I could hardly believe it when I heard the President of the United States say, “If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (Barack Obama, Roanoke, VA, July 13, 2012) My first thought was, “Did I hear him right? Did he really say that?” Yes… he did say that.
Just because the government built the roads we drive on, provided teachers at our schools as we were growing up and invented the Internet (or was that Al Gore?) doesn’t mean all entrepreneurs necessarily had help starting a business. Most didn’t!
I don’t recall ever getting into the political arena before in my 18-plus years of writing columns and articles, but that statement really set me off. In the 1960’s, I started calling on boat dealers for Outboard Marine Corporation. And I have communicated and dealt with boat dealers every since. I saw countless dealers start out on a shoestring so to speak. Risk takers. Entrepreneurs. I remember calling on one dealer back in the 60’s who started building boats in his garage. And he did well over the years.
Over the past 50 years, I don’t know of many, if any, boat dealers that got a start because of the government. Very likely they probably had financing help from family, or a local bank. But they took the risk of starting their own business with their entrepreneurial spirit. They had a passionate desire to start, own and operate their own business, the way they wanted to do it, not the way someone else wanted them to. And most had the strong desire to be their own boss, not to work for someone else. Certainly, there are second and third generation owners of some dealerships. However, most that I know inherited their parents’ entrepreneurial drive and spirit.
Think about Ole Evinrude back in 1909 when he patented the first outboard motor. How about Henry Ford who was the first to start mass-producing automobiles? And Bill Gates who became a billionaire after starting out with a dream and not much else. They did it pretty much on their own.
Nobody helped me buy a new car dealership after retiring from the corporate world. I just didn’t want to work for someone else any more so I became an entrepreneur. No one helped me! Sure, I had a floor plan for my new car inventory through a local bank. And my brother, who was a successful Lincoln Mercury dealer 35 miles away, gave me some good counsel. But I was the guy with my personal money invested in the business. And like most boat retailers, I was the boss who was there long hours every day except Sundays when we were closed.
So does our government help people start a business? There is some help. The Small Business Association (SBA) will guarantee a lone to a lender if they think you are loan worthy. But with the increasing volume of government regulations are they helping or hampering businesses? I hear the words “hampering” more than I hear “helping.” And now dealers fear that the costs of the new health care law will discourage them from hiring more employees or from offering health insurance altogether, as the potential fine would be less than the cost of offering coverage.
Let’s hope that America never loses that entrepreneurial spirit that has built thousands of successful businesses and has helped this country and its free enterprise continue to thrive and grow.