The election season is in the hard push to the finish line of Nov. 6, and as a swing state, Ohio is once again inundated with 30 second blips via all forms of mass media and social networking in order to sway voters.
I actually work hard during the “election season” to avoid as much of the election frenzy as possible. It lacks substance. It is seldom instructive. It is most often misleading. Yet there are times during the fray when remarks are made which are revealing. I believe President Obama’s remarks regarding small business are, in fact, revealing and imperative to review.
On July 13, President Obama traveled to Roanoke, Virginia and gave a campaign speech. On that day, the President shared his belief that small businesses are not built by their owners and those same owners should not take credit for any success they might have. Needless to say, there was an outcry in the small business community. Such a statement is insulting, at best. But more importantly, it reveals a view of business and commerce which needs to be examined.
I am the proud owner of Rebsco, Inc., a company my father founded in 1965. Starting in the family room of the house I grew up in, I watched my father and mother work hard to not only create a successful business, but also to maintain it. Every season of the year is different. Every year in business brings challenges and opportunities different from the year before. There have never been any government programs to provide assistance during the tough times of start up or recession.
But during the 47 years of our operation, there have been plenty of sleepless nights, debt financed with personal guarantees, foregoing of paychecks and borrowing against savings. Do not misunderstand. Small business owners do not look for pity. Entrepreneurs and small business owners understand this is simply what you have to do if you want to run and own your own business. And I completely understand, as do most small business owners, that the vast majority of people probably have no real understanding and awareness of what it takes to operate and maintain a small business.
However, for the President of the United States to not understand is very disturbing. And to have a President who initiates and supports regulations and legislative initiatives which create unnecessary obstacles and costs to small business is even more cause for concern.
As a small business, Rebsco, Inc. employs anywhere from 20 - 30 employees. During this latest recession, our business has become more seasonal than in previous years. Though the agricultural customers we serve have generally seen more success throughout the recession, our aggregate and asphalt customers have had much more challenging times.
Consequently, we have months during which we are very busy and employ more people, followed by months during which we have less work and therefore are forced to reduce hours and /or conduct lay offs. Based on the President’s remarks, the public is to believe these actions are unnecessary. He spreads the myth that business is simply short changing its employees when it makes cut backs. Businesses are simply “greedy.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. In a small business, needing to cut an employee’s hours or lay someone off is painful. Not only do you actually know the person, odds are you know the family. You run into each other at the grocery store, your kids go to the same school, you may even go to the same church. It is not an anonymous event.
In addition, for a small business to have solid, long term success, it needs to have a steady income and a steady workforce. It costs dollars to train and retrain employees. It cost businesses money when we have to find ways to operate while dealing with low business volume and short cash supply. We cannot simply “tax” our way to more income. There has to be work. It has to be work where you can make a profit. If you cannot make a profit, you cannot pay the rent, keep the lights on, or pay your employees.
The President has, in fact, not helped this situation. There is consistent and obvious anti-private sector rhetoric and, of even more concern, a consistent and strong push to enforce anti-private sector regulations, without the review or consent of the legislature or the people and businesses affected by these regulations.
Rebsco, Inc. and other small businesses are facing approximately 4,000 new pending regulations at the federal and state levels. This is virtually impossible for a small business to keep up with. And it costs a great deal of money to even attempt to be compliant. Do not get me wrong. I am not anti-regulation. I am anti-regulation which is not vetted through the appropriate democratic processes. Where the due diligence of looking at the cost versus benefit of creating and enforcing a regulation is not complete, comprehensive and thorough.
And I am specifically against regulatory reform which infringes on the independence and rights of both employees and employers. If, as a business owner, I am spending money trying to comply with regulations which are unnecessary or unproductive, I am not then able to use those dollars for benefits, wages or equipment which might create more opportunities for my employees; which might even allow me to hire more people.
The current anti-business attitude of the President and his administration is not a stable or healthy environment for building and growing small business. And if it is not beneficial to small business, it cannot benefit our communities. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan declared that when it comes to American business, “government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” Thirty years later, President Obama declared that government, not us, built our businesses.
As a second generation small business owner, my experience is government does not build small business, people do. People who are willing to take a leap of faith and risk personal security. People who believe in independence, freedom and the system of free enterprise. They are your friends and neighbors, be it the coffee shop owner down the street, the dry cleaner on the corner, or the small manufacturing plant in your community’s industrial park. They provide jobs, they pay taxes (both corporate and personal), they contribute to local schools and organizations. These people care about the community. They understand the success of their business and the success of the community are interdependent. Our current President either does not understand or does not respect this fundamental reality. This is dangerous.
Please take this into consideration as you cast your vote. It matters.
Tyeis Baker-Baumann is President/CEO of Rebsco, Inc. She can be reached at 937-548-2246. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.