Archive for the 'State and Local' Category

When small business gets organized, the world will change for the better

The election is over and we have a new president-elect. When I polled my online audience in October about who they would vote for in the upcoming contest, two-thirds of our respondents said Trump, while 13% chose Clinton. After the election, when I went to the same online network to ask how they felt about the election results, six-of-ten were “thrilled,” 29% allowed they were “glad it didn’t go the other way,” with only 8% saying they were unhappy with how it turned out.
When you understand that there are approximately 100 million American voters directly impacted by a small business, responses to our polling, as well as others with which I’m familiar, make me believe small business voters contributed to Mr. Trump winning 30 states. Consequently, small business owners will be justified in watching Trump’s actions to see if he is as much of a payroll-making, job-creating kinsman as they apparently think he is.
But the small business sector has to do more than just hold someone else accountable - we have to hold ourselves accountable. We need to participate in the public policy debate and contribute to the results. Otherwise, we’ll be relegated to taking what we’re given by policy makers who can presume that we don’t care.
Engagement in public policy should be a small business priority for two reasons:  politicians and bureaucrats. These are the people with the power to levy taxes and impose regulations, both of which can negatively impact your business. The first element of this priority is to identify local, state and federal elected representatives, and make a plan to contact each one this year. Every year these individuals pass laws that spawn regulations and mandates that have an impact on your business. Unfortunately, too often that impact is negative.
It’s dangerously naïve to expect policy makers to intuitively act in the best interest of small business.  Not that they intend to hurt us, but there are at least two reasons why small businesses often draw the short straw:
  1. Too many politicians have never made a payroll, and consequently know little or nothing about the challenges small business owners face.
  2. Our message gets pushed aside by that of more organized and better-funded interest groups (read: unions and corporate America).

Small businesses have to find a way to get more involved, either through our own direct efforts, or indirectly through organizations that advocate for us. Excellent ways to do this is to first find out what’s being debated and weigh in based on your position with a letter, phone call, or even a visit. Next, learn about the voting record of your Congressional delegation on laws that affect small business. Then write a letter to them and/or attend local meetings they conduct, to congratulate them if they have a supportive voting record, or express your disappointment if they don’t, and encourage them to do better.

Yes, I know you probably don’t have time to get directly involved in public policy or politics. But here’s good news: There are a number of advocacy groups that track key small business policy issues and defend and advocate for Main Street businesses at all government levels. Here’s a short list I recommend:
  • Local and industry: You should always be a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and your industry’s trade group. Both have policy advocacy efforts.
  • National and state: Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, (sbecouncil.org); National Federation of Independent Business, (nfib.com); Competitive Enterprise Institute (cei.org); National Taxpayers Union (ntu.org). There are others, and you can’t go wrong supporting more than one. Your support, especially financial, contributes to their voice at the policy table.
Regardless of your party affiliation or how you voted, as the Trump administration works with a GOP majority Congress over the next two years, many issues will be debated that impact your business. Find a way - directly or indirectly - to make your voice heard.
The choice is yours: Participate in small business policy-making, or take what you’re given by those who can rightly assume that you don’t care.
Write this on a rock … At 100 million strong, if small business stakeholders were organized, the world would change - for the better.

Small business impact on November mid-term elections

Regardless of political party, history informs that the mid-term election in a second term has rarely been fun for any president. Consequently, President Obama’s party isn’t supposed to do well this November.

But with a Republicans House majority and Democrat control of the Senate now in jeopardy, this election cycle is producing a pitch battle with daggers drawn on every front. And not just because control of Congress is at stake for the next two years, but also six years of Democrat policies must be protected or reversed, depending upon to whom you talk.

In a recent online poll we asked our small business audience how they’re leaning in the November election. GOP responses came in at 63%, with Democrat allegiance at only 3%. The independent “I vote for the individual” got 29% and 5% said they “probably won’t vote.” Even if you give half the independents to the Dems, they still don’t rise to one-in-five among our group.

Republicans leading our sample tracks with other polls of the public. But besides the historic second term curse, there are other reasons small business sentiment skews heavily for the out-of-power party this year:

1.  Small business owners do something that’s at once special and difficult: they make between one and four payrolls every month. As a result, this group typically leans toward the GOP as a more business-friendly party. But it should be noted that the spread usually isn’t this great.

2.  Small business owners consider many Democrat policies anti-business. For example:

a.  Obama’s “America needs a raise” campaign to increase minimum wage is unpopular with small business owners.

b.  Recent tax increases have resulted in federal tax revenues at a 40-year record tax pace this year and next. Higher taxes depletes precious small business working capital.

c.  Essentially a stealth tax, regulatory compliance has increased significantly since 2009, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

d.  And the mother of all policy offenses: Obamacare. As a class, small business owners DO NOT like Obamacare.

There isn’t room to list all of the things troubling small business owners this year. But these leaders believe Washington policies have contributed to and prolonged the worst post-recession recovery since the Great Depression. And justified or not, President Obama is the face of the Democrat party, which right now is not good news for many incumbent Democrats needing support from their small business constituents.

