Interview with Eduardo Marty
Eduardo Marty is the Founder of Junior Achievement Argentina, an educational outreach program. Students in JA are taught how to prepare a business plan and raise funds. Approximately 50,000 students per year across Argentina participate. Marty has also held academic posts as professor at the University Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala, and the University of Buenos Aires. He was the host of Buenos Aires’s major television talk show Boom—Politics and Economics. We met with Mr. Marty in Buenos Aires to talk about his business education programs for young people and the state of entrepreneurship in South America.
Kaizen: Where did you grow up in Argentina?
Marty: In Buenos Aires. I went to elementary and high school here and the University too.
Kaizen: Before university, what was your education like?
Marty: Well, I went to school called National Buenos Aires. That’s the oldest high school in Buenos Aires, created in 1770. It’s a public school, but it’s a very prestigious one. It was the first school in Buenos Aires. To enter, you need to pass a very tough test once you finish elementary school. From five students submitting and applying—they accept just one. Our education is divided into elementary school and then secondary school. When I was in sixth grade I tried to pass the exam and I did it, so I was one year younger than the rest.
The Jewish community attends that school a lot. It is a very intellectual community here in Buenos Aires. By the way, you know that after New York Buenos Aires has the second largest Jewish community in the hemisphere.
Kaizen: I have heard of statistics like that.
Marty: Yes, this is the case. The Jewish raise their kids in a very intellectual way. So they like to discuss; they like to argue; they like to read a lot. So those kids really influenced me a lot.
Some of them were leftists and the school was infiltrated by the Left. So most of our later guerilla fighters were intellectually fitted by that high school and they all became Communists or Marxists. Three of my companions were killed during those years by the military because they joined the guerrillas. Just to give you a sense of the climate—it was full of people discussing and arguing, and the professors really motivated you a lot. Most of them with this leftist mentality. But the discussion and the fight for ideas were taken seriously. You felt that you were in the middle of something important.
Kaizen: Excellent. Aside from the political issues, did you feel like you got a good education in other areas?
Marty: Well, my parents both were teachers. My father had books in the house by those who were famous men in Argentina.
My father didn’t force me to read at all, but in the conversations we had he was a freedom man. His mother was half Scottish, half English, and he received that influence, I think. In a way he felt a little bit alienated in Argentina but he transmitted—we were five brothers and sisters—to all of us that feeling in favor of freedom in favor of individual rights. That was part of my education at home.
My mom’s father was French. She raised us to listen to concerts. She was a very sensible woman—she loved to read self-help, how do you call those books?
Kaizen: Yes, self-help books.
Marty: I discovered them through her. I discovered Stephen Covey and all those guys, who treat easy things, but put into them a of sense of life that you need to go for it—impossible is nothing—invent—creativity. All those values.
Kaizen: This was when you were a teenager?
Marty: Right. Hollywood also helped. You go to the movies and you want to be the hero. I think I always had that feeling in my mind: the idea that you are Atlas and you put the world on your shoulders, right? In that way I always felt the responsibility of doing something for noble purposes. You do what you can with that kind of rebel feeling. You don’t want to hear that things are unjust, improper. You feel rebellion against that.
Kaizen: As a young man, did you have an interest in business, economics, and entrepreneurship, or did that come later?
Marty: When you live in a society where you have a dictatorship, like Peron, who was persecuting people—that kind of fascist leader—and you have a commissariat in every corner denouncing the neighbors who would listen to the opposition and would put you into prison—and who is forcing you to become a member of the union if you don’t accept it—that is a Peronist union—they put you into prison—you develop a strong sense of rebellion against that.
I saw my father in danger because of that, because he was in the middle of the opposition. Peron burned the churches. I was very young, but I knew that through my grandparents and my father and what I saw.
The feeling in Argentina was that we had a good country and because of bad ideas and bad influences and bad politicians—we destroyed the country. So, as you can see in Buenos Aires now, you have remnants all around of the great country this country was.
Kaizen: Yes, unfortunately.
Marty: We managed to destroy ourselves.
At the beginning in the political fight, I needed arguments, so I was in the university arguing.
I came under the influence of one cousin who kept telling me, ‘Eduardo, you cannot just pay attention to philosophy and you cannot pay attention to those issues—history—that you like. You need to eat. And in order to eat, you need to be practical. Why not follow a career like public accountant?’
I listened to him and said, ‘Okay. Okay. I don’t feel very enthusiastic about it.’ I just followed it.
Any humanities class I was in at University, I was arguing with the professors, most of them Marxists or Fascists or whatever. I liked those classes. But I was suffering in the tax classes, and I was asking the tax professor, ‘Why taxes? Give me the justification for income tax. Why?’ He would say just don’t ask that question; learn how to—how do you say that in English?—how to fill up the forms, you know, to calculate the tax. Don’t ask, ‘Why the tax?’
Kaizen: Just take the system as it is and fill in the blanks.
Marty: Yeah. Exactly. So I finally got my degree first before going to the states as a public accountant.
Kaizen: So first you went to University in Buenos Aires to get your Certified Public Accounting degree?
Marty: Yes, that is what I am. But at the same time I was learning, because I was arguing at the University as I had with my companions in high school. I needed to have arguments. So I discovered those arguments through the Center for Studies on Liberty and Alberto Benegas Lynch, who was sent to the United States as ambassador, where he met Leonard Read. Do you know who Leonard Read was?
Kaizen: Foundation for Economic Education (FEE)?
Marty: Right. They become friends. And through Leonard Read, Alberto met with Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek and Hans Sennholz. He invited them to come to Buenos Aires. I went to their lectures, so I met Hayek; I met Milton Friedman; I met James Buchanan; I met Sennholz. I didn’t meet Mises, because I was too young at the time, but he also came to Buenos Aires. And some of the intellectuals really started to give me arguments. My connection to them gave me arguments to fight with at my high school and my university. After one big fight at the University, I was in a big debate and was defending their views against the Marxists and the Peronists.
Kaizen: In formal debate?
Marty: Yeah. I was already very popular among the students because I was defending libertarianism with good arguments. So I became a kind of a leader at my University—a strange man who was saying strange things. Middle class kids from University were saying, ‘Well, I like those arguments.’
But it was a dangerous time because the guerillas were assassinating people and bombing, and the military were fascist. So it was a fight—a battle between people with fascist ideas—the military—against communists who wanted to enslave the country. So you were in the middle of that battle just looking at them saying, ‘What can I do here?’ But during the discussions at the University I become pretty popular. One day Leonard Read sent me a letter inviting me to visit FEE.
During those days I used to read El Burgues—that was a mix of Argentine writers with foreign writers. And you could read once in a while an article from Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, provided by Alberto Lynch. He was re-publishing articles from The Freeman here in Argentina. That was my favorite magazine. And The Freeman, at the same time, encouraged you to research—you didn’t have internet at the time.
