Bootstrap Entrepreneurialism

Monday, August 4, 2014
Mr. Webster's gang, Noah, not Daniel, tells us an entrepreneur is one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

By this definition, Founding Director or no, someone who draws a paycheck with one of his daddy's friends' autograph on the signature line is hardly an entrepreneur is he. It's easy to claim to be an entrepreneur but, like proclaiming Christian values without practicing Christ-like behavior, just claiming to be one doesn't necessarily make it so.

Take, for example, a mediocre high school football player who goes off to college. He wants a degree in a technical sounding field so he can look cool to the chicks, but is too lazy to enroll in the B.Sc. curriculum, so he enters the arts program. It's easier. Afterward he bounces around from job to job for a few years and has serious issues with authority, so he eventually winds up starting a business... by stealing customers from one of those former employers. But he's too incompetent to run it himself and his mom has to bail him out, snatching her baby from the jaws of bankruptcy, to the tune of a couple hundred grand, by pledging retirement funds, taking control of the company, forcing him to keep brothers on the payroll even though they don't work for the company, and his mom won't allow him to sign any company checks in amounts over a couple hundred bucks... and he by-golly better be able to account for every penny of those he does write. All the while dud bloviates about what a wonderful businessman he is around the small town he grew up in, as words like "liar" flow effortlessly from his lips toward those who disagree with him.

Being mindful of our definition from Mr. Webster, and his accomplice Mr. Merriam, are either of these cats entrepreneurs? As my late father was wont to say, not hardly. They do bring to mind an oldie from the '50s:

Oh-o-o-oh yes, he's a great pretender
Pretending that he's so-o-o grand
His need is such, he pretends so much
To hide that his boat sits on land

I used to feel badly about butchering songs like this one by The Platters, until I saw Freddie Mercury’s video. We will, we will... rock you!

So who are those entrepreneurs, the ones who grab themselves by the bootstraps and give a yank? Where do they come from?

Do we teach our children entrepreneurialism by putting them on street corners, pan-handling for change to pay for athletic programs? What does that teach them, other than to be beggars? Or do we teach them to work for what they want by cutting grass, washing cars, setting up a lemonade stand and working for their money... at least until the health department and revenuers come in to shut 'em down.

Spring little Cobra
Gettin' ready to strike
Spring little Cobra
With all of your might

Sorry. This is about entrepreneurs, not stock car races. Well, maybe the analogy does fit.

We see them every day. Lillie Mae dreamed of having a restaurant in Red Bank, and decided to go for the gusto. So did that lady in Daisy who converted the old Texaco station into a cute little cafe... with great chow, I might add. Mr. Bohr, Edwin, one of the smartest people I've ever known, who I regret has mellowed with age and miss his cantankerous old self, has had his electronics business in Hixson/Red Bank for over 60 years but most of us would never know it was there, or some of the amazing things they've done over the years. We see young whippers without much more than a tool kit and a dream, stars in their eyes, maybe a computer if he or she has technogeekgoobguy leanings, and, unlike me, because of this allergy, isn't afraid to sweat like that Yard Dog kid who used to be up on Signal Mountain... similar to Mikey, he'd try about anything.

It isn't just young whippers who chase their dreams. There are ol... uh, let's say more mature ones too. Mr. Wilson and his accomplices did exactly that by grabbing the bull and founding the Colonel Sanders was 69 years old when he founded his fried chicken chain. Back in the mid '80s there was a group of Dupont retirees who founded a company to manufacture and service electric motor drive systems from Chattanooga. Several companies come to mind founded by retirees who have a better idea... or just got bored with retirement, like that chick I know who retired a few months ago and was right back at it within weeks.

When entrepreneurs are around, real entrepreneurs, not mere claimants because it makes them look cool, so they can give themselves cool titles, perhaps to claim to easily be able to learn someone else's job while others would have difficulty learning theirs, no corner is safe is it. When real entrepreneurs are around no back yard, garage, shed, spare bedroom, attic, rented commercial space or other open patch that can be filled with work is safe from being, well, filled up with work.