Write this on a rock … Counting employees, Small Business USA is the largest voting bloc.

RESULTS: What’s your plan for federal candidates?

The Question:
With midterm elections barely two months away, what’s your plan for federal candidates?

3% - I’ll be more inclined to vote Democrat.
63% - I’ll be more inclined to vote  Republican.
29% - I vote for the individual, not any party.
5% - I probably won’t vote.

Jim’s Comments:
The mid-term elections in a second term has rarely been much fun for any U.S. president. Consequently, President Obama’s party isn’t supposed to do well this November. But as you can see, if our recent online poll of small business owners has any general election implications, this is going to be an extraordinarily bad mid-term cycle for the Democrats.  I’m going to have more to say about this response to the upcoming mid-term election in the Feature Article next week.

Small businesses and the local chamber of commerce

One of the most important associations any small business should have is being a member - and one of the owners - of the local chamber of commerce.  I’ve been a member of mine since 1977.  Of course, chambers promote business in the local economy as well as economic development, but they also work on political advocacy issues locally, at the state level and in Washington, D.C.  Chambers also do something no other organization can do: they are able to cut across all of the boundaries between the different stakeholders in a community, like politics, education, arts, sports, etc.  No other organization can do this like your local chamber.

Notice that I used the word “owner” earlier. The chamber is a locally owned, non-profit corporation. It is what its owners make it. That’s you. To paraphrase a great man, ask not what your chamber can do for you - ask what you can do for your chamber.

Being a chamber member is the best investment you’ll make this year. The average annual dues - my estimate - is somewhere in the $250 range. For that kind of money you can’t afford not to be a member.

One of the pilgrimages we make each year is to support the American Chamber of Commerce Executives convention, which is a gathering of professionals who run the day-to-day operations of local chambers for those owners (you) mentioned earlier. For several years now, I’ve been broadcasting my show from this event, as I did this year in Milwaukee. Below are four of those interviews. Take a minute to read what we discussed and listen to the ones that you find interesting. And as always, let me know what you think?

Interview 1. Steve Baas, Government Relations Director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and I discuss the importance of local chambers of commerce and what his chamber is doing to support small business. We also talk about some public policy issues, such as the 1099 reporting controversy.  Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 2. Steve Millard, President and CEO of Cleveland, Ohio’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), and I talk about what the Cleveland chamber is doing for small businesses, including advocating for revisions of the health care bill that hurt small businesses. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 3. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce president, Gary Toebben, and I discuss why chambers matter to small business and what his chamber is doing to get ready to host the ACCE’s convention next year. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Interview 4. Allen Hester, President and CEO of the Dyersburg, TN Chamber of Commerce, and I talk about how his chamber worked with federal and local authorities to help small businesses recover from the Tennessee floods of 2010.  Listen Live! Download, Too!

The evolution of small business dreams

The British playwright, William Archer (1856-1924), once remarked to a friend about how a “perfect plot” had played out to him and “evolved” in a dream one night. He saw “the whole thing, from beginning to end,” and when he awoke, put pen to paper.

Small business owners know about this kind of dream. It begins with what I call the founding dream, which is the first time an unconscious entrepreneurial inclination pops upon our consciousness radar screen.

At first a founding dream may be barely perceptible. And when one is remembered for the first time upon waking, the awareness is often more troubling than remarkable: What does this mean? What do I do with this?

But if the mind and the spirit are receptive, a founding dream “evolves” into more than a blip on the radar. Subsequent dreams become less impressionistic and more real. Animated dreams come next. Your nocturnal entrepreneurial visions play out with an actual cast of characters - sometimes in Technicolor.

Now you’re well aware of, and more comfortable with, your small business dreams and you start to do a little day dreaming. Day dreaming is the first step in the due diligence process - the research. You start asking lots of questions: What if….? How do I…? Where does this…? Who can…? When should…?

Ultimately, as the answers to these questions are revealed and accumulate, you begin to make your entrepreneurial dream become reality; you actually start living the dream of owning your own business. At this point the start-up dreams will stop. Since you’re now living your dream, why dream about it, right?!

Your founding dream now has a name, address, phone number and a tax ID number. It has “evolved” into the “perfect plot” for your small business.

How dear are your small business mistakes?

Mistakes are worth contemplating, and yet we often don’t. The reason, I think, is because it hurts a little to focus on them. It’s not fun to see ourselves that way. Mistakes are definitely not ego food.

But there is something very important to remember about mistakes: Not focusing on them can ultimately be more painful.

Sixteenth century French Renaissance writer, Michel de Montaigne, wrote, “Those things are dearest to us that have cost us the most.” Think he’s talking about mistakes? I do. Do you think of your mistakes as “dear”?

If you don’t contemplate your mistakes and learn from them, you are subjecting yourself to double jeopardy. Because today you will not only make the new mistakes we are all destined to make as we go through life, but you’re also doomed to repeat the old ones you should have learned from yesterday.

Whether your mistakes are valuable or expensive depends on whether you contemplate and learn from them, or deny them and keep on paying for them. I think paying for a mistake once is “dear” enough, don’t you?




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