I was sent to Foundation for Economic Education by the man who recommended me to Leonard Read. Leonard Read gave me a scholarship. I paid my ticket, by the way. But I had one free week in New York—my first trip to the States.
Kaizen: What year is this now? To keep the timeline.
Marty: 1973, 1974. I went there, I learned—I didn’t understand too much. My English was very poor. So I just missed 70 to 80 percent of what was being said. In my high school we learned French and Latin, but we didn’t learn English. So I had very good French but I didn’t speak any English at that time.
I went to the USA and brought back a lot of books. I tried to read them, but I couldn’t. Most of my successful ideas were through translations; but we didn’t have too many.
Kaizen: You’re back at home in Buenos Aires now?
Marty: Yes. One day I went to a conference delivered by Hans Sennholz. He offered ten scholarships. He said, ‘I’m going to educate ten Argentineans in Austrian economics and they will be the ones changing the country.’ Because I was one of the students going to the lectures I was offered a scholarship. Alex Chafuen was the second one. So we were three liberal guys in the whole of Buenos Aires. We call ourselves the Three Musketeers. The third was Juan Cachanosky, a very good economist. You heard of him?
Kaizen: Yes, definitely.
Marty: He’s not Objectivist. He doesn’t like Ayn Rand, but he’s very Austrian. He’s an agnostic and he’s funny. The second one, Alex Chafuen, is an Opus Dei guy and Austrian, and who at the beginning he was the one who influenced me to read Ayn Rand. But because of his religious views, he’s very, very rigid. But we are still very good friends.
Marty: I went to New York City because of that invitation.
Kaizen: So that’s how that came about.
Kaizen: That led you to attend college at Grove City College, a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. How was your experience there?
Marty: Oh, it was amazing because, first of all, my English was very poor at the time. I remember Sennholz picking me up at the airport and telling me, ‘Ed, you are very shy. You don’t speak too much.’ I didn’t speak too much because I didn’t know how to speak.
On a test in the history of economic thought, I answered the questions in Spanish. My professor showed the answers to Sennholz, and Sennholz came to me and said, ‘Eduardo, you lied to me. You said that you spoke English. And that’s why we didn’t ask you to fill up your scholarship guide. We don’t tolerate these things. Unless you speak English in the next two months, and I’m able to test you, you will go back home.’
He was tough but sweet man. He forced me to take lessons with a beautiful blonde girl, very patient, who was just spending time with me, teaching me. And I was learning English and flirting with the lady at the same time. It was fun, you see. I learned my English that way. I was forced to speak with her. I improved my vocabulary a lot. So I finally was on the presidential scholars list with all A’s. And I wrote several essays that won some distinctions there. I had a good time.
But everything was strange. Grove City is 22 degrees below zero centigrade in winter. You have the Amish in the middle of town.
I remember the most important feeling I had there was that you had to choose. Like, you went to the supermarket. In Argentina you can choose from three products. In Grove City you have 1,000. And you said to yourself, ‘Okay, somebody tell me what to choose.’
During weekends, you were being invited for several fraternities and sororities—I didn’t know what that was—they kept asking, ‘Okay, tell me what is the best fraternity? According to your views, what do you want to do?’ This is different people following different interests. ‘What are you interested in? ’ I’d say, ‘I don’t know. Tell me which is the best.’
On the first day I remember going to different classes: ‘You want to become a chess player? You want to do parachuting? You want to be member of the Outing Club? You want to be part of the economics group?’ And I signed up for everything; I wanted everything.
Here in Argentina you feel you have to fight to get what you want. They put obstacles in your way. And they make you feel guilty for just being ambitious. But in Grove City you had all of those people offering you things and being part of different movements, like birdwatchers, and they describe the fact of watching birds in such an interesting way that I wanted to be there. You see? And I was instructed by so many things. I saw a society full of opportunities, full of nice people, not aggressive people.
The fact of seeing the football players—you went to buy groceries and you’re on your way down and there is a little path and you see the football players, twenty of them just throwing balls. Because there were very few foreigners there, they knew that I was a foreigner. So I saw them one block ahead of me. In Argentina the feeling of being teased or being attacked or being insulted would have been a very, very immediate thought. But in Grove City it was, ‘Hello Ed. How are you?’ I thought that they were just kidding—they couldn’t be so nice.
In Grove City they are very, very nice people, very sweet people, you see. People singing in chorus—religious songs. I liked to go to the church—I had always hated church—but I also liked to go to the church because the way the priests were discussing issues in the church, instead of speaking Latin or just saying nonsense. Most of them—they were moral issues; some of them were pretty good, some other ones not.
But the sense of life was different and I felt very, very alike; I felt at home there.
I felt alienated here in Argentina. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Argentineans; I like my country; I love them. But the idea of feeling alienated in your own society. I would laugh—I used to laugh when nobody else laughed. And I used to look around one day and they were laughing—people were laughing—and I said, ‘What are they laughing at?’ So it’s a strange feeling.
Suddenly you are just in a different society feeling, ‘Okay, they are different because they think differently; they behave differently; but, at the same time, I feel closer. I hope Argentineans don’t read this. But I feel the sense of life is more alike. I feel at home—I feel more at home here than I used to feel at home in Argentina. So I had that alienation feeling. I knew that I didn’t belong there either. I had my history; I had my background; I love my country. So that’s a strange feeling because you don’t belong in any place. Here or there. So I finally discovered that you have some friends in Argentina too—my whole life I tried to find a way to find people and to show people that they are like you and felt the same way—that there is a way to build things and to think differently.
Kaizen: Let’s go back to your academics. Had you already committed to studying economics when you went to Grove City or was it a choice you made when you were there?
Marty: I had just gotten my degree here Buenos Aires. It took me five years. I had the draft in Argentina and I missed one year because of the draft.
Kaizen: The military draft?
Marty: Military draft. One year; I was late for one year. And you couldn’t do any other thing. And I took a year traveling through Europe with my mochilla.
Kaizen: Your backpack?
Marty: Yes. And another year I just read. I studied French and skied around—I love skiing. I didn’t like my career. I finally got my degree when I was 25. Then I went for one year to Grove City. I went to the Sennholz lecture. He said, ‘I offer ten scholarships to study with me.’ He didn’t say, ‘You get to come here to get a degree.’ He had a kind of agreement with UCLA to give you a doctorate degree if you spent one year with him as a special student, participating in seminars and discussions. That was the offer. But when you received that offer, he was telling us, ‘Come to my classes.’ And he was teaching other graduates. And after three months he said, ‘If you get all these credits and pass all these courses, you can get a bachelor of arts degree in economics. Are you interested?’ And I said, ‘Of course.’