What's any of this got to do with Republicans following their own rules or the local Pachyderm Club, the Dayside gang not Nightside, board members not understanding their bylaws? A lot, actually.

Nationally, in 2011, the most recent year for which numbers are available, slightly over 85 percent of Americans worked for themselves as independent contractors or businesses with 20 and fewer employees. Here Tennessee, using 2011 figures so we compare apples with apples instead of oranges with pickled eggs, and beer, as government bureaucrats are wont to do, 97 percent of Tennesseans work for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Both nationally and in Tennessee over 60 percent of all new jobs are created by these small companies. During some economic periods, and in some regions, new job creation can be as high as 80 to 90 percent. These are government figures.

I'm an unrepentant, and most definitely unapologetic, Capitalist Pig who believes in the symbiotic relationship between large and small business, free markets, and true capitalism. I believe that investment in business has nothing but a positive affect on society, our families, and generations yet to come.

Another definition... invest; to commit resources such as time, money, or property for a specific purpose, in order to receive greater value later. We might invest money we've earned with our labor in a business enterprise with the expectation of receiving a greater amount later. We may invest time toward studying computer programming so we can earn the right to wear one of those super cool pocket protectors, or Michael Faraday's right and left hand rules of thumb so we can detect when Newt Gingrich is trying to rip a page out of Al Gore's book "How I Made My First Billion by Scaring the Pants Off of People Who Didn't Understand I Was Only Kidding About Global Warming" with his fear-mongering of Electromagnetic Pulses (EMP). Okay, so maybe Al didn't write that book. He should've.

We also need to understand that government owns nothing and produces nothing. We'll ignore hot air, CO2, and other noxious gases that drive the greenies crazy for the moment. Everyone in government is nothing more than hired help, hired help of We The Peeps. "Their" property's nothing more than property they've taken from a citizen. "Their" money's been taken from citizens with the force of a government gun. With this in mind, how does any elected official, or appointed functionary, "invest" what they don't own without the specific approval of those from whom they've confiscated it? When government gives away assets earned by the sweat and hard work of others, how's that a free market... or anything but crony capitalism? But government, and their accomplices over at the Chamber of Commerce, continue trying to convince us they have The Big Pencil... the one they use writing those humongous checks to their buds for TIFs and SPIFFs and PILOTs and any number of other alphabet programs they can think of to waste our money. To listen to some of them, we working schlubs are nothing more than the subjects of Allan Sherman's version of the folk song Water Boy, aren't we.

Seltzer boy
Where are you hiding
If you don't come right now
I'm gon' tell you boss on you


It's really, really easy to play with other people's money isn't it. If anyone's going to lose, it'll be those who can't do anything about it.

So how do we get rid of hoity toity government officials who believe when there are a few extra bucks in The People's treasury, instead of giving back to those who earned them government should pretend they're investment bankers. I submit that we should look at those little things about candidates for political office.

So let's compare two candidates for an elected office. Tennessee House District 27 has two extremely well qualified candidates, both of whom have done well in their careers after growing up on farms... and we all know how terribly unsophisticated those farmers are with, eewww, callouses on their hands... even the girls. Both had significant hurdles to overcome in this respect, but Mr. Crangle more... he's a flatlander.

Having looked over Mrs. Hazlewood's curriculum vitae, we're looking to hire an employee aren't we, I see she has a Bachelor of Science degree. In what? Wouldn't it be helpful to know if it's in Library Science or Biotechnology? Whenever I see someone who serves on a bunch of boards for this and that I have to wonder how much actual work is being done. Time is a finite factor in each of our lives, and there's only so much that can be done in a day. Back when I had a real job The Boss always said if 24 hours in a day aren't enough, we always had the nights. That really isn't true.

