Posted: Friday, December 2, 2011 7:00 am
by Joe Higgins
It’s hard to pick up a newspaper or watch TV news and not see what America is going through right now. People are frustrated and political solutions seem hollow. The uncertainty coming from government has the entire U.S. economy on hold.
Despite what economic experts say, the Great Recession continues. We are in for a long-haul; a new normal.
We see this malaise in shuttered business, home foreclosures and employee layoffs. Like downturns in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we thought “here we go again.” Before long business will come back to normal.
But as we turn the corner into our fourth year of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it’s settling in that this one is different.
We can break down the causes of the Great Recession from multiple angles but they are topics that will be debated for years and ultimately determined by historians decades after the chips have fallen.
This opinion is about the fallout and the future of Tucson, Arizona and America.
Being an entrepreneur is the most gratifying, hardest thing I’ve ever done. As a serial business start-up person, I’ve rolled the dice more than a dozen times. Each time I start a new business, I research, study, plan and ultimately go all-in on an idea I think is better than anyone else in my market.
As others like me know, sometimes you get it right, others times you miss the mark.
Having mortgaged my home, maxed out credit cards and risked my family’s future on ideas more than once, I’m here to tell you that it has been worth it.
Up until now.
Early on, this Great Recession cleaned out those who who were over-leveraged and bought investments such as houses on interest-only deals that made no sense. Restaurants that went out of business already were teetering on the brink. Businesses that closed in 2008 and 2009 were too leveraged, too concentrated in crowded industries or were run by poor managers. That’s what the capitalist system does.
But now we are seeing a different kind of business failures. Entrepreneurs who played it safe are now watching their lifetime idea slowly slip away.
I’ve lived this journey myself and I’ve talked with my small business friends who are in the same rudderless boat. Many of us have had to close stores. We’ve laid off long-time employees who helped us from the very beginning. These people are more than employees, they’re family.
Most small business owners are wondering two things: How am I going to make payroll next Friday? And will this ever end? Start-ups have notoriously high failure rates but now we are starting to see established businesses buckling under financial pressures. Second-generation businesses handed down from father to son or daughter may not be left to hand down to a third generation.
Last week, I had two high school kids from different schools search me out as part of their career research. They wanted to be entrepreneurs. When I asked why, they responded that they each had a great idea, believed in their abilities, dreamed of potential riches and fame and they loved the variety of skills and duties that come with launching and running a business.
It was difficult for me to be upbeat and positive. It was hard not to tell them what it’s really like. I wanted to explain the dozens of agencies that will be regulating their every move. I wanted to explain how fierce competition can be when you’re up against a Fortune 500 company that has a fleet of lobbyists that can get waivers from federal healthcare mandates or build in a new regulation that is going to wipe out any margin you’ve been able to build.
I didn’t want to tell them the process of going through a local zoning review or the joy of having conflicting opinions come from two different city inspectors and that your only recourse it to say “thank you sir, may I have another.”
I held back on telling these future entrepreneurs about the headaches that come to your life when you hire an employee – from workers compensation claims, to equal employment complaints, to unemployment insurance, to layers of laws to protect employee rights but nothing about who pays the bills.
What I decided to share with the future capitalists was about the days when I didn’t know better and just got up every morning and worked through it.
My formative years came while Ronald Reagan was president, coming in to lead the nation out of the Jimmy Carter mailaise. Reagan won his election in 1980 and reinstated hope in the future with his “It’s Morning Again In America” and tapped into the American ideal of hard work, personal responsibility, patriotism and limited government.
Reagan knew the importance of the small business owner and he understood the power of the free market in getting this country back on track.
I can only imagine most people were wondering in 1979 – as they are today – are America’s best days behind us?
As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve come to the point where my local and federal governments don’t appreciate me and couldn’t care less if I practice my skill at all. As an entrepreneur, I don’t want to be stimulated or bailed out. Until my governments’ attitudes change, I’m going to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Joe Higgins, who is a regular contributor, wrote this column to express his personal feelings. His Tucson business start-ups include Talking Trash Waste Removal, Sports Buzz Haircuts and Gotta Go Wireless. Contact Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org. He and Chris DeSimone host “Wake Up Tucson,” 6 to 8 a.m. weekdays on The Voice KVOI 1030-AM.
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