After finishing that year and participating in those courses, he offered you the chance to stay one more year with him in his private seminars. So I went to the private seminars at the same time I was doing the university. And I learned a lot with him. But I had to stay and write a thesis and discuss and participate in seminars one more year and I didn’t want to.
He was also offering and recommending us to Israel Kirzner at New York University to follow a Ph.D. program—another four years—or just to stay with him one more year and to write your thesis and to discuss with him and get a Ph.D. degree from International University. Alex Chafuen got his degree there. The other “musketeer,” Juan Cachanosky, got his degree there. I didn’t because I never returned to do it.
Kaizen: So you returned to Buenos Aires at this point in your mid-twenties?
Marty: I was twenty-six, twenty-seven. I returned to Buenos Aires and I was hired by the Centros de Estudios Sobre la Libertad to work for the University of Buenos Aires to teach for the Superior School of Economics and Business Administration. It’s a master’s degree. Despite the fact that I was a public accountant and had a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, I was hired to teach master’s degree students.
Kaizen: Well, that’s a tribute to you. It says a lot about you.
Marty: Yeah. I taught at the University of Buenos Aires for ten years teaching the fundamentals of economics, principles of economics, and political economy.
Kaizen: Did you enjoy the teaching?
Marty: I enjoyed the teaching very much. But the University of Buenos Aires is a state-owned firm, you see, with all the liabilities. You are just a number. Nobody in my ten years at the university saw one of my classes. They didn’t know if I was there to teach or if I missed my classes—I still received my salary, a very poor salary. I was teaching a class of 200 students, most of them Marxists. Before entering the class I had to read Property is Theft.
Marty: Proudhon, right. A big, big announcement. But Sennholz taught you how to discuss. We learned all the tricks of discussion. And he was very good teaching us economics. He was a powerful teacher, great teacher, full of passion in a German way that means that nobody move in the class. You see? And he would look at you. But at the same time, he was pretty Socratic. He asked a lot of questions. ‘Raise your hands. Tell me the answer. Wrong, you have a D.’ You couldn’t sleep in his class. He was an artist. He was a showman with a strong German accent. He was a great teacher.
I had a very good teacher of money and banking, too: Tom Rose, he was a Chicago guy. But I remember the book of money and banking and I learned how the system works. After that I read Murray Rothbard’s The Mystery of Banking [PDF] and I really learned more then what I knew. But Rose was a very Catholic man. He forced us to pray.
Kaizen: Is this in class at Grove City?
Marty: In class at Grove City.
Marty: Yes, but guilt keeps your love calm, you see. Take your time to relax. He was very sweet man.
And I remember that we read all of these moral booklets about central banking—against central banking and all the problems with central banking. So I learned about the Smithsonian agreement and Bretton Woods and the history of banking and the history of your federal reserve bank. We learned basic things of Austrian economics, but very well developed. So when I was facing those 200 Marxists in Buenos Aires, I knew how to argue and they kept silent. They respect knowledge, you see. That’s what you see in Buenos Aires.
Kaizen: Had they only heard one side of the argument before? And so all of this was new and if it’s well argued, they are still young and open-minded to some extent?
Marty: And a little bit resentful. This society creates a lot of resentment, you see. The feeling of having been good in the past but not now. So a lot of resentment arises. People want to blame somebody. And remember that this country is populated by the Italians from the south, Sicilians. They need to blame somebody. And of course this is the country where the anti-American feeling is strongest in Latin America. Not on an individual basis, but they need to blame.
Right now for the first time I have the feeling that that Argentines start to suspect that what Fascist Peronists told us was not true. They are starting to suspect it now.
Kaizen: They are opening up intellectually and culturally?
Marty: Oh, yeah. You see that the new books in the libraries are—you have libertarian books in the libraries. Can you believe that? Historians defending the past of Argentina. That’s very unusual. But it will take a lot of renaissance.
Kaizen: It’s an encouraging start, though.
Kaizen: You’ve also been a professor at universities in Guatemala and El Salvador?
Marty: Yes. Well at the time I was professor at the University of Buenos Aires. I wrote and submitted a proposal to C.I.P.E., Center for International Private Enterprise. They gave me a grant to spread freedom in Argentina. We had a campaign called ‘Why not try freedom?’ following the Leonard Read book [PDF]. I hired my mentors, my professors in Buenos Aires to give lectures about freedom and to tour the country. It was very successful. When I finished that contract, because it was so successful, I was hired to do it in Brazil and in El Salvador.
By the way, through that program, I went to Brazil and right now you see a lot of libertarians there. I’m not saying that it was caused because of our lectures there. But we were influential enough that a group of businessmen in Porto Alegre created the Instituto de Estudos Empresariais and the Institute Liberal. They also created Junior Achievement Brazil. So I think that we next went to El Salvador giving lectures there in the middle of the guerilla war. It was fun. Later I accepted an invitation to Guatemala, where we had a hero there, Manuel Ayau, who recently died.
Kaizen: Yes, just this month.
Marty: Great man, great man. Very influential to all of us. We saw through him what you can do when you are committed. He was an example for all of us. So I was hired to teach there.
But I had applied for a scholarship to go to Washington, to Virginia, to work for the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) to learn how to develop a non-profit organization. Alex was at Atlas at the time—Atlas and IHS. were working together.
The president was John Blondell an Englishman—he was doing very good fundraising. He taught me how to do it. And I follow him and I think he was very good. He taught me the first lesson you need to learn if you want to sell. If you go to a selling interview, what is the most important thing you have to do? You answer the question.
Kaizen: You want me to answer the question? (laughs) Back to me?
Kaizen: Well, you have to believe in your product or service.
Marty: It’s not enough.
Kaizen: And show them that it connects to their values.
Marty: That’s 30% of the selling.
Kaizen: That’s only 30%? Okay. This is why I’m a philosophy professor and not in sales.
Marty: What you need to do—you need to listen. You need to try to create a connection with listening. What you have to do—people pay to be listened to. Why am I so happy here? Because I’m speaking of myself. I feel flattered. You get bored after a while, listening to the same guy speaking about himself. But when you go to a selling interview, if you ask curious questions—the type of questions that make the other people feel that you care and it’s interesting to you—that person loves it. And they speak a lot.
Marty: That’s the most important trick. So you open him to—he says to himself, ‘This person understands me. He’s curious.’ You trade that kind of dialogue that really helps a lot to get the other person to open. So, of course, after a while, you just keep asking questions and you discover where their interests are. So you need to be an artist and to be quick. But suddenly you just present your own case in a way that is not disturbing to your own values, but in a way that is compatible with his interests. In that way you really improve your chances to close the selling in very important ways.
