HE SAYS:

The often used quote from a liberal Democratic Senatorial candidate which suggests, in effect, that increasing the taxes on the rich is justified since they benefit from the infrastructure and public services paid for by the rest of us is disingenuous, at best, since it distorts the facts.   It is the disproportionately large amount of taxes already paid by the rich that funded, for the most part, all of those public benefits that we use.

However, in a larger sense, all of us benefit and prosper from the work, ideas, innovations, and creativity of those that came before us.    When it comes to great ideas, there is truly nothing new under the sun.    Whether it is science, technology, or business the breakthroughs, innovations, and success we enjoy today all were inspired by the efforts, ideas and, even, mistakes of those who came before us.   In my small part of the world, I achieved some success with USFSB but not without the efforts and ideas of my brother who founded USFSB and who, in turn, took a page from the experiences of unions and trade associations which, in turn, can trace their lineage to the trade guilds that formed as far back as the Middle Ages with the birth of small businesses and recognized trades.

Let’s take something as basic as the fact that the sun is the center of our solar system around which all of the planets revolve.   As simplistic as this idea seems to us, it was not always so universally accepted and understood.   The Greek philosophers first postulated that the sun may be at the center of the solar system but it was not until centuries later that Copernicus offered objective mathematical proof which was later verified by Galileo and others with the help of the recently perfected telescope.   As with all advances in human knowledge and thinking, each new visionary only sees the way ahead by standing on the shoulders of the giants that went before him.

This process of each wave of ideas feeding off of the efforts and ingenuity of countless other people over the years and centuries is what connects us to both the past and the future.   We benefit from those who came before us and, hopefully, we will provide inspiration and motivation to those who follow us even if only those closest to us such as our children.    The world we live in was not created by a series of isolated events but by a continuum of ideas and efforts that have shaped the human intellect and spirit since the beginning.

My point is that once we get past petty politics and cynical squabbles over who benefits the most from whom, let’s recognize that in the larger scheme of things all of us benefit from those that came before us and paved the way for our success and quality of life.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on President Obama’s proposed tax increases and Mitt Romney’s income in “Do The Math”.      

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

Everyone who owns a business promotes their products and services, in one way or another, as a legitimate part of their business activities.   Very often, that promotion includes the business owner’s very unscientific or unverified statements or opinions as to the quality or value of the products or services being offered.   We all tend to embellish, at least, a little bit when describing what we have or what we do whether in our business or in our personal life.  It is just part of being human.

How many times have you seen statements that tell you “we serve the best food in town” or “he is the most skilled doctor around” or “she is the most experienced accountant”?  None of us completely rely on those promotional statements when choosing where to eat or who to hire.  We generally take those kinds of statements with a grain of salt as being merely opinions not proven facts.

Many of us have experienced the classic sales pitch from a car dealer who tells you that the car he is trying to sell you “is the best car on the market”.   Is it truly the best car on the market or is he just exaggerating?   This very thing has been tested in the Courts and has been found to be legally acceptable as mere “puffing” which means that such statements are recognized as statements of opinion and can’t be relied on as a fact.  In other words, the Courts have stated that there is no fraud or misrepresentation in a little bit of boasting or embellishment to make a sale.

Since the value of something is always in the eye of the beholder, it is difficult to make the case that when a business owner proudly boasts as to how good his products or services are that he is misleading his customers.   Certainly, the line is crossed if we are induced to buy damaged, defective, or inferior goods through outright lies and deception.   It may be a fuzzy line between boasting and lying, but I think we all can understand and appreciate the difference.

So, let the buyer beware but also let the business owner be fair and honest even if he is a little boastful.

On Monday, Joe gives his opinion on gun ownership in “Is It Right To Bear Arms?”.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I learned very early in life that going into business with friends can cause problems for both your business and your friendship.

When I was a young teenager, I had a newspaper route for a couple of years.   Anyone who had a newspaper route back then knows that you had to get up very early in the morning, before dawn, to put the papers together and deliver them.   You did this in summer and winter, good weather or bad, in rain, sleet, or snow.  You bought your papers directly from the newspaper publisher and, then, you tried to collect your money from your customers on Saturday afternoons.  It was very much a small business.

Being the budding entrepreneur that I was, I thought it would be a great idea to expand my business to two or, possibly, three routes.   I recruited my best friend to join me in my newly expanded business.   I could not believe that there would be anything better then to work with my best friend and share our success together.

Things went downhill very quickly.   My best friend did not share my dedication and found it very hard to get up before dawn, particularly, it seems when the weather was bad.  Many times, due to the extremely large number of newspapers and the sheer weight of the Sunday edition, I had to elicit the help of my father to drive me around my route so that I could finish the deliveries on time.   Ultimately, I had to acknowledge that it was a mistake and gave up my routes.   My best friend and I were both much happier when we went back to being just friends and not business partners.

