A Small Business Owner’s Prayer For Obama

Posted by on November 21, 2008 in Business Management [ 1 Comment ]

President-Elect Obama:
As you take power for what is the most remarkable statement our country has made in ages and having run the best campaign ever, we know you are taking over what will be the worst job in the world.

  • We want your optimism to be contagious and your can-do-attitude to inspire us
  • We are terrified you will tax us and hold us up as scapegoats, while we are survivors
  • We are hopeful you will see us as family leaders not large corporate thieves
  • We are one-third democrats, one-third republicans and one-third independents*
  • We love your dreaming but worry we are not included in those dreams
  • We care little about NAFTA but worry more about being virtual
  • We want to give people jobs but aren’t sure we can carry them
  • We believe we give service to society by virtue of the value we provide to customers, the people we hire and the young that we train
  • Lastly, it’s always been lonesome as a small business owner and we have no expectations that government will help us. We love our country and want to see it, and you, succeed.

While the entire world is holding their breath as to what an Obama victory really means to them, fear, uncertainty and doubt have already gripped most small business owners. From losing or maxing out their credit lines, to fearing that consumer demand will simply dry up, entrepreneurship is in upheaval. On one hand, it is still the American dream for so many; on the other, it is a grim reality for so many who depend on it.

Regardless of their industry, tenure, or age, never before have most business owners been so apprehensive about their futures. Why? Because, all the institutions and resources they count on—particularly banks, big customers, skilled and available workers, and economic stability—are all in disarray. Whether they voted for Obama, believing that a recovering middle class will lift all small business ships, or against him, fearful that the new burden of regulation, health care costs and increased taxes will torpedo their plans, business owners are downright scared. And when entrepreneurs are scared they become inactive or at the very least stop expanding. Why? Because owning a small business is all about:

  • Being confident that you know your threats
  • Knowing how to avoid and exploit your threats
  • Confidently spending the resources to do so

Why are business owners so nervous? Because for the first time in decades, they don’t know what to do. Nothing has prepared them to cope and face what is upon them. Wondering if they will have a working business at all has replace traditional “E Myth” goals of “working on one’s business” as opposed to working “in one’s business.” The new threats are not the same as the old threats and knowing how to even respond, let alone find the courage to invest the needed time, money and energy in the correct responses, is beyond the “pay grade” of most owners.

But before we can address these concerns, how did entrepreneurship get to this point? Since 1980, business ownership has grown from a wry dream for most to a total investment for so many. From under ten million in the 1980s to some 25 million† today, nearly ten percent of Americans depend directly on their own businesses for financial security and another ten to thirty percent are customers, vendors, employees or investors of small business. From being seen as outsiders or rebels, the small business owner has become in many ways the focal point of the American Dream. Large corporations spend billions marketing to them. This last election created “Joe the Plumber” and the small business owner’s laments of paying too much in taxes, having bad health care options and struggling for visibility and respect are daily themes our news media covers ad nauseam.

As importantly, the entrepreneurial movement has produced a new lifestyle and set of values. Magazines, such as Fast Company and INC. along with owners-only support groups such as EO and VISTAGE have sprung up to enhance the entrepreneurial way of business and personal life. Entrepreneurship is so ingrained in our society that it has outgrown the stereotypes of being part of one political party. A 2007 Fortune Zogby Poll of business owners reported that 37% are registered Republicans, 35% are registered Democrats and the remaining are Independents.

While the novelty of entrepreneurship has worn off, today’s business owner remains as much a lone wolf as ever. All of the 20% who survive their first five years† do so by quickly learning to sell, manage cash, find and keep good people and create satisfied customers. But over the last few years, multiple forces in the economy and society in general are converging into a perfect storm and threatening both established business owners as well as the dreams of emerging ones.

So in closing, President-Elect Obama, we as business owners are fearful of what you may do to us and the harm you can bring to our small businesses yet we wait with bated breath to see if you can deliver your promises and help us continue our American dream of successful entrepreneurship because “Yes, we can.”

About Andy Birol: Based on interviewing over 5,000 businesses Andy Birol authored The Five Catalysts of Seven Figure Growth (CareerPress, 2006), has advised over 400 business owners.  By focusing on the role of the owner as the “fuel” that drives a firm, Andy speaks to hundreds of groups of entrepreneurs on six continents, helping thousands to clarify or discover their Best and Highest Use® (BHU) and achieve sustained and profitable growth.  Andy holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School and a BSBA summa cum laude from Boston University’s School of Management.  His website is www.andybirol.com and his blog is www.birolsblog.com.

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