In the beginning, I was just going to the interviews, saying, ‘Okay, my name is Eduardo Marty, Junior Achievement, this is the fastest growing not-for-profit organization in the world. It was created in …’ —the poor guy got bored as hell. After a while I discovered the importance of asking questions. ‘Who are you?’ ‘Where were you when you were 17?’ ‘How did you develop your career?’ and ‘Are you missing so much time with your family because you’re investing so much time with your firm?’ ‘What’s your favorite sport?’ ‘How did you build this company?’ I learned the tricks and I do it pretty well. In this country we raised two million dollars for Junior Achievement Argentina without any tax deductions. It is a cost for the firms to give you money.
Marty: By our standards it’s pretty good.
Kaizen: And you had come across Junior Achievement in El Salvador?
Marty: Later I was hired to give lectures in El Salvador. The class was in a Sheraton hotel in San Salvador. And you saw the helicopters bombing and you were teaching and you heard bombs—voom! And you stopped teaching and said, ‘What the hell is this?’ And they said, ‘Don’t worry, this is the six o’clock run.’ Another one would come in one hour. It was pretty dangerous.
Kaizen: Oh my goodness.
Marty: When they were—when we went to the airport they, the people who hired us, came to the airport and they put us in a van with dark windows and they forced us to go to the floor. Just to resist any attempt. We were teaching under those conditions.
But I discovered a small group of students in El Salvador who were very entrepreneurial and very funny. I said to myself: ‘Very well organized kids, 17 years old selling goods with such enthusiasm.’ I asked them, ‘How did you learn this? Who’s telling you what to do?’ et cetera. They told us they were part of Junior Achievement.
So when I finally went to the States at I.H.S., I started to research Junior Achievement. And John Blondell and Marty Zupan told me, ‘If you are interested in Junior Achievement and learning how to build a non-for-profit, why are you going to a think-tank? Or are you going to organize Junior Achievement in Argentina?’ That was a tough decision.
Kaizen: So that’s when you to decided to start Junior Achievement when you came back to Buenos Aires?
Marty: I went to a couple of board meetings at Junior Achievement in Fairfax, Virginia. I saw a man, I think he was the president of Arco. I was in the middle of a board meeting trying to learn—trying to understand—what they were doing and he said, ‘Sorry guys, I have to leave, I have to give a class.’ And you had a man running a $4 billion company with 2,000 employees leaving a board meeting and going to teach a class for Salvadoran immigrants. It was so crazy for me: a wealthy businessman going to school to teach.
So I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this? In Argentina it would be unthinkable. A man like you just teaching a class.’
He said, ‘Because if I don’t teach these kids the process of wealth creation, they will think that I am making money at the expense of my workers, my consumers or whoever. They will believe in the exploitation Marxist theory. So I have to teach them that wealth can be created.’
And he said, ‘Do you know why you are poor in Latin America?’ I said, ‘No, why are we poor?’ ‘Because you never understood that wealth can be created. You think in terms of fixed wealth. And when somebody makes money it is at the expense of somebody else. You know why in Africa they are poor? The same reason that Bono thinks …’—what is the name of the band with Bono?
Marty: ‘He’s always asking for donations for Africa. And that’s exactly the opposite you have to do, right? You need to teach principles instead of giving away money.’
Kaizen: So, active wealth creation rather than passively receiving a hand-out.
Marty: He convinced me.
And he said another thing: ‘Eduardo, people don’t understand abstractions. People understand practical things, and once you build their self-esteem they can understand your ideas. It’s really very tough to teach ideas if people don’t process those ideas. In order for them to process the ideas, they need to have to think they need to have a sense of efficacy.’
Edward Hudgins told me that too. I’m just mixing arguments here. But you know Edward Hudgins?
Kaizen: I do know Ed Hudgins.
Marty: He’s a great, great intellectual. A very sweet man too. He had an influence too. He told me that if you never have a sense of efficacy, you don’t trust your mind. And if you don’t trust your mind, you don’t process information. You ask your neighbor what to do. So you need to build that. And in order for you to build that, you need to exercise yourself. And how do you exercise yourself in taking decisions?
You need to force the kids of your society to take decisions. But you’re in the middle of an educational system that rewards repetition. You repeat the lessons that are being taught by your teachers.
You know when was the first time after high school and the University in Buenos Aires—the first time I wrote an essay in my academic career was at Grove City. When they asked me to write an essay, it was useful for me. You know how to write and they were correcting—in Latin American terms, you put a lot of adjectives.
I remember the first essay I wrote Sennholz told me, ‘This is bullshit. This is shit.’ He said, ‘Full of adjectives. You are not describing facts. You need to learn grammar.’ And I was really good at grammar but it was full of adjectives—Latin style, you see.
Kaizen: To get to the subject.
Marty: To go to the subject, prove your point, be objective. And he told me, ‘Words are like …’—how do you say this in English?—like … tools when you operate.
Kaizen: Surgical tools?
Marty: Surgical tools. When you use a word you need to learn how to define it. You need to have the exact meaning. Don’t use ‘grey’ terms. Sennholz was very good for that, you see. He was forcing you to define your terms. Law. What is the law? Value. What is a value? He was very good forcing you accept ways—to define your terms. You can’t find that in hermeneutics, you can’t find that in modern philosophy, right?
Kaizen: (Laughs) There you find a lot of adjectives.
Kaizen: Let’s go back to Junior Achievement. After these inspirations and getting the idea you came back to Junior Achievement. What did it take for you actually to launch Junior Achievement in Argentina?
Marty: A lot, a lot. I contacted Junior Achievement in Colorado Springs and I went there.. They have one of the most beautiful offices on a valley; it looks kind of like a John Galt valley. In Colorado Springs they have the valley there in a rock—in a mountain—they have a building, a glass building, that looks at the valley. An incredible view.
Kaizen: Oh, yes, Colorado Springs. It is beautiful.
Marty: But the building Junior Achievement has is a fantastic building. I went there and met a man called Sam Taylor. Uncle Sam. A man full of energy, full of passion for life. He’s more conservative but his view of youth and how to influence youth is simply fantastic.
He told me, ‘Eduardo, if you want to start Junior Achievement Argentina, what you have to do is go back there and show me that you are able to raise funds. You told me that you are being trained in fundraising. So go there and do it.’ But I said, ‘In Argentina I don’t know any businessmen. I’m more a kind of intellectual.’ ‘Just do it,’ he told me.
‘Impossible is nothing.’ He showed me those sentences that are part of Junior Achievement culture. Just do it’ was taken from Nike and ‘Impossible is nothing’ is from Adidas. They were all sentences of Junior Achievement companies. You saw the signs in the 50s and the 60s in the States—just the signs in the Junior Achievement classes.
I went back to Argentina—that was in 1990. I started to see businessmen. And, of course, it was very tough: ‘Why should I do this?’ ‘Are you asking me for money?’ ‘I’m just paying my taxes. I’m not getting any deduction.’ ‘You want me to get involved with education. Give me one good reason why.’
