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We Began With Freedom and We’re Better for It

The first Plantagenet king of England, Henry II, is important to contemporary small business owners because he’s considered the founder of a legal system to which entrepreneurs owe their freedom to be.

Ambitious and highly intelligent, Henry’s attempts to consolidate all of the 12th century British Isles under his rule created the need for order. And while the subsequent reforms were intended more for his own political expediency than to empower the people, they actually gave birth to a body of law, now known as English Common Law, which replaced elements of the feudal system that included such enlightened practices as trial by ordeal.

Six centuries after Henry’s death, the legal and cultural tide of personal freedoms and property rights that evolved from his reforms were being established across the Atlantic. In the colonies, a group of malcontents, now called America’s Founders, envisioned, created and fought for a new interpretation of Henry’s legacy. Their plan was different because it was sans kings.

In The Fortune of the Republic, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “We began with freedom. America was opened after the feudal mischief was spent. No inquisitions here, no kings, no dominant church.”

In Origins of the Bill of Rights, Leonard W. Levy noted that, “Freedom was mainly a product of New World conditions.” Those conditions, as Thomas Jefferson so artfully wrote in the Declaration of Independence, were, “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These were 18th century words for freedom and embryonic conditions for which the 56 signers of Jefferson’s document put their lives and liberties at risk on July 4, 1776.

But America’s founding documents weren’t perfected until they perpetuated rights that were, as John Dickinson declared a decade earlier in 1766, “…born with us, exists with us and cannot be taken from us by any human power without taking our lives.”

By definition entrepreneurs take risks. But only when freedom is converted into the liberty to pursue success are those risks acceptable. Thank you, Henry II.

Research shows that there is a direct connection between the rate of new business start-ups and economic growth. And the American experiment has demonstrated that a healthy entrepreneurial environment fosters national economic well-being. Thank you, Founders.

Without their vision, courage, passion, and sacrifice, it’s doubtful that entrepreneurship as we know it would exist today. And if capitalism is the economic lever of democracy, entrepreneurship is the force that renews the strength and reliability of that lever for each new generation.

We began with freedom. Freedom to dream and to try; to succeed and to fail; to own and to enjoy; to accumulate and to pass on to the next generation.

We began with freedom and entrepreneurship was born. We began with freedom and capitalism was made to flourish.

Write this on a rock … America began with freedom and the world is the better for it. Happy Independence Day.

Dealing with Pessimism

Do you know what a jet fighter is? If you said airplane, you’re only half right. In the strict nomenclature, a jet fighter is actually a weapons platform. Its job is to deliver ordinance to a target, not to fly the pilot around.

In that sense, the human body — this vessel of protoplasm we drive around — is not really what a human is. It’s actually a delivery platform for the will of our spirit; the true life force that is who we really are.

One of the things I have observed about humans is that we often don’t understand, and therefore tend to under-employ, the power of our spirit. We seem so obsessed with the body that we don’t spend enough time contemplating the presence and power of the spirit.

Someone once told me how little of our brain’s power we actually use. I don’t remember the percentage, but I do remember it was astonishingly low. I wonder if there is a connection between under-usage of the brain and limited awareness of the spirit.

Author and philosopher, Colin Wilson, wrote, “We possess such immense resources of power that pessimism is a laughable absurdity.” The power he’s talking about is that of the spirit.

Pessimism can’t be overcome by our bodies. Dealing with frustration and overcoming disappointment are both tasks performed way above the pay-grade of protoplasm. If you are a small business owner you either already understand this, or are acquiring that understanding a little more every day.

I’ve been a small business owner for a long time and have observed others far longer. I can’t imagine how any of us could do what we do without a strong spirit. The challenge is to become more aware of our spirit and flex it — like a muscle — to our advantage.

It’s Time to Tell The Truth About Minimum Wage

Before any product or service is offered to customers, the price must be determined. The foundational element of this calculus are costs, which includes labor. In a true free-market economy, all elements of cost are determined by the marketplace. But in the U.S., we don’t have a true free-market economy because of mandates and subsidies imposed by the federal government, one of which is the minimum wage.

Alas, raising the minimum wage is being proposed again.

When the government is involved, politics, not reason, is the motivation, which isn’t so bad when the issue is politics. But politics has no place in what businesses pay for their cost factors, especially labor, often the largest cost factor.

When proposed, the national minimum wage was never some great egalitarian blow for the working man. It became law in 1938 as a cynical, protectionist move by the Congressional delegations of the northern textile industry – primarily Massachusetts –against their southern counterparts, whose lower, market-based labor costs made them more competitive.

Today the minimum wage has become a political wedge issue of the cruelest type, because research shows each increase actually hurts the segment it purports to help, especially younger, entry-level workers, like teenagers and minorities. The primary reason is that for decades employers have controlled the impact of an increase by reducing entry-level positions using various organizational steps. But today, technological advances have given all employers an increased ability to forgo entry-level hires in favor of low-maintenance, non-taxed innovative devices and/or software.

The results of two recent online polls reveal how these options manifest on Main Street. When we asked about their attitude toward the minimum wage, 82% of small businesses said the government should not be setting wage rates. But when asked how a minimum wage increase would impact their business, 76% said “Not at all.” The reason for the lack of concern by the sector that doesn’t like the minimum wage is likely because: a) they’re already paying more than minimum wage; b) they have legal ways around it to the disadvantage of the unskilled, increasingly unemployed worker.

