Backbone of America - 2006
Monday June 19, 2006
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National Federation of Independent Business
[This is a minor re-write of a column first published in June, 2002.]
The people attending the National Federation of Independent Business summit here are at the opposite end of the scale - the opposite end of the economic universe - from the senior executives at Fortune 100 corporations.
These folks don't private jets, limousines with a driver, or personal aides who go along to open doors and press elevator buttons. When they have to fly, they look for the cheapest coach fare. They drive themselves in what is often the oldest car in the lot. Their personal aide is their kid, who comes in - often under protest - on Saturdays to help out.
They do not have brigades of accountants and lawyers helping to decipher the latest enhancements in the tax code. They have lunch with their lawyer, their accountant and their banker at the same table, in the same restaurant, every day; and have for years.
They do not have a human resources department to oversee thousands of employees who are known to them, collectively, as "headcount." In fact they don't have human resources at all. They have employees who are like family members. Or who actually are family members.
They don't think of layoffs as the first line of defense against a downturn. When times get rough, they often take a little less themselves so a few more people can stay on the payroll for a little longer.
And they don't keep the strictest accounts of sick days, and holidays. They often forget to dock the pay of the single mom who misses a day here and there because her child needs some extra love and care, even though it meant, once again, taking up the slack themselves.
They do not borrow tens of millions of dollars from their business so they can personally buy other businesses. They lend money TO their business to tide it over when a large customer is - once again - a slow pay.
And these are the same people who take their time sending a bill to a good customer who may be going through a temporary rough patch, because they know that helping that customer is good for their business and good for their community.
They do not worry about "making their quarterly numbers." They worry about meeting the weekly payroll. They don't have conference calls with market analysts, they have coffee with their customers.
These are the people who run America's small to mid-sized businesses, who hire the entry-level employees, who pay the property taxes which fund the schools, and who breathe life into downtowns by refusing to move to the strip mall out near the interstate because they think downtowns are important.
These are the people who go to work - not just every day - but many nights, most weekends, and too many holidays.
These are the people who pay for the Little League uniforms, buy the Girl Scout cookies, and place the ads in the programs for the school plays, well after their own kids have graduated and left the nest.
These are the people who take their turn at the Lion's Club hot dog stand at the Fourth of July parade, man the Rotary Club booth at the county fair, sell tickets for the Jaycee annual picnic, and put the signs in their windows supporting the church bake sale, even if it is not the church they attend.
They run the enterprises which generate the first dollar in the American economy; the dollar which gets multiplied thousands of times up the economic food chain until it reaches Microsoft and the General Motors.
They are America's small business women and men.
They are the backbone of America.
God bless them.
On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: A Mullfoto which will make you look at labels more closely; and a Catchy Caption of the Day which the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices would never have let through had she had the chance to see it.
Copyright © 2006 Richard A. Galen
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