So I said to them: ‘You need to invest in the framework, you need to invest in the lake where you fish. If not, one day they will take your firm as Chavez does in Venezuela where they expropriate your gains and they tax you a lot. You need to invest in ideas and you need to invest in the new generation for them to defend freedom.’ I did well, I think. But it was very tough.
The first year I raised $50,000, so I had to put in my own money; I didn’t get any salary for one year and a half.
And I got a divorce for that, I think. Well, you see, women tend to understand well this kind of odd twist of altruistic-kind-of-selfish mix ideas. So you just postpone your family ideals, etcetera. I have a great relationship with her now, but it was a very tough year for me to start Junior Achievement.
It took me two years to get out of the ground. But we started just little by little. And the purpose of Junior Achievement was giving the Argentinian kids a sense of efficacy and sense of accomplishment. Building their self-esteem. In a country with an educational system that they don’t get it from. They are alienated.
Kaizen: What kind of programs specifically at the beginning did you start to put in place to help build a sense of efficacy and business skills?
Marty: Junior Achievement is a company where you challenge the kids to create wealth. You ask them, ‘Do you have money?’ ‘No, we don’t.’ ‘You have raw materials?’ ‘No, we don’t.’ ‘Do you have capital?’ ‘No.’ ‘What do you have? You have a mind. You need to mix your images and your work skills with the raw materials. Whatever you can get.’ And you can always convince people to trust your projects and ideas for which they have already formed capital.
The Junior Achievement company is a challenge of fifteen weeks where you ask the kids to create a product, to produce the product, to market the product, to sell it and to compete. When the fifteen weeks are finished, they share the dividends among the stockholders and they write a report saying: ‘We created wealth with our minds.’
Marty: When they see that—when you see a kid come in with a check from a product that they sold and they see they can get money out of their minds, that’s a fantastic transformation. That kid is not the same for the rest of his life. He gets a feeling of ‘I can do it.’
Of course, it is not enough. If you don’t teach ideas and principles, it’s not enough. But I think it’s the basics for him to understand and to accept freedom ideas. That’s why you cannot just go teaching Hayek and Mises to Africa. They will never get it. But after they have just been through a Junior Achievement company and they get that feeling of accomplishment, they open up. They are more equipped to understand how the process works. What you need is to recreate that kind of self-esteem as a sense of efficacy process. In countries where the educational system is taken over by the Marxists, you need to open the window, to allow some fresh air to enter.
Kaizen: Right. So the two things that Junior Achievement programs emphasize are, on the one hand, the business skills—this is how you come up with the idea, implement it, market it, and so forth. But on the other hand you’re emphasizing the character that goes into building a sense of efficacy and accomplishment.
Did Junior Achievement have ready-made programs that you could adapt to Argentina on the curriculum side?
Marty: I translated them and I adapted them. And we created programs in Argentina that right now are being taught around the world. Citibank here asked me for a specific program for them. We created Banks in Action. I had read a book, The Mystery of Banking, and I created a book and program called the Battle of the Banks. Citibank Group found the title very aggressive. So they changed the name to Banks in Action.
We teach kids how to operate a commercial bank through a simulator that was built by Harvard University in the States. We went to Harvard and we asked them to create that simulator just to teach the kids the importance of thinking in terms of the risks of a banker—the importance of assigning the savings you get in proper ways.
Kaizen: This is all supplemental to the standard school curriculum?
Marty: Junior Achievement works in this way. You get money from the firms; you get volunteers from the firms. You also go to the Ministry of Education and you convince them of the importance of allowing your courses into the curriculum. Because Junior Achievement courses are short, you can always convince the principals to give up some time for you to come in with Junior Achievement courses.
It’s not an easy task, especially in public schools—they resist us. The unions resist us. Unions in Argentina have destroyed the country. We have a legislation copied from the Mussolini labor laws. The unions here are …
Kaizen: Did they literally copy the Mussolini program?
Marty: Yes, exactly. It is the same. We have the Mussolini labor laws. That is why there is such unemployment in Argentina, because they are always raising the minimum wages and you have big unemployment and any unskilled worker cannot get a job. That happens a lot.
Kaizen: So you’re developing the curriculum. You’re raising the capital. You’re dealing with business people, dealing with government administrators, unions, the principals . . .
Marty: Convincing the firms to give you volunteers—volunteer time, not just money. And you train them and you put them in schools. So I think you can have several influences: you can influence the students, you can influence the educational system, and you can influence the businessmen.
In this country businessmen are getting subsidies, credits with lower interest rates than the market is saying, and getting protection through tariffs, et cetera. They are always loving the government to get privileges from it. They have a very, very strong influence. So Junior Achievement allows you to get into the firms, to speak with the CEO, and give him your reasons. I think probably Junior Achievement has a lot of influence. You make CEOs feel the importance of just working for the long-run, not to get a privilege in the short-run because you suffer the consequences. It’s not easy. I really have the feeling of 50% of the responsibility for problems come from businessmen.
Kaizen: Okay. So it is a whole mind-set about how to do business that has to change.
Marty: Oh yes.
Kaizen: When you started Junior Achievement, how successful did you expect to be in the early years? Did you have benchmarks? In hindsight you have been very successful. But going into it, what were your goals?
Marty: I really—I just did it.
Kaizen: It was an experiment to see how it would work?
Marty: It was an experiment to see how it would work. And remember in this country the focus is always trying to survive. I was an educator and I knew that as an educator I was not making a living, so it was a very good way to enter into the business community, to find opportunities and be influential in terms of what you want to do. I was experimenting.
After twenty years I can say that I don’t know if I could do it again. I love what I do, but it’s tough. You see, it’s very altruistic. I left part of myself. I am proud of just leaving an institution after me. I know that the country will stay with Junior Achievement. Right now we have six offices, and I plan to stay with Junior Achievement five more years. I think I will leave the country ten offices. We’ll be reaching around 100,000 students in five years. I think that’s pretty good influence.
But it was tough. My expectations were just to influence a mass of young kids in proper ideas, just showing them sense of efficacy and, if I could, some free market ideas.
Kaizen: So, currently, about 70,000 students a year go through the Junior Achievement program?
Marty: Not in this decade. We did that many in the 90s with Carlos Menem. He was a more open, free-market president. After this crisis and the American crisis in the early 2000s, I got a lot of donations coming from American firms operating in Argentina. And after the crisis in Argentina they revalued the country’s currency in lower terms so donations coming from what they call ‘social responsibility’ are lower now.
So this year we’re probably at 45,000 students. But at the same time we are trying to develop a line to education to reach more students. That’s a process I think will help us reach more students in the future.
Kaizen: As you grew Junior Achievement, did being a manager and leader come naturally to you, or was that something you also had to work at?
Marty: No, no, that didn’t come naturally, no. I’m more a kind of professor; I like to teach. I hate administrative tasks. I’m not very good building a project. I think if I put my mind to it, any rational human being can do it.
