’s establishment so out of touch with their interests.

The fact is that successful business people fail all the time. Men and women like Trump and Alex Phinn take risks. They buy equipment. They build buildings. They develop properties. They gamble on partners. They create value. They employ people. Academics, politicians and those in the media don’t do this. They receive paychecks. They demand healthcare and pensions. They, like Warren suggested, put their money in the stock market and cross their fingers that business people (who are not so different from Donald Trump) will grow it for them.

People like Elizabeth Warren absolutely contribute to the world in their own way. But to get to their level of success haven’t they also suffered failure? Hasn’t Senator Warren also gone through job losses, demotions, criticism, censure or something of the like? Of course she has. There’s no such thing as success without failure and Elizabeth Warren is a successful politician. So, just because she’s never been in business, why are her failures any different than Trump’s?

I recently spoke to a group of about 50 business owners like Alex from around the country about the political environment and of course Donald Trump was discussed. As you can expect, many in the room disagreed with some of his policies and rhetoric. But, as business men and women, just about all appreciated Trump’s success. That’s because they’ve been there. They’ve all done things they’re not especially proud of. They’ve all made mistakes. They’ve all lost money and placed unsuccessful bets. But, like Alex, they’ve all managed to overcome their failures and grow their businesses.

These people, these business owners, they are all Donald Trump. They have all failed. But they are not losers. And they very much resent it when people who are ignorant of the work they do and the risks they take criticize someone who is very much like them.

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