An important goal of most businesses is growth, but adding payroll expense to achieve it is no longer a given. And so far, business owners are in charge of the decision to add workers or use other means to achieve growth. Nevertheless, increasing minimum wage does cause problems: an arbitrary increase distorts all wages as it becomes the new base from which other workers measure wage progress. If a small business adjusts all wages up in response, expenses rise. But if it doesn’t, morale declines. Furthermore, unions use minimum wage as a contract lever to exact from employers automatic, across the board increases for all organized workers.

In the marketplace, any increase in price must be justified by value delivered. But this logic is lost when labor costs rise by government fiat without adding one extra unit of productivity.

Write this on a rock … Let’s call the minimum wage what it is: A political lie that actually hurts poor and unskilled workers.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

POLL RESULTS: The Supreme Court and Obamacare

The Question:

The Supreme Court may strike down a major component of Obamacare this month. What do you think?

5% - I like Obamacare and hope they don’t change it.

66% - I don’t like Obamacare and hope they strike it down.

18% - I won’t be impacted either way.


11% - I don’t know.


Jim’s Comments:

As you can see, the Affordable Care Act is not popular among small business owners. The primary reason is it isn’t more affordable than what most of us already had, plus it has added extra regulatory complications to our lives.

But stay tuned, because sometime this coming week the Supreme Court will likely announce their decision on King v Burwell. This case has many implications that I’ve either written about or talked about with experts on my show. Here are the main points to keep in mind:

* If the decision goes against the Obama Administration, it would essentially void many of the law’s key components, making it a shadow of its former self.

* If the decision goes for the President, it would establish that the IRS can interpret laws as they see fit, rather than as written.

This may not be the most significant ruling in the history of the high court, but surely it’s one of them. Say a prayer for the Constitution.

The Out Basket

Harold Alexander, British field marshal during WWII, and 1st Earl of Tunis, had a habit at the end of the day of “tipping” the remaining work left in his In basket into his Out basket.  When asked why he did this he replied, “It saves time and you’d be surprised at how much doesn’t come back.”


For small business owners, the Earl’s management style could be dangerous; many of us don’t have anyone to come by and take the stuff from our Out basket.  If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. But I wonder about this method for dealing with worry.

What if, at the end of each day, you “tipped” all of your left over problems into your mind’s Out basket — the problem customers, the bank payment, the new competitor — go ahead, put all of those alligators right in there. Don’t worry. Those that need to be will be there in the morning.  But you might be surprised at the ones that just “don’t come back.”  And there you were worrying about them.  Pretty silly, huh?

In his book, Blue Highways, William “Least Heat Moon” Trogdon reported that his grandfather, who was full-blooded American Indian (Osage), once told him, “Some things don’t have to be remembered.  They remember themselves.”

So, there you have it.  If it’s important it, will be there in the morning.  If not, it will go away and wasn’t worth the worry.  And worry is one of the greatest inner demons small business owners have to slay.

Give that “tipping” thing a try. It just might save you some worry. Now where did I put that Out basket?

A father’s tough love is the harder job

This is Jim’s traditional Father’s Day column.

As the father of an adult daughter and son, plus the grandfather of four knucklehead boys (Hurricane, Tornado, Crash and Train Wreck), I’ve learned some things about love.

All the hours logged as Dad and Poppy have often caused me to contemplate how different are the roles of mother and father, especially in the overt demonstration of parental love.  It’s fascinating how the manifestation of this love differs between mother and father-biologically, emotionally and experientially.

A mother’s love, at once sweet and fierce, is observed in almost all animals, not just humans. No doubt you’ve heard this metaphor: “… as sweet as a mother’s love,” and this warning: “Don’t get between a momma bear and her cub.” I have been a witness to, and the recipient of this kind of love, and there truly is no other force in nature like it.

But it troubles me that there are no corresponding sweet references to a father’s love. In fact, a human father’s love is more often associated with unfortunate references such as, “tough” and “discipline.” And here’s a warning no one has ever heard: “Just wait ’till your mother gets home!”

Could this be why Father’s Day is not quite as big a deal as Mother’s Day? I’m just saying …

Mothers occupy the pinnacle of parental love-with justification. And not to take anything away from them, but let’s be honest: since a mother’s sweet love is as primal as the miracle of birth, they don’t have to work too hard to deliver it. But there is a uniqueness about a father’s love that deserves a better rap. Here why:

Unlike a mother’s sweet love, a father’s tough love does not exist outside of homo sapiens.

When a father’s parental toughness is required, especially when applied to an indignant recipient (read: teenager), it requires a love that has found the courage to endure a negative response and a willingness to defer gratification-sometimes for years.

No one is more keenly aware of the distinction between the application of these two demonstrations of love than a single parent (especially a single mom), where both kinds are required of the same person, perhaps within minutes.

Mothers, please forgive any paternal bias you may detect, but here is my conclusion about parental love: The only force in the universe that comes close to a mother’s sweet love is a father’s tough love. But the latter is the harder job, and the return on investment almost always takes longer.

Write this on a rock … Happy Father’s Day, Dads. You’ve earned it.