Kaizen: This is a trained accountant speaking.
Marty: Yeah, but remember that I have my training in accounting because at that time all the humanistic careers were taken by the Marxists. So I finally preferred to learn some technical things.
Kaizen: So budgeting and administration is not something that you enjoy doing?
Marty: No, and human resources are very important. I’m reading right now about Steve Jobs—that’s a fantastic book. I recommend you read it.
Kaizen: What’s it called?
Marty: Inside Steve’s Brain. It’s a new book, but very well written. It shows you how to really—the importance of certain aspects of managerial skills that you need to develop in a firm. I think it is very good. And I do need to be a bit of a dictator, I think, in a firm. Of course you need to listen; of course you need to encourage participation, but I’m too sweet with my workers. I’m very much easy going. So they love to stay in Junior Achievement.
But at the beginning, just to give you a panorama, I had forty-five employees. Right now we have sixty employees in the whole country. And with Junior Achievement just in Buenos Aires I had forty-five in 2000; now I have ten. With ten people I do more than with forty-five. So the importance of having very low costs in your infrastructure—don’t have more workers than the ones you need. And to become more efficient is something I learned in a tough way, you see.
Kaizen: That’s the dictatorial element coming in there?
Marty: Yeah, you need to be tough. You need to protect your savings; you need not waste money; you need to lower your infrastructure. If you start an organization and if, instead of renting one floor, you rent two—instead of renting ten employees, you rent twenty—you’re in trouble. Fixed costs will kill you. Now I’m more efficient. I learned in tough ways.
I think that anyone starting a not-for-profit organization or think-tank or whatever should learn the importance of just not wasting one penny in infrastructure, in extra salaries that you don’t need. And the importance of hiring smart people.
Marty: When you are new in management you try to hire people who don’t threaten you with their intelligence. And you pay the costs for that. Right now I always try to hire people who are smarter than I am. I see them as more skillful. And I resist the feeling of being threatened, you see.
Kaizen: Let’s come back to Argentina’s economy. Poverty rates have been very high since 2001-2002. Has Junior Achievement helped in offering students a route out of poverty? Can poor kids find more value in Junior Achievement programs than standard kids?
Marty: Yeah, but remember we get those kids when they are very young—sixteen or seventeen. We give them a sense of life and different options, but we are too small to have a really strong influence right at the moment. I think we do it, but remember it’s still a country of more than 40 million people and our courses are short—four weeks, five weeks, fifteen weeks the most important ones. But still I think our influence is very limited. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have any influence, but we will see it in the long-run, not the short-run. I think that the country would be worse than it is now. I like to think in terms of we have our influence.
You see, we don’t have Hugo Chavez. Our president, Cristina Kirchner, has the same intelligence as Chavez, but she’s facing resistance. And I think that resistance is coming from the middle class, from the media, from any well-born people and I think we have our influence among these people to resist this type of bad guys.
Kaizen: Do you have any hard measures of Junior Achievement’s success from the number of students who have gone on to start businesses or who will get in contact with you and say, ‘Yes, I wouldn’t have done this if it wouldn’t have been for Junior Achievement’?
Marty: We have our numbers, and we have what we call NEXA, Nuclear of the Ex-Achievers—they stay in touch with us. We, of course, have our polls where we see how much they learned through our courses. But through NEXA we keep track of some achievers and follow them. It is very expensive to keep track of kids who were in your program courses. But through NEXA we know about a lot of them who have become millionaires and they thank Junior Achievement.
Last month I was in a party I was invited by a former achiever, Pablo Lagoa. When we were in—just one o’clock in the morning we had a cake, singing happy birthday, he just stopped and got a microphone and said, ‘All of you who are here’—and there were fifty kids who passed through Junior Achievement courses—‘I invited you because this is a tribute to Junior Achievement and the influence of this organization. We are all millionaires, and we were inspired and we really understood the process of wealth creation and how to start our own business through Junior Achievement. So this is the importance of your courses.’ I felt very rewarded by that.
Kaizen: Very nice.
Marty: The Ministry of Education tolerate us and probably because they don’t know very much about what we do. We are kind of spice in the educational system; we infiltrate the system. I hope they don’t read this, but it’s a kind of infiltration of the system, because they don’t know too well what we do and because the system is so bad that any innovation helps so the principals welcome you—because they need to create a kind of interest for the kids.
Kaizen: Would you say it’s more important for Junior Achievement to keep connections at the local level with the principals and school districts than at the provincial or national level?
Marty: Completely. You to enter the system just doing connections locally, yes.
Kaizen: You’ve spoken about Argentine culture in general. Do you see advantages there with respect to entrepreneurship? Things that can be built upon? Inheritance from Italian or Spanish heritage?
Marty: Yeah, well Italian blood here—they are very much entrepreneurs. They like money; they like to create things. And because we are trained in obstacles, we are very pushy. If you see Argentinians abroad, they succeed because they are very well trained in obstacles.
So I think the entrepreneurial spirit is strong. I could say that the minds work pretty well in technical ways.
What doesn’t work here is the framework, the altruistic, the church—Catholic Nationalism really hurt a lot Argentina. The idea of the ‘common good,’ Rousseau and the French influence: the common good against the individual greed.
Kaizen: So you also have a top-down intellectual framework that discourages individual initiative in many respects? Also, Argentina has high rates of poverty and a sense of resentment, as you mentioned earlier, that is a cultural obstacle.
Marty: We receive a lot of immigrants coming from Bolivia and Paraguay and Peru, and there is no restriction at all. With the minimum wage laws, they don’t get a job in the formal markets so they work in the black markets.
Another thing that hurts Argentina a lot—this is a big country and it’s very unpopulated; it’s empty; so full of land. But if you have property and you want to divide it and to sell parcels, you face the obstacle that the government is forcing you to invest a lot of money before doing it. You need to open roads; you need to put electricity and you need water.
Kaizen: So infrastructure?
Marty: Much infrastructure is needed. Poor people don’t have access to that.
And because of inflation—we had hyper-inflation ten years ago, twenty years ago—always inflation—you cannot get a loan. And if you get a loan, it’s for one or two years. You don’t have a thirty years loan like in the States for a mortgage.
Kaizen: So you won’t have long-term investment or long-term research and development.
Marty: Right. There is no way for you to buy a house. So all of those people just get fiscal land and they enter there and it’s a mess. You have the favelas in Brazil, you have the villas miseria here. You have twenty to thirty percent of the population living there in a very small space. What kind of habits can you develop there? You have crime and all types of terrible things happen there.
And the government, this populist government forments that because they just give subsidies to them—they buy votes. And you have right now three or four million immigrants living in very poor conditions—and they are allowed to vote after their first year here. So the whole country becomes a mess that way. It’s very, very poor.
