Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Elites

By Captain Capitalist

The other day, as I was engaged in a forum on the web, as I'm prone to do, someone had referred to the business community as "elites". My knee jerk reaction was to get defensive. But, after thinking about it a bit, I realized he was right. They really are elites. Who are these elites? Where do they come from? What makes them elite? Let me give you my take.

When most people think of the business community, they think of large corporations and familiar brand names. The fact is that 90% of US businesses have fewer than 20 employees and in a recent study by the Small Business Administration were determined to have created a whopping 97% of all new jobs. Most communities and municipalities spend a great deal of time trying to woo large corporations and box stores because they can sport large individual numbers as far as sales taxes and employees. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of the tax paying public works for small businesses. When government does offer a bit of assistance or a bit less resistance to small businesses, they often act as though they are performing an act of charity. Ironic, since it's the small business that's providing the foundation for the economy and their salaries. I've no grudge against big business. I hope to own one some day. But you can't be a fan of apples and hate apple seeds.

Here in the most successful capitalist country the planet's ever seen, we don't emphasize the knowledge and skill sets it takes to run one's own business in our public schools. Instead we emphasize what it takes to be a good employee. We're encouraged to focus on a single skill set so that we can be a valuable asset to someone else. There's nothing wrong with being a good employee, but one would think in the land of the American Dream, some instruction on how to achieve it might be appropriate.

This is not the most inviting atmosphere for someone to risk everything in pursuit of what they think is a good idea. Yet, a hearty few do it anyway. When they do they're faced with a myriad of permits, forms, zoning regulations, parking requirements, approval hearings, "use" taxes (for those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of "use" taxes, if you take a shelf out of your home and put goods for retail sale on it, it's now subject to tax every year, really.), among other things. Most of those who venture into this arena are not wealthy. They're people just like you and me who want to find another way to make a living and follow their dream. If you calculate the hours worked versus the return, many spend years working at or below minimum wage. Many don't make it and actually do lose everything. Many of those, dust themselves off, get up and do it again.

Owning your own business means there's nobody to pass the buck to. Whether you have all the answers or not, you're the one that has to supply them and take accountability for them. There are times when you'll want to curl up in the fetal position, pull the blanket over your head and wish the world would go away. But it wont, so you shake it off and get back in the ring. If you fail, you're a fool in the eyes of many. If you succeed, you're a greedy exploiter and will be faced with more and more demands that you "give back" to the community, as if creating a successful business somehow "takes away" from the community. I have nothing against charity, but if you want a donation, ask for it. Don't imply that I took something from you.

This is not the path for the meek. Business is for those who love the game. It's for people who aren't afraid to lose, but will do everything in their power to avoid it. Even those who achieve great success keep at it even though they really don't need to. Do you think Steve Jobs goes to work every day because he's sweating his mortgage payment? It doesn't take super-intelligence. It takes a strong will, determination, confidence, the ability to think on one's feet and adjust rapidly to changing conditions and it takes a lot of guts. It takes...the elite.

Long live the elite.

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