One thing about leaving your job and starting a business is that you find out, very quickly, that it's a cold and lonely world out there. No one really cares about you or your business. You're completely on your own. If you're thinking about becoming an entrepreneur take my advice; grow a thick skin, have a lot of self confidence, and buy a puppy. Because at the end of the day everyone needs to feel at least a little loved.
And in the meantime you should avoid these 65 people. Why? Because I've concluded these people don't care about my small business. And they probably won't care about yours either.
#1-16 Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and the 12 members of the budget deficit "super committee." I'm not a huge fan of Standard & Poor's but give those guys credit for saying what we were all thinking just a few short weeks ago: "Really? THAT's the solution to the budget deficit? Kick the issue to a committee and if all else fails just cut defense?" Until our elected representatives put aside their re-election aspirations and get serious about cutting the spending on social security, Medicare and other entitlements (which make up 41 percent of this year's proposed budget) then I can't consider any of them a friend of mine, my business... or my great-great grandchildren.
#17-21 O'Reilly, Maddow, Hannity, Limbaugh, Matthews. I'm forgetting a few here, but you get the point. These guys don't care about my small business. They care about ratings. Which happens to be their business. So whatever their opinions are on any given day you can rest assured that it has nothing to do with my welfare. Only theirs, and their agenda. Entertaining, yes. Helpful... no. By the way, I'm leaving out Jon Stewart from this list only because he's funny... and smart enough to have Aasif Mandvi on his show. My prime time programming advice to business owners who want to feel better about themselves: Brideszillas.
#22 Kate Gosselin. Speaking of prime time, here's one person who could care less about my small business. But given that her show has (finally) been cancelled, can you really blame her?
#23 - 36 My Local Township Board of Commissioners. With all the talk of Federal taxes, can anyone please explain to me why my local business, real estate, school and personal taxes continue to go up year after year? Oh that's right, it's so that my elected township commissioners can approve funding for excessive health care and benefits for our township's over-compensated employees, new construction on libraries that nobody visits, money for our top heavy school district and wasteful spending on consultants and other pet projects. For many small businesses, Federal taxes aren't as much a problem as what we're increasingly paying to our out-of-control local authorities so that they can balance their mismanged budgets too.
#37 Robert Reich. I don't ever want to get in debate with this guy because he's way smarter than I am and he'd chew me up into little pieces. But for God's sake, does everything he writes and says have to be about spending my tax dollars on more stimulus, more benefits and more employee regulations? Must there be a regulation for everything? Do I, as a small business owner, have to coddle and protect everyone who works for me like they're my own children?
#38 Stan at Comcast. I do a lot of work from home. In fact, I have a server in the basement of my house where the 10 people in my company share files. So you could say that our Internet connection is kind of vital to my small business. But when it goes down for a day, like it did a few weeks ago, Stan doesn't care. He's sitting in some cubicle near Omaha, trying to decide between tuna and turkey for lunch. My small business has become terrifyingly reliant on services that are supported by employees at big companies like Stan. And when something goes wrong that affects me directly, I'm not feeling the love. I'm feeling fear. Hello, Stan? Am I still on hold?
#39 - 42 My family. Look, I understand. They got their own thing going on. Everyone's busy. But geez, can't someone pretend that my business is just a little interesting at dinnertime, instead of rolling your eyes and checking for your latest text?
#43 Warren Buffett. Oh great. A super-respected, super-rich guy now says we should raise taxes on the super rich. And while he's not talking about the middle class business owners earning $200k a year (yes, we're middle class), he really thinks that taking money away from the very people that fund startups, provide capital to small businesses, run big companies that are usually customers of small guys like me and support probably 90 percent of the home contracting industry should have less money to spend. And give it to the government? That is not helping me.
#44 Jodi, who works in accounts payable at BigPharma Corporation. Of course I've changed the name of this customer of ours, but not Jodi. Oh no, this is her name. Jodi could care less about my small business. Why else would my invoices go 90 days before being paid? Why else does she ignore my bookkeeper's calls? Maybe it's because so many large companies, like BigPharma, use small guys like me to fund their own cash flow. It's cheap. It's easy. And for sadists like Jodi it's probably kind of fun to hear me beg and cry for my measly two thousand bucks.
#45 Bob, my banker at Wells Fargo. Oh, sorry. Bob's no longer there. Don't know who else is. I don't even know if Wells Fargo will still be Wells Fargo next week. That pretty much sums up the relationship.
#46 - 50 Phillipee Dauman, CEO of Viacom, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS, Martin Franklin, CEO of Jarden, Michael White, CEO of DirectTV. According to the Wall Street Journal, these are the top five highest paid CEOs in the country. And their pay rose 11 percent last year. This is in an economy that is growing at a 1.4 percent annual rate. My pay did not rise 11 percent last year. Trust me, these guys, and the 10 layers of management beneath them, do not care much about my small business. Unless a relationship with my company will cause their stock price to rise. That's unlikely.
#51 Angry Voice Mail Guy on Howard Stern. Would you please just leave Howard alone already? You're not helping. Running a small business in 2011 isn't fun. I need a laugh now and then. Having Howard around, even if it's only three days a week, is fine with me.
#52 - 54 Microsoft, Google and Apple. What, one standard platform for writing software, even with its flaws, isn't enough? Now you have to go and create other operating systems, devices and games to complicate our lives? Sure it's cool and fun... for my kids. But we're trying to keep expenses down. Reduce complexity. And all these choices, all this software, all these gadgets are making my little business more complicated than ever. And increasing my costs.
#55 - 59 E. Gordon Gee, Ohio State University, Francisco Cigarroa, University of Texas system, John Hitt, University of Central Florida, Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan system, Mark Yudof, University of California system. According to the Huffington Post, these people are among the top 10 public college President earners with an average compensation of $900k per year. Look guys: my kids aren't going to be brain surgeons. They'll most likely wind up at a public college like yours. But how can a small business guy like me afford to pay for your schools, when your administrative costs (not to mention the costs of faculty, housing, and that new state-of-the-art cafeteria serving all night sushi to a bunch of spoiled 19 year olds) are pushing tuitions out of reach? You don't really care, do you?
#60 - 63 The CEO's of Devour, Buzzfeed, Grooveshark, Jango. I curse all of you. My people... not to mention myself, are spending too much time watching funny videos and listening to music on your sites. You're killing my company's productivity.
#64 Santa Claus. Yes, that's right, Santa Claus. Because for a small business owner, the holidays stink. We're paying bonuses. We're paying for holiday parties. We're paying for gifts no one uses and cards no one reads. Oh, and we're expected to shut things down too. Many of us feel like we're spending all of January to recover from the financial hardships of December.
#65 Richard Smith (name changed) of Smith Industries (name changed). Really? You work at a $50 million a year company and you want me to cut my 10 person company's hourly rate from $140 per hour to $135 per hour so that you can save $180? Oh, and six months later you're going to "ask" me to "voluntarily" sponsor you in that walkathon supporting homeless squirrels? Really?
Oh, I've got more. Plenty more. But you get the picture right? Being a business owner has its perks. And I could never work for someone else. But before you take the plunge into entrepreneurship in this economy you better know who's your friend. And who's not.
Gene Marks writes weekly online blogs for both The New York Times and Forbes and bi-weekly for American City Business Journals. He runs a ten person consulting firm outside of Philadelphia and can be followed on Twitter.
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