I’m in favor of free immigration, but with certain rules that you need to get a job and you need—you cannot get welfare—like this government is doing and allowing any immigrant to come. But we are subsidizing them, paying taxes, you see, and you create hostility from the residents to the new immigrants. The whole system calls for this kind of internal war.
Kaizen: So many educational obstacles, indoctrination, political obstacles, legal obstacles …
Marty: Yeah. Many regulations. You read Hernando De Soto, from Peru?
Kaizen: The Mystery of Capital. Yes.
Marty: The same obstacles you face in Lima—you face them here.
Kaizen: Right. There’s a multi-dimensional study—in terms of ease of doing business, Argentina is ranked 118th out of 183 countries around the world. Though in some things Argentina seems friendlier: it ranks as high as 49th on issues like protection of contracts, which is a good legal indicator.
Marty: The sense of life is better than in any other Latin American country. The culture is better. And you can trust people giving you a vaccine in a drugstore. The entrepreneurial spirit is good but it is full of regulations, inflation, taxes—the Mafia-feeling of people just invading your business and telling you, changing the rules so you feel very insecure.
It’s not like Egypt: contract law is not like much of Africa where somebody can take your property, but two percent of the properties of the houses in Argentina are taken by immigrants who find a way to enter your property because it’s empty for some reasons; in order for you to get them out, the justice system takes one year.
Kaizen: That’s a squatter’s rights issue.
Marty: Yes. So you don’t have the feeling of being protected. And, of course, for insecurity, the people living in the suburbs suffer a lot of insecurity. The police are corrupted, so you don’t feel like somebody’s protecting you.
Kaizen: On the positive side of the ledger, are entrepreneurial areas that Argentina is doing well: Telecommunications? Transportation? Banking? Other promising sectors?
Marty: Some infrastructure is good. Access to the Internet is good because you don’t have regulations. It’s a free system and it’s blooming. It’s full of smart people like in India, another feudal country with obstacles. So smart young kids enter there.
The food industry is our main asset. Argentina could supply food for 400 million people. And being a country of only 40 million we could be feeding, I don’t know, 8% of the world. There are competitive advantages for food in Argentina: fantastic flat surfaces and great food producing.
Kaizen: So the agricultural sector is strong.
Marty: I own a farm here. When I want to get away from Buenos Aires, I just drive like forty-five minutes. And through your seed you have your tree and you have your plants and the soil here is fantastic. The cows here—you don’t need to protect your cows in the winter. The weather is cold enough not to have too many insects to hurt your cows and your sheep. So the competitive advantages of Argentina—this could become a great food country.
You also see innovations in agricultural technology in Argentina. Customers come from Australia, they come from Africa, and they come from the States, from England to see the new machines that are being built here for the farms.
Tourism—the country is very pretty. You have the woods in Patagonia, the lakes are like in Canada. The ski resorts are fantastic. You can fish in our lakes feeling that you are Robinson Crusoe out there. And you have the falls in the north.
The Internet could be very, very good. It’s full of opportunities, if we allow the Argentinians to create.
Kaizen: So the three you singled out are the Internet, agriculture, and tourism.
Marty: Add to that mining.
Marty: You see, in the middle of Argentina you have the Andes; they are the highest mountains in America. The Chileans really export, probably, I don’t know, 30% or 40% of their exports come from the mining. And it is the same mountains. In Argentina mining is unexploited because everything under the surface belongs to the state government, and they are always putting up obstacles to mining. But there are big opportunities.
A lot of Canadian firms are here, but they are being forced to deal with the governors and to tip people, so they are always insecure. To invest in mining you have to invest a billion dollars. And if you feel that somebody can just come expropriate you, you think twice.
Kaizen: Or you don’t think about it at all.
You’re also on boards of Junior Achievement in several other Latin American countries. Paraguay, Chile …
Marty: No, that’s not the way—I started the Junior Achievements in those countries.
Kaizen: Ah, you started them too.
Marty: Yes. I went there. I went to Brazil; I went to Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, and Spain.
And Cuba, by the way. Sam Taylor took me to Cuba. I worked five years in Cuba. They have my pictures in the window of the immigration office in Cuba. I’m not allowed to get in anymore. Five of my JA professors in Cuba went in prison. They were released after one day, but they were taken by the police and kicked out because they were teaching entrepreneurship in Cuba. But I started Junior Achievement there: I helped to raise funds and I trained the people.
And I worked in Spain for two years with JA.
Kaizen: Is Argentina’s situation unique? Or do the other Latin American countries have their own advantages and disadvantages—can we go through them individually to get your impressions?
Brazil is a success case in the last decade or so. Does its entrepreneurial culture help there?
Marty: I think its businessmen are healthier. The businessmen don’t try to get government advantages all the time. They are not just going to the visit the Secretary of Commerce to get advantages or to gloat. From that point of view, Brazil has it better than here. The sense of life is similar.
From that point of view, probably, the libertarian movement has stronger views in Argentina than in Brazil. Right now Brazil’s economy is very good. That’s a country that is blooming from an economic point of view. But in places where the businessmen are rich and the people are poor—that’s from feudal laws.
Kaizen: How about Chile? Is it similar in Chile?
Marty: No, Chile is a freer country. You have free trade in Chile. You pay 5% taxes to import or export, but it is free. You see good cars in Chile for a very cheap price. And you have to compete in Chile if you want to make money. That’s not the case in Brazil. Brazil is like Argentina.
Kaizen: You’re saying Chile has less political entrepreneurship or less of a culture of business in getting advantages through the state?
Marty: Yeah. But in Brazil the situation—they are more successful in monetary terms, but they are not good at all in terms of just being a free country.
Kaizen: Chile is also famous for its social security reform that has been very successful.
Marty: Yes. We had one here, but the government didn’t allow them to operate. Right now pensions belong to the government again. They got the money. All the savings were taken by the government. That’s the type of message this government is passing to investors. Invest here; we’ll take your money later.
In North America we hear less about Paraguay. Any special challenges or opportunities there?
Marty: Well, the situation there is that I think the state of the culture is lower. Again, you have feudal lords: people are getting state privileges and rule of law is still more insecure. Nice people, smart people, nice country. But again they are in the hands of a dictatorship, a guy with very, very low morals. They are elected through democratic rules, but they are kings—they do what they want. And the middle class is not so strong. So they are just in the process of becoming—we need to encourage—they have right now a very good libertarian movement; small, but it appeared, and they are already fighting, little by little. The ideas of freedom have started in Paraguay, and that’s a very good step forward.
Marty: In Chile for years you have several freedom institutes. They have a tradition of freedom in Chile. And you have a tradition of freedom in the south of Brazil. But not in the north, not in San Pablo—they are feudal lords. But Brazilians are—the state of the culture is better, I could say, than in Paraguay than in Bolivia.
Kaizen: Right. Most of what we hear about Colombia in North America has to do with drug wars and so forth. Are things healthier now in Colombia now that things have settled down there?
