Multi-Billion $ Small Biz Tax?

According to House Republican Leader John Boehner’s blog,

House Democrats plan on raising taxes – to the tune of “$540 billion over the next decade” – on small businesses, investors, and job creators in the midst of the worst economic recession in 30 years, all in an effort to cover some of the cost of their massive government-run health care proposal, which one independent study said would result in $3.5 trillion in added federal spending over the next decade.”

The author of the post, Kevin Boland, quotes from a Wall Street Journal editorial:

This would hit job creators especially hard because more than six of every 10 who earn that much are small business owners, operators or investors, according to a 2007 Treasury study. That study also found that almost half of the income taxed at this highest rate is small business income from the more than 500,000 sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations whose owners pay the individual rate.

In addition, many more smaller business owners with lower profits would be hit by the Rangel plan’s payroll tax surcharge.  That surcharge would apply to all firms with 25 or more workers that don’t offer health insurance to their employees, and it would amount to an astonishing eight percentage point fee above the current 15% payroll levy.”

I don’t know about you but this scares the hell out of me.  When one party (either of them) controls both houses of Congress and the White House, especially with the majority that the Democrats are enjoying right now, there are no checks and balances.

This is a business blog, not a political blog, but at some point they become one and the same.  If this economy is going to recover, the government must encourage job creation.  Piling tax upon tax on the very people who generate most of the new jobs isn’t going to work

The only way to make your feelings known is to contact your senators and representatives and let them know that you oppose any new tax increases, especially on small business owners.

All Star Weekend

Those of you who are sports fans know that Major League Baseball’s All Star Game takes place here in Saint Louis tomorrow (Tuesday) night.  It’s been forty-three years since the last Mid-Summer Classic was played in our town so I’m thinking this will be my last chance to get in on the fun without traveling.

Tickets to the game, and to tonight’s Home Run Derby were prohibitively expensive so I decided to check out the other activity going on in downtown Saint Louis today.  Fearing that parking might be a problem considering the thousands of visitors expected to be in town today combined with the people who normally work downtown, I parked in a neighborhood a couple of miles away  and rode my bike.

It turns out the only way to see everything, avoid traffic, and avoid paying thirty bucks to park, is to take two wheels.  I can’t believe more people weren’t doing it.

The actual All Star events will take place this evening, but there was plenty to do today.  One of our civic embarrassments is something called “Ball Park Village”.  It’s supposed to be a mixed-use development of hotels, residences, and retail located across the street from Busch Stadium.  It was supposed to be finished in time for this weekend’s festivities.  Sadly, the project still hasn’t gotten off the ground.  It’s still a huge vacant lot.  The good news is that the space provides a great venue for All-Star Game sponsors to set up exhibits of their merchandise.

There are new cars, and free food, sporting goods merchants and the famous Clydesdales to entertain the folks.  Nike has set up a temporary retail operation in the former Pro Bowling Hall of Fame.  (Yes, there is a bowling hall of fame.  It packed up its pins and trophies and moved to Texas a couple of years ago.  I believe they had to leave to make room for Ball Park Village.  Oh, well.)

The entire downtown area has been spruced up and it looks great for the money-spending visitors.  And they’re definitely here.  People are milling around downtown spending money like they had it.  And aparently they do.   I overheard a man waiting to cross the street tell his friend that he had paid $1,000 for tickets to the game.  I guess he must be one of the 90% of Americans who are working.

The point is that recession or no recession, people are spending money on the things they want and need.  People who will travel to a distant city and spend thousands of dollars to attend a baseball game that doesn’t count should be willing to buy what you sell too.  All you have to do is make them want it.

Here’s another phenomonon that I noticed today.   A beer cost $8.75 right in front of Busch Stadium.  Two blocks away it was $6.00.  I guess “location, location, location” works for beer as well as real estate.  By the way, the world’s largest brewery can be seen from the stadium.  If you want to make the trip a few blocks south, you can tour the brewery and get free samples.

