As a long-time champion for independent flooring retailers, I believe there are reasons for great optimism. Many in the industry have called for “cautious optimism”—I disagree. First of all, we will never run out of floors to cover, so our products will always be in demand. The only questions are how much, how often and how profitable. My wife has had a flooring business for over a decade, and observing what she has had to go through in fulfilling government demands for paperwork and the costs involved, I wonder whether or not I would have ever started or continued with business. America has been the No. 1 economic force in the world because our government has mostly stayed out of the way of small business no matter what party has been in power. However, for eight years we have been burdened with excessive regulation and taxes due to a philosophy that government knows what’s best for us.
To put this into context, when I decided to open a flooring business in the 60s, no license or state and local paperwork was required and only minimal demands from the IRS. I remember this as if it were yesterday. In those days an individual tax return could be filled out on a postcard. The best health insurance in the world was cheap. In 1980 when I had several stores, I provided complete family health coverage for my employees for $320 a month. This minimal payment covered my own cancer operations and therapies totaling over $50,000.
Through a range of administrations the government relied on the good sense and responsibility of its citizens to take care of themselves. After World War II, there were few jobs for the millions of GIs returning home from the wars, so they started their own businesses creating the most vibrant entrepreneurial period ever in America. We never needed the government.
The point of this background information is no matter the party or the ideology, government felt we were smart enough to take care of ourselves. When our ancestors immigrated into this country, there was no safety net or programs to support them, so guess what? They went to work. During the Clinton administration when welfare reform was enacted, some Americans really believed that people would die in the streets. This never happened; people went to work. The prior administration believed that without government help citizens couldn’t fend for themselves, so all sorts of rules and regulations were enacted to protect the populace and programs set up to support those who couldn’t fend for themselves, and guess what? All of this costs money, which only added to the disaster of the mortgage bubble created by politicians in 2008. The secrets to a successful economy were very simple, always out there and proven to work: fewer rules and regulations, less special-interest lobbying, lower corporate and individual taxes allowing us to spend our money where we want, no mandates and most of all, just keeping government out of the way. In 2016, one party ran on these proven principles and the other ran on the disastrous policies of the administration in power. Had our current president been more popular personally, he would have won with 80% of the vote since most Americans understand what it takes to keep or create a vibrant economy, but because for some reason he is the most hated president I can remember. The votes lost were due to his personality.
As small business people, these principles are incredibly important to our success as well as to the average working American because we supply 60-65% of the jobs in this country. Imagine your paperwork (federal, state and local) being cut to 20% or lower than it currently is, less rules, regulation, licenses, certifications and government intrusions. Just think of one area which affects all: installation. Due to union influences and the rules of the National Labor Relations Board, your best installers aren’t able be in business for themselves. They are being forced to become employees creating yet more work for you. What sense does it make that they can’t work for who they want to work, can’t wear what they want or whose tools they use? Whether you like the president personally shouldn’t matter a wit as long as he institutes policies that will make less work for you, cost you less money and increase profits.
Again, harkening back to the days when I was in business, small independent flooring retailers rarely needed lawyers, accountants or extra employees to satisfy government dictates. Before computers, everything was done on paper. We kept track of which products were selling, the profitability of each, which patterns and colors were selling, sales that day as compared to last week, month or last year all compiled with a simple 20-minute daily report. We would go to market (in those days we went to several) with this information so we could make intelligent purchasing decisions based on facts. Why? Because we had the time to concentrate on our business without government intrusiveness.