Governor Guy Hunt once told me, “John, before anyone runs for office or becomes a journalist, they would be well-served to have met a payroll first. What a profound statement and I agree 100 percent. If you have kept up with my resume, I worked for the Hunt administration in economic development during the late 80’s early 90’s. I worked primarily in the area of Small Business and later with all exiting business and industries.
My father was a small business entrepreneur and that mantle passed down to his family. My father taught all of us what it meant to meet a payroll. We all fully understood and appreciated what Governor Hunt was saying. For those who have not had that opportunity, let me share with you what has to happen before you can write a payroll check. First, you have to have a product or service. Then, you have to get in the market place and find your niche among a field of competition. You have to convince the buyer you are qualified to deliver, best in the business and your price has to generally meet your competitors. After getting the order, now you have to deliver as promised, satisfy the customer, invoice and then collect. In addition, one must price the invoice with an adequate margin to meet your overhead, expenses, maintain raw materials and finished inventory, carry accounts receivables, payroll and payroll taxes, and then guess who is last to get paid.
Entrepreneurs are often over glamourized, they really work to keep their team employed and in most cases, the last one to get paid. I can tell you from personal experience, on more than one occasion; we had to put our paycheck in the drawer, while paying employees and other obligations first. Entrepreneurs often go to bed and wake up in a sweat, frequently can’t sleep from the financial, physical and emotion load of carrying a business. This same owner is often faced with a tsunami of problems that seem to be insurmountable, and somehow finds a narrow path of escape from total disaster and business failure. At the end of the day, this small business person is responsible for the engine of our economy, and creates 75 percent of all of our new jobs. Prayer, vision, work ethic, tenacity, grit, tough, mission oriented, making one dollar do the work of three dollars, negotiating skills and not having can’t or quit in your vocabulary are the traits that embody a small business entrepreneur. Most people cannot handle this kind of sustained pressure.
For an elected official who never met a payroll, it puts them at a great disadvantage in solving problems and getting projects completed. Often, without the skills to find solutions or make very tough decisions, a non- business background officeholder quickly find themselves outside of their expertise. All too often they are tempted with very weak solutions throwing taxpayer money at problems, like raising taxes, toll roads or legalizing gambling, all of which are very regressive ideas. Another example, let’s build bigger prisons rather than fight recidivism. Being successful in business also requires a high level of common sense, which is generally not the order of the day in government solutions.
Rarely does a journalist have a small business background, which means they have never met a payroll. Most come from academia where research projects are theory based and not applied real time research. Journalist by most polling data, generally vote Democrat and typically lean leftward in rationale and on issues. As I have written before, journalism and editorial opinion departments have merged, which is unfortunate. In my experience over the years, if you have an elected official offer an idea as a solution like, raising taxes, passing gambling, open borders, free healthcare and college, adding illegal immigrants to the entitlement rolls and allowing them to vote and the like, generally journalist are drooling all over these ideas as if they are a stroke of brilliance. One recent example, Obama’s economic development plan was summed up in two words: Green Jobs. The media treated this notion as astounding. Common sense knew at the outset, this was a flawed concept. Wind energy, solar, and electric cars are not cost effective, so the market potential for these ideas are in the deficit before you wake up in the morning. Government subsidized plants promoting these concepts catastrophically failed on a flawed theory, not applied science.
Let’s discuss academia for a minute. I have often proposed that we need corporate business minds running academia, not academics, particularly as College and University Presidents along with Superintendents of Education. You can hire academics to run your educational programs. Education is like any other enterprise, you are in the people business so they have to be led, have budgets, need long term strategic plans with measurable outcomes and who better to address this kind of leadership than a business professional. If you do not have a PhD. behind your name, you can forget about being a university president. Motivating people, being goal oriented, raising funds, selling programs to the public, leadership, making tough decisions and so much more are second nature for a business person. Academics in this environment are at a great disadvantage, because of not having the hard core problem solving skills earned from recession injected experiences, there is just no comparison.
As a side note, lawyers often find their way into public office. There are two kinds of lawyers, strict constructionist constitutional originalist (Conservative) and those that believe the constitution is a living, breathing every evolving and changing document (Liberal). Ambulance chasing plaintiff trial lawyers (Liberal) generally are those if elected or appointed as judges practice judicial activism. We do not need these types in any public office. On the other hand, strict constructionists (Conservative) generally make great judges and compliment the business minds in the legislative process, keeping ideas constitutionally driven.
Business people have to finish the project or service to get paid; non-business minds are generally acquiescent to perpetuity. A business mind knows how to get the economy moving by reducing tax burdens, freeing up cash for investment, reducing burdensome regulations, encouraging manufacturing, substantially reducing trade deficits and creating and fostering a pro-business environment for growth that yields job creation.
Liberals are smart, they can channel public discourse by controlling academia, media, Hollywood, arts and have a presence in politics. Business folks get frustrated quickly in red taped bureaucratic environments and commonly stick to their knitting, rather than inject themselves into viscous public life, fighting liberalism and slander at every intersection. It is just easier to stay home and build assets for your family and create jobs in their communities.
We are entering the 2020 election cycle, disproportionally candidates in local, state and national elections have become career incumbent politicians, not business minded statesmen. Ponder with me for a moment, who would you rather serve, facing the complex decisions of today, and covering the news, business or academic minded.
Governor Hunt was right!
John W. Giles is former President of the Christian Coalition of Alabama. He served as Small Business Advocate for the State of Alabama during Governor Guy Hunt’s Administration. He was also a member of Governor Fob James Cabinet.