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The WSJ on Buying Local

3_50 project smallIn case you missed it, here’s a link to a recent Wall Street Journal article featuring the 3/50 Project.  Frankly, the article isn’t that great, but it does highlight the experience of one small business owner’s success with her “buy local” efforts.

We don’t have the resources of our larger competitors when it comes to advertising and PR, so it’s important when any “buy local” program gets national exposure.

Of course, 3/50 works because it appeals to the consumer’s needs as well as the merchant’s.  Pick three local businesses that you couldn’t live without and help them stay in business.  It’s a win/win.  Contrast that approach with the Chicago pen dealer’s personal plea.  He got a brief bump in sales but it was short lived.  Let’s be honest, it’s one thing to spend $50.00 that I was going to spend anyway to ensure that my local hardware store or diner is going to stay around.  It’s something else to ask me to buy a $300 pen to support a store that sells $300 pens.

Check out the article and if you haven’t already, check out the 3/50 Project web site.  There’s a permanent link to it in the left hand column of this page.

Just a Reminder

I know you know this.  So do I.  But it never hurts to be reminded.

As I write this on my laptop, I’m in the process of trying to get my PC back from the virus that’s taken it over.  Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool has found 146 items so far and the scan is only 9% complete.  This nonsense will probably take up most of my day.

Three pieces of friendly advice:

1.  Regularly back up your information. Either use an external drive or on-line back up service. (I use Amazon S-9.) Both types of back up are incredibly inexpensive.  However, price should be no object when it comes to protecting your files, music, photos, etc.

2.  Get and use a good anti-virus program.  Again, they’re well worth the price.

3.   Never, never, never let anything download itself to your computer unless you know and trust the source.

I can hear what you’re thinking.  “Wait a minute, oh wise blogger!  Didn’t you write about this before?”  Yes, I did.  I’m good at dispensing advice but when it comes to taking it; not so much.

See, I’m here to serve as a bad example for the rest of you.  While you’re computing away on your  virus-free, backed-up computers, I’ll be here cleaning up the mess I’ve made.

For what it’s worth, I do have my data backed up on line.  So I did take half of my own advise.  Lately, I’ve taken to writing important documents using Google Docs, so they’re already stored elsewhere.  And I did have anti-virus software installed, but I missed the annual renewal.  But, trust me.  I will have it reinstated before lunch, at least on the computer that’s currently working.  The infected PC will have to get well first.

Is it “happy hour” yet?

Have a great, virus-free day!

July 4, 1776

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IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776.
THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE
THIRTEEN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Click here for the full text.

Two hundred and thirty-three years ago fifty-six brave men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that they might be signing their own death warrants.  In fact, several of them were killed.  Some lost family members, some lost all their property.  But not one of them, even under threat of death, ever recanted or disavowed the Declaration.

Notice that the document did not demand man-made rights.  All they were asking for were  rights that were ” endowed by the Creator”.

History tells us that this “grand experiment” was successful, at least so far.  But 233 years is a blink of an eye in the history of the world.  Great nations have come and gone.  All men and women of good will must work together to maintain freedom for all.

Here in America, July 4th, Independence Day, is a time to reflect on just where we started, where we’ve come, and where we want to be in another two centuries.

Rush Limbaugh, Jr. (No, not THAT Rush Limbaugh.  This is his dad.) gave an excellent speech on the signers of the Declaration of Independence, called “The Americans Who Risked Everything“.  It’s worth a look, even for our non-American friends.  It puts a lot of things in context.

Salesmanship Part 2

What can I tell you?

fly 150Since I spend a lot of time using two-wheeled transportation, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a motor scooter; something to fill in the gap between “too far to peddle” and ” I really need to use the car”.  It happens that there’s a Vespa dealership, Vespa St. Louis,  along the route where I usually ride, so yesterday I stopped in to get some information.