The lesson I learned is that the qualities that makes you want to be friends with someone and, more importantly, the flaws you are willing to overlook in your friends are the very things that may make it impossible to run a business together.   It makes for a perplexing dilemma that you would naturally want to work with people you consider to be friends; yet, it seems that working with friends does not always end well.

I tried to relate this experience to my children when they told me they wanted to start a New York City Office of USFSB with their friends.  Of course, they did not listen since this is a lesson you can only learn on your own.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

I am not an economist so I do not know, for sure, if we are just in a recession, or in a double dip recession, or, even, heading for a depression.  All I know is that it is scary out there.   Sometimes it feels as if the whole world economy is about to fall down around our ankles and we are all going to be caught with our pants down.

It has been painful to see how the economic downturn of the last couple of years or so has affected our members.  It is just as painful to realize that there is no end in sight and that things could get worse before they get better.  It is equally as frightening how fast it seemed to happen.   I can remember, not long ago, looking at real estate in Arizona when you had to outbid other potential buyers and now you can’t give the same property away.  

It just proves how fragile our economy is, how interrelated it is to the rest of the world, and how easily it can fall apart.   Did we live beyond our means, did we all go on a reckless spending spree, or are we the victims of big banks and Wall Street?   Perhaps, the answer is all of that and more.    

The only thing we all have left to rely on is our perseverance and a little bit of hope for the future.   I do believe that, as they say, all things must pass and that this hardship will also pass.   Eventually, the economy will get better, even though, it will most likely also be different and those small businesses that have survived the storm will once again thrive and prosper.

In the meantime, all you can do is take care of business and hope that you are among those left standing.

Perhaps, 2011 will bring better economic times for all of us.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

As I have mentioned, my brother was single and had no children. He led a very active life, pursued his interest in politics on a national level, enjoyed his social activities as a bachelor, and was very generous to his family and friends.

As the owner of USFSB, he reached a level of income that provided him with all of the resources he needed to live the good life. I believe that once the business was able to meet his financial needs he did not have the incentive to work any harder on growing the business. Since he did not have a wife and children to worry about the business was there primarily to sustain his single life style.

His priorities were based on the fact that he only had himself to take care of and satisfy. He mostly lived for today and did not worry too much about the future. Since he was not responsible for anyone else, this could not be construed as being selfish or wasteful. His priorities were evidenced by the fact that upon his death he had a surprisingly small amount of money saved or accumulated assets.

I, on the other hand, was married and had four young children. My priorities were vastly different than those of my brother. When you bring children into this world, your focus is completely fixed on providing for their well-being and financial security. In many ways, everything you do is based on their needs and your desire to be a good parent.

In my law practice and, certainly, in my desire to grow USFSB, I was motivated more by the need to take care of my children then just to provide a good life for Annemarie and me. To be sure, we wanted to have enough money to live well, but, our children were our top priority. I not only wanted to provide my children with a great childhood, I also wanted to build something for their future.

My brother and I would often compare the differences between his life style and mine. My brother spent his money on expensive sports cars, pleasure boats, and all the other trappings of a fun loving bachelor while I spent my money on day care, braces, clothing for the children, and saving for their college educations. It all comes down to a matter of priorities.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

HE SAYS:

My father, for most of his working life, was self-employed and operated a scrap metal recycling business.   My father was raised by immigrant parents during the Great Depression and never received much in the way of a formal education having gone only as far as the eighth grade; however, he has plenty of common sense and street smarts.  

As a small business owner, he was tenacious, worked hard and always found a way to make a living and provide for his family.   As a child, I could usually tell how his business was going by what my mother made for dinner.   If we were having a lot of pasta things were not going so well and if steak showed up on the menu things were looking up.  

I can’t tell you when I first decided that I would rather work for myself then for someone else.   However, growing up, I certainly was aware of the fact that my father was self-employed and I am sure this made an impression on me.   In fact, I worked with my father several summers during high school and saw firsthand what it was like being your own boss.

After my first year of law school, I took some time off and worked at a large national company in Boston and saw what life was like as an employee.   After a year of this, I realized it was not for me and I decided to finish my law school studies.

While I was back in law school, my brother and I started our own recycling business which we operated for about two years.  We developed agreements with manufacturing and utility companies to recycle the lead from large industrial batteries and dealt with other items that no one, not even my father, wanted to handle.  We made a very good profit on this business and it helped me further understand that working for myself could produce rewarding results.

By the time I started practicing law and after working for a large firm for several years, to gain some useful experience, I knew that I would spend the rest of my career working for myself.    Early in my career, I even turned down a position as an attorney with the state government.

I was, by that time, fully prepared to give up the security of receiving a steady paycheck and benefits as someone’s employee for the chance to be my own boss, take my own risks, and earn a potentially unlimited amount of income.

I enjoy the freedom of being my own boss and running my business the way that I see fit.   In addition to the freedom, I like the idea that whether I succeed or fail, it is all based on my efforts and not from the actions or failures of someone else.                

I feel that I am in control of my own destiny.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?