Monthly Archive for June, 2015

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.

How vacations reveal American Dream may be in jeopardy

For several years we’ve polled our small business audience weekly about issues and conditions that impact them.

Whenever a question is seasonal or a recurring issue, besides serving that poll, the responses often produce a bonus. For example, the potential to identify year-over-year trends, or illuminate a current market trend.

In last week’s poll response, we scored both of these bonuses. The subject was a seasonal one that’s almost unique to small business ownership – “Will you take a vacation?” – with three response options: 1) “I’ll take an entire week off;” 2) “Only mini-vacations, like a long weekend;” and 3) “Vacation? I can’t even take a day off.”

This year everyone moved. Historically the real vacation group fluctuated close to 50%. I was happy to see our new poll had almost six of ten (59%) respondents allowing they were taking a week off, whether to go incommunicado, or expecting to check in. The long weekend responders in the middle thinned out compared to past years, while the sarcastic, “What’s a vacation?” bunch increased.

The classic evolution of time off for a business owner looks like the inverse of our response options. In the beginning it’s, “What’s a vacation?” then you graduate to long weekends as the business matures, and finally to a full week off, or more, at maturity. Maturity means having your organizational and capitalization stuff together.

This week’s response also supports two forecasts I made in 2009.

As the Great Recession technically ended, I predicted small businesses would increasingly diverge into two categories: they would either become stronger, or inevitably erode their equity and credit and go out of business. That’s what I’m seeing in the responses to our vacation poll this week. The sector that formerly could only take off a few days is diminishing because they’ve either joined the organizationally and financially stronger ranks, or gone the other way toward extinction.

Historically speaking, it would be intuitive and accurate to think that the no vacation group would include startups, rather than just declining businesses. But I also predicted in 2009 that there would be fewer startups in this economic recovery cycle. As you may have seen reported by real research organizations, my startup prediction, unfortunately, has come to pass. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a steady, 10-year decline in businesses less than one year old, and the category total is 10% fewer today than 20 years ago.

So our vacation responses indicate a barbell effect happening on Main Street. And it’s good news that so many small businesses have survived and become stronger. But since every business, large and small, begins as a startup, the overall decline of entrepreneurship in the U.S. does not bode well for the future robustness of the U.S. economy or the business ownership component of the American dream.

Write this on a rock …
If small businesses were a plant or animal species, it would currently be classified as threatened, on a path toward endangered.

POLL RESULTS: Will you give your business a vacation from you this summer?

The Question:

Will you give your business a vacation from you this summer?

28% - I will completely disconnect for at least a week.

31% - I will take a week off, but will be checking in.

25% - I can only handle long weekends this summer.

16% - Are you kidding? I can’t even take a day off!


Jim’s Comments:

Almost every year since we’ve been doing this online poll, we’ve asked about vacation for small business owners. Looking at these historic responses we saw that taking a whole week off has generally fluctuated on either side of 50%. But this year, I was happy to see that almost six of ten of our folks were going to take a week off, either to completely disconnect or to check in. This year, those who can only handle a couple of days at a time dropped, while those who can’t take any time off increased.

I’m going to have more to say about this in next week’s Featured Article, including how what I believe is a connection between these responses and the current condition of the Main Street economy. Stay tuned and thanks for contributing. Don’t forget to take our new poll below.

The rare and wild entrepreneur

If you venture into the marketplace jungle, you may be able to observe that rare wild creature, the entrepreneur, in his or her natural environment (darting is not necessary, entrepreneurs are very gentle - just rub their stomachs). As you study them, you will find levels of vision, curiosity, courage, tenacity, and faith. Here’s what to look for in order to identify this elusive critter:


Vision: Entrepreneurs see things and consider the possibilities before they exist, even as the world is telling them, “It won’t work.” When entrepreneurs are deep into their vision they go into what their families call a “zone,” which is when it’s easiest to slip up on them.

Curiosity: Entrepreneurs ask questions other humans don’t. They can’t help it. If someone asks you a question and you have no idea what they are talking about, you are probably having a close encounter with an entrepreneur. Don’t be irreverent; you might be at ground-zero of the 21st century equivalent of Velcro or the microchip.

Courage: Entrepreneurs attempt things that other human species won’t. As you peer through the triple canopy at your subject, look for death-defying acts in the face of conventional wisdom. Entrepreneurs eat conventional wisdom for breakfast.

Tenacity: Entrepreneurs keep trying when other humans give up. They have a high pain threshold, which when combined with a visceral desire that can only be compared to the maternal instinct, delivers a primal display of tenacity which often is frightening to other humans. If the entrepreneur you are observing is crouching, lie down quickly. You probably aren’t in danger, but fainting is a possibility.

Faith: Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and their vision. The great writer and even greater curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, once said, “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the illogical.” That’s our entrepreneur! If you see someone demonstrating an inordinate commitment to an “illogical belief,” congratulations. You’ve found your entrepreneur.


Catch and release, please.




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