Mr. Crangle, on the other hand, is one of those engineer creatures, trained to observe, analyze, rip a problem into little bitty, manageable pieces, then put it back together the way it should have been in the first place. Unlike some, he didn't walk into the college admissions office and say "Yo! Gimme some Chemistry. Hold the physics, light on the math. I don't want to work real hard. Fries too." No sir. He went the whole deal to become a civil engineer. He's involved with the community, but hasn't been one to bask in the glory of the limelight. He's the guy we go to when we need to have something done, because he'll make it happen instead of looking for commendations.

It appears that Mrs. Hazlewood is quite adept at administration and others have observed this as well, evidenced by her rise on that corporate ladder, but she states nothing about having worked down in the trenches. What did she do? What processes did she develop or improve? She's obviously a good manager, but what's she done to improve the system?

Mr. Crangle, if memory serves correctly, started out as a grunt on a construction crew so he's no stranger to hard work. Neither is he a stranger to working out in the rain, trudging through mud and crud to get the job done. We do like having our power when we want it, don't we. It requires truly innovative thinking when we have Maw Nature, infrared and ultraviolet radiation to contend with.

I also like to look at who's giving money to a candidate. Not that this is a deal breaker, but it does give us some idea of where a candidate might be looking if elected.

Looking down through Mrs. Hazlewood's contributors we see an awful lot of lawyers, including several from Miller & Martin. Isn't that the firm that received a bunch of jingwa from the group trying to finance an Aetna Mountain development on the backs of taxpayers? We also see names from Nashville, Knoxville, Volkswagen, and other groups close to Senator Corker and Governor Haslam who would like to reach deep, deep down into taxpayer pockets. That might be an issue, particularly since there's such a focus on big business who ride on the backs of individuals and small businesses.

Mr. Crangle, well, Mr. Crangle keeps getting his money from working stiffs. To be sure, there are a couple of donations from those dastardly unions, but in reasonable amounts how is this bad? Aren't they interested in expansion of businesses that'll hire their members?

Then we really need to look at business philosophy, especially with respect to who most of us work for and their needs.

Mrs. Hazlewood has worked and advocated for big business her entire career. Unless I'm missing something, it doesn't appear she's worked with small business much, if at all, during that entire time. She's definitely never had to crawl around down in the trenches with us. A deal breaker, for me, was hearing her response to a question about TIFF and PILOT funds; "Well, that's the way it's done." Well, no it isn't. Elected officials don't have to pimp out their constituents for large businesses to come in... and bring other small businesses with them. More about that another day, when tires is a more appropriate subject.

Mr. Crangle's had to work with small business his entire career. Why? No matter how large or small the project, there are just situations in which a small business can get in and get 'er done before a TVA construction crew, as good and dedicated as most of them are, can get their trucks rolling. He's also a real estate tycoon, with half a dozen rental properties in inventory, in addition to his consulting business, so he's quite aware of the challenges presented to small business day in and day out. He doesn't have the backing of those who've spent our tax dollars to run expensive roads or shoddy workmanship such as has allowed all the money to wash out from under the River Whats-it downtown.

It's always a difficult choice, and easy to be swayed listening to someone speak about what they want to accomplish while in office. But does their walk match their talk? As a small business owner, and taxpayer in more than one area other than where I vote, it's always a concern about what elected officials want to do with my money.

The symbiosis of large and small business is both desirable and necessary but those who've only worked within one or the other will often lean toward what they know, to the exclusion of the other, as our Tennessee elected officials are doing now... forcing small business and individuals to subsidize large business, because they can and because they want a monument to themselves. How about those who're picking up the tab?

Aren't they, in effect, nailing our feet to the floor then telling us to give our dreams our best shot? Personally, I'm for taking the nail-guns away from people who don't know how to use them.

America, where we have choices and can choose for ourselves. Isn't it great when we do it?

We will, we will... rock you!

Royce Burrage, Jr.

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