Friday, October 14, 2011

I’m a Small Businessman --- No You’re NOT.

… after I pay my 500 employees, I’ve only got $400,000 left over to feed my family.  (Self-described “small businessman”).

By what definition does this guy think he’s a small businessman?  Is a family owned company that employs 10,000 workers a small business?  Is an incorporated law firm with five employees a big business just because it has “corporation” after its name?

We don’t really seem to have a definition of a small business and anyone who wants to exploit the term just calls himself a small businessman.

So, here’s a definition.  A small business is a business where

 the owner knows every employee by name

The real difference between small and large business is number crunching:  How does a business deal with an employee who has some special need?

The 500 person “small business” most likely has an accountant and a human resources department.  Since the owner doesn’t know his employees personally, he has to rely on his number crunchers who, due to the lack of personal relationship with each employee, have created a rule which must be followed.

The small incorporated law firm’s owner knows everyone by name.  He can sit down with the employee with the special need and work something out.  And, if the employee is sufficiently valuable, he will bend over backward to meet his needs.

So, incorporation doesn’t make a business “big.”  Neither does family or personal ownership make a business “small.”

A small business is a business where the owner knows every employee by name.

Let’s get some rationality into the discussion by spreading this definition …

Saturday, September 03, 2011

What’s in a Headline . . . or not.

The Denver Post published a story today with the headline “Colorado ranch owner plans lawsuit after PUC rules against his appeal.” Clearly, another family farmer abused by the government …

Just reading the headline, one gets the impression that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) doesn’t care if it ruins a hard working rancher’s family legacy. Unfortunately, many of us, believing we got the point, will stop at the headline.

In this case, the interior story is much different. In the third paragraph, “Colorado ranch owner” Louis Bacon is identified as “billionaire hedge-fund manager Bacon.”

Is this really a travesty against the little guy or a story about a whiny billionaire who doesn’t want power lines interfering with the view of his 170,000 acre ranch in the picturesque Rocky Mountains? That’s for you to decide, but don’t decide until you have sufficient information.

You can’t just read the headlines and walk away; you’ve got to read the story. The 18 second news story on television and radio doesn’t tell you much; you’ve got to dig a little. The one sentence argument doesn’t tell you the story; do the math.