Marty: I think that with President Uribe, things are better in Colombia. I find him very, very good, and he really fought the guerillas in a very good way. I think that they are better. I think Colombia, if they win this battle, they have a good future. And a very cultured country too.
Kaizen: To come back to you personally. You seem very energetic and to make things happen: You went to a foreign country to go to college; you developed a successful academic career in several countries; you started an organization that is now national in scope. Where does all of your energy come from?
Marty: I think from my family. When you are born in a family that loves you and you get that warmth of your family—at the same time my mom was very ‘The world is yours, Ed. You can do what you want.’
I saw Braveheart, and I loved movies that tell you that you can do whatever you want to do. So I was raised with that spirit of ‘You can do it.’
Of course, you face the fear later when you see that life is tough, but that energizes you. I think that when you have good things to accomplish, and you know that you have your fire inside, because in your home they had that confidence in you and they loved you and they made you feel good.
My mom kept telling me, ‘You are the best. So just go for it. And do it.’ Whatever. Five brothers received that love and it encouraged you a lot.
And at the same time, you enjoy life. Despite all the difficulties, I just love my kids; I love to go skiing; I just love traveling. Facing the difficulties: that’s life, right?
Kaizen: It is.
Marty: Yeah. I think I got that energy from my mom. She was an adventurer. She was a romantic woman. She loved music.
Kaizen: What’s next for you? You mentioned perhaps another five years with Junior Achievement. You’re still young.
Marty: I think I still have about twenty years to go. And I plan to work all my life, because I enjoy doing it. That’s something we teach our kids—the importance of mixing love for what you do with your work. You need to enjoy what you do. If not, life is very, very painful. Right? I would like to dedicate more life to the fight for ideas now. I believe in the importance of mixing entrepreneurial activities with ideas, with art.
Marty: I love movies. I think they are very important. You have M.P.I., the Moving Picture Institute, in the States.
Marty: I think that through a movie you can invigorate kids a lot. You can show, you can teach principles and good things—and create discussions.
So I would love to organize a kind of liberal arts college to get all of those clients coming from Junior Achievement high school and wanting to follow an entrepreneurial career. I would like to create the kind of school where you could come to learn how to dance, how to interpret music, to listen to conferences and to discuss with the best minds on the world. To bring David Kelley here and discuss epistemology and run discussions with philosophers on the subjective and objective theory of value—your lecture. And to discuss these types of things. I think that if I could create that kind of atmosphere or debate in my last productive years, I could feel very fulfilled.
And I love to travel. And I love sports. I would like to live to at least ninety-two, so let’s see if I can do it. (Laughs)
Kaizen: Looking back on your twenty years now with Junior Achievement, what’s been the most challenging or difficult thing for you personally about making that happen?
Marty: I think it’s the money issue, right? In order for you to convince people to—I like better, instead of just going—I like the type of setting where the client comes to you. Where you just show your products and if they want, they come to you. This idea of forcing people to listen to your arguments for them to give you money to do something is a little bit more aggressive. I don’t have that temperament. I hate to do it. But I had to learn to do it.
That’s why I want to start right now a kind of school where students come to me and they pay for it. Instead of just going to businessmen who I don’t know how interested they are in investing and understanding this. I do it, and I do it very well. From each—five times I visit a businessman, I get money from two of them at least. So, I’m very persuasive. They look at me and they say, ‘I know. I’ve got to invest some money.’
But I try to reward them in a way. Businessmen like to belong, like good environments. I have a beautiful golf tournament that is probably the best after the Open of the Republic. By the way, you know there are 300 golf courses around Buenos Aires.
Kaizen: I did not know that.
Marty: It’s the third country after the United States and Japan. The weekends here in Buenos Aires are empty—people leave, because you have 750 country clubs.
Marty: Black money—escaping taxes. And being persecuted now. And you have all these golf courses around, and some of them are very, very good. Everybody escapes the city because this is so stressful and full of politics.
So the most challenging thing is convincing the businessmen about the importance of investing in the framework—in the lake. I call it the lake.
Marty: You fish. If you fish, then keep the lake non-polluted in order for you to keep doing it. Understand how the system works. They think because they know how to make business they understand political issues. They don’t. We need to educate businessmen because they are influential people, because they have money. So many people look at them. They are the ones saying Ted Turner’s thing—your businessmen and some of those doing things that are not right, you hurt the system, right?
Kaizen: On the other side of the ledger again, you’ve received many awards for the work you’ve done with Junior Achievement, and you’ve made a lot of friendships. When you look back, what gives you the most satisfaction?
Marty: I believe that what is important is what you think about yourself. When people watch you, you say, ‘Okay, this is nice.’
But probably this interview is more rewarding for me than the few public awards I’ve received, because I know your mind. I know that you can explain to me the analytic-synthetic dichotomy. Plus I know that I value your mind and the fact that you are interested in knowing more about me means more than just any privilege you can get through your job. I value smart people. And sensitive people. That when you discover those individuals, you want to cultivate their freedom and their friendship, and I appreciate that about it.
So those accomplishments help a lot. It is always good to feel that people value you—but you like that when you know that they understand what you do. And that happens not very often, regrettably.
Kaizen: Nice. When you’re teaching students entrepreneurship character issues—initiative, courage, resourcefulness, perseverance, coming back from failure, and so on. If you had to choose, what character trait would you say entrepreneurs most need to have?
Marty: Perseverance is a lot, but you have to have fire inside. The fact that you trust yourself.
How do you build that trust in yourself when nobody else does? “If,” by Rudyard Kipling—remember that?
Kaizen: Excellent poem. I have it on my wall in my office.
Marty: How do you develop that in a person? I think that your mom can tell you that you are great, that you are smart or the best person in the world; but if you don’t see that in reality, if you don’t see that your decisions are just taking you to good places, you don’t trust them.
You need the basics coming from your family or from your friends, from a mentor, from whoever—an actor in a movie—and you need to feel that. And once you have that, you need to keep doing it and building it. Just forcing you to take decisions and to submit yourself to difficulties. The freedom to see that you can do it.
And if you abandon your career because you’re lazy, or because you don’t help yourself, or because of whatever—and we all do that in certain ways—you deteriorate your own self-image. And we are fighting with that all the time. It is important to persevere. The sense of achievement.
Of course, when you have to study, you need to concentrate and to focus. But it comes to your mind that you need to call a friend, want a sandwich or to take a shower—because your mind takes a lot of energy when you connect thoughts—you need to tell your brain to keep doing it, and it’s not easy.
What else is important is curiosity. And to take risks. When you see a person of curiosity, asking questions, taking a risk—but persevering and feeling inside that the critics cannot hurt him too much—when you see that, I think that you will see a successful man.
© 2013 Stephen R. C. Hicks. All rights reserved.