When I walked into the shop, the only person there, the owner, was on the phone.  He made said he’d be right with me, and sure enough, he quickly ended his call.  He walked over to me and said, “What can I tell you?” I’ve been in literally thousands of retail businesses in my life, but this was a new approach.  “What  can I tell you?”

Think about it.  It wasn’t the ever-lame “Can I help you?”  which always gets the same response, “No thanks, just looking”, even if the customer has come into the shop, money in hand, fulling intending to buy something.  As the Wendy’s comercials say, this was “waaaay better”.  The ball was squarely in my court.  Even if I just wanted to use the rest room, I had to engage this guy in conversation.

I thought for a few seconds and said, “Why should I buy a $4,000 Vespa instead of a Chinese bike that costs half as much?”  That was all he needed.  First he asked me, “Do you want to spend your time riding your scooter or working on it?”  The answer is obvious.  Then he went on to explain all the things that make the Italian bikes superior to the Asian ones.

I didn’t buy anything (this trip) but by knowing his product, and his competitors’, he pretty much put me out of the market for the cheaper machines.   I mentioned that I had been looking on Craig’s List and he spent some time showing me what to look for if I decide to go with a used scooter.  And, if I did find a super deal on something used, he explained all things his service department offers and invited me to bring any model into his shop for repairs.

I was looking for something small for a number of reasons, mostly price.  He pointed out to me that larger engines actually get better gas mileage and last longer because they don’t have to work as hard.  That means higher resale-value and lower total cost of ownership.  Interesting point, and something that I would never have considered.

Bottom line, this was a level of salesmanship that you don’t find so often today.  As I mentioned yesterday, a local car dealer is having trouble hiring people because they don’t want to work hard, even in a job where the harder you work the more money you make.

In the case of the Vespa shop, the owner had obviously done his home work.  He led with a great opening question and obviously had an answer ready for the most common responses.  He knows Vespa and he knows the other brands as well.

Salesmanship Part 1

andy rooneyI hate to sound like Andy Rooney here, but have you ever noticed….how few people try to sell you anything anymore? I’m not talking time share pitchmen, or vacation club scam artists (more on that later), I’m talking about the person behind the counter at the retail store or anywhere else where you may need help making a purchase.  You’d think that in a tough economy people would be doing their best to convince you to part with some of your money.

I have two stories to tell you along these lines; one today and the other tomorrow.  Today’s story involves Dave Sinclair, a St. Louis auto retailing institution.  He’s famous for his television commercials, featuring just Dave standing behind a somewhat hokey-looking podium that has his logo on it.  No flash, no gimicks, just Dave talking to you about his latest deals.  Click on the link to meet Dave (somewhat) in person.  Sinclair is in his 80s and must have gone straight from the maternity hospital to the car dealership. or so it seems.  Dave is a blue-collar guy selling blue-collar cars to blue-collar customers.

Lately a lot of his TV spots have centered on the fact that he sells GM and Ford products exclusively.  No foreign-made cars at Dave Sinclair.  He encourages his viewers to buy from him, of course, but if not, “then buy American from somebody.” But, that’s not today’s story.

The story is that Dave’s business is good and he’s hiring…..and that he’s getting few takers.  He prefers to hire older workers (baby boomers) who know what hard work is and aren”t afraid of it.  In his usual straight-ahead approach, he told a local TV reporter “I’m not paying people to stand around.  I”m paying them to sell cars.”

In a world where the first question from a lot of job applicants is “How much vacation do I get?” his approach obviously makes a lot of people nervous.  It’s not touchy-fealy, or politically correct.  But it’s brutally honest, and that’s something that’s sorely missing today.  Personally I’d rather work for someone who’s upfront with me than someone who smiles all the time while he’s planning to stab you  in the back.

I believe it’s Sinclair’s honest approach that’s kept him in the car business for longer than most of his customers have been alive.  Good luck, Dave.  I hope you find the folks you need to keep the legacy alive.