Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Letter Is in Your Face

     The letter in question has been going around the internet a little bit. It was picked up off craig's list, and is purportedly a real letter, written recently by a real entrepreneur.

     The person who emailed it to us thought the letter made a very good point. He commented, "This guy hits the nail on the head!"

     But B was appalled. She thought the whole thing sounded like sour grapes, and doesn't acknowledge the help the business owner probably got from other people, and the lucky breaks he most likely had.

     At first I thought the letter might not be real at all -- that it could be a plant from some conservative group. But I've noticed a lot of closed businesses lately. Our mall has half a dozen empty storefronts; the strip mall up on the corner has sprouted several "For Lease" signs, and ... my old employer itself filed for bankruptcy last year. It didn't go out of business, but it fired yet another round of employees, broke a lease and moved to less expensive quarters, and is trying to sell off a few of its departments.

     Read the letter (I've condensed it a little for brevity.). Do you think it explains anything, or nothing?

To My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job is the political landscape in this country. 

You see me park my Mercedes outside. You saw my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life. What you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 12 years ago. I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living space was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and spent every dime they earned. They lived in expensive homes and refinanced their mortgages to live a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business --- with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, would be able to afford these luxuries.

You arrive at the office at 9 am and leave at 5 pm. I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and have a weekend all to yourself.  I do not have the freedom.  I eat and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. Every day this business is attached to me like a 1 day old baby.

You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations. You don't realize the sacrifices I've made. Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail out all the people who didn't.

The people who overspent their paychecks, or who never got legitimate jobs at all, suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.  Yes, business ownership has its benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with them occupy most of my time. And I am being taxed to death. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. They're so extensive and complicated I have to hire an expert to manage all the taxes.  I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes.  You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Zilch.

Had suddenly the government mandated that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple.
If I deducted 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy. If any new taxes are levied on me or my company, or any onerous government regulations, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. It won't be my problem any more. I will close this company down and retire and maybe move to another country.

You see, I'm done. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed. You'll find me on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, Your boss, 

     So, do you think this guy has a point? Does the letter explain some of the closed businesses in town? Or is he just an ass? The reason I'm asking is because I'm conflicted. And ... well, he could be both.


June said...

My opinion is that the composition includes some truths and some mean-spirited generalizations.
A successful business owner certainly "works" twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And I do know that it does cost a lot . . . truly . . . to employ people. The employer's share that goes to Medicare and Social Security is larger than the total contribution by employees.
However, this oft-repeated idea that "people who overspent their paychecks, or who never got legitimate jobs at all, suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries" that the supposed author earned and sacrificed a decade of his life for, I think, is hogwash.
I don't think that every person who needs help necessarily overspent or has been a slacker all his life. And I do not believe that every person who needs help expects to be given a Mercedes and an in-ground pool. Those phrases are meant to provoke a fist-shaking "YEAH, THAT'S RIGHT!" angry "me too" response.
In addition, I believe being a business owner in the US is not quite so painful as the purported letter writer would have his readers believe. There are perks that most of us poor workin' slobs don't even know about. And many, many ways to hide the poor owner's income. Don't let 'em kid you.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the employer! He's absolutely right. All people see is the mercedes. They don't see all the hard work and sacrifice that the boss puts in to his or her business. Thus why there is so much hate towards corporations and capitalists.

Atlas Shrugged. Read the book. Google 'Gibson guitar' and see what the govt is doing to this company that has been in business since the 1880's.

I hope the boss enjoys the beach.

As for me, I closed my business in 2001. I had to hire an accounting firm to find out why my computer business was failing, after 4 good years. Why? An audit revealed that over the years, my employees stole over $296,000 worth of equipment, software, printers and other related peripherals. That's the thanks I got for keeping my employees employed. My top tech even stole my client list and was soliciting them him/herself.

People are fools today to be their own boss (unless they are the only employee).

Enjoy the beach. I do.

MerCyn said...

Entrepreneurs are a special breed and they do devote heart and soul to building a business. Many succeed, an awful lot do not. Those who make it can take advantage of tax breaks the rest of us never will. There are two sides, and sometimes more, to a story. I sense there is much more to this guy's story...

Dick Klade said...

Sorry, but it sounds like a contrived story. My parents struggled with running a small family business, and I tried to started one and failed, so I am sympathetic. However, this smells too much like bs.

Dick Klade said...

By the way, he probably writes the Mercedes off his taxes as a company expense. said...


1/ After he left his government job, my Dad worked his fanny off start a small business from our house. His experience was very much like the one described in your blog. All our family pitched in to help him. I still remember the business phone #3092, which rang in my parents bedroom. I learned what an invoice was, and how to answer a business call at age 8.

After years of struggle, Dad was able to expand his small enterprise (furniture mfg.) with two other fellows who put their money at risk. They built a plant in western NC and employed poor and minority workers. During the recession in the 1960s, largely the result of a business downturn following the boom years of the 1950s, the company went bankrupt.

1/ My SIL Bill runs a small roofing business started by his great-grandfather in the 19th century. When business is good, he climbs on roofs during all seasons (broiling sun and driven snow). He employs a small group of men who have been with the firm for a very long while. Bill is in his mid-50s, and most of these good old boys are around the same age.

The company has now fallen on hard times, largely owing to conditions in the housing market. It survived the Depression, but now has a great risk of going under.

Bill's insurance company has announced they will no longer offer insurance for his company employees. Owing to the upcoming Health Care Bill, the insurance company is getting out of the health care business. (They say they can no longer compete.) They were not a the best company service-wise, but Bill's firm could afford their coverage. He is unlikely to find another less expensive firm offering somewhat reasonable health care.

You can draw your own conclusions about the business landscape, but in my opinion it has never been this bad, and the current Administration has made it far worse.

I would go into more detail, but this response is long enough. Dianne

Sightings said...

Actually, I did check this out ... after I put up the post. I should have done it before, but, well ... anyway, I cannot vouch for the verisimilitude* of the actual letter, but the writer of the letter does exist and he does own a business in North Carolina. So that, to me, says it's probably real. Although, I agree with Dick; he probably does write off his Mercedes. (I know my friend, the lawyer, has his business pay for his Infinity.)

Otherwise, I guess I mostly agree with June, who sympathizes with the fact that he's attached to his work "like a 1 day old baby." I'm not a business owner myself; never have been; but I agree, in most cases it's a very exhausting responsibility, and must eventually drive your anxiety levels to nosebleed heights.

But, while the business owner has a lot of sympathy for himself, he has very little for anyone else. I just think maybe the guy is burned out. What used to be a fun challenge for him has become a real weight on his shoulders. But he shouldn't close down the business. Actually, there's no way he'd close it down and fire all the employees. He'd sell it to another small business owner, or to a larger company, and probably walk away to his beach with a few additional millions of dollars. So in the end, while I respect the guy's career and his contribution, I can't summon up a whole lot of sympathy for him.

*Hey, I should get paid extra just for using such a fancy word!

Anonymous said...


Is the quote in your header yours? If so can I borrow it for my Facebook page. Of course, I'd be happy to give you credit!


Sightings said...

It's a quote from the subject of the latest "Remember Him?" -- Arthur Ashe. Use it and credit him. (It is a great quote, isn't it!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

Yes, it is a great quote! Thanks. My mom also admired Arthur Ashe. She had his book. What was odd was that she wasn't a tennis fan. She was a fan of the man himself. I took a photo of his racket that is displayed at the Smithsonian. She was so happy when I showed it to her!