In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which has devastated New York City, at the age of 38 owning a successful business with over $15 million in annual revenue, this week for the first time ever I visited a government website to inquire about government assistance for business. As clients call with tales of devastation, I wanted to better understand the reality. Unsurprisingly, I was sorely disappointed.
As President Ronald Reagan said over 30 years ago and remains true today, the scariest thing a business person can ever hear is: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” Like nearly every entrepreneur, I want, need and expect little help from government. Owning a PR agency, which I started 10-years ago and today employs over 100 people, I am unable to open my office this week as my office is across the street from the infamous crane.
We re-routed our phone lines immediately, created special programs to enable our employees to work from home, and our senior staff personally contacted each client to ensure we were doing the best we can despite awful circumstances. We continue to work hard despite the many losses my company will take from this catastrophe. We continue paying bills and work hard despite not receiving mail from the USPS (hence, checks), and our street being closed by the government. We won’t wait to file claims or for government to forge forward.
A client of 5WPR owns a chain of pharmacies throughout the tri-state area which were destroyed, by floods and then by looters. From Tuesday evening throughout the weekend, this 40-year immigrant worked day and night to rebuild stores, setup generators, worked to remove water buildup, and work as hard as he can to function as soon as possible. He rented a caravan which he placed in front of his store from which he will fill prescriptions while he works day and night to rebuild his stores. Should he wait for the government to come rescue him and pay his employees, rebuild his stores and provide medicine to the many that depend on his service to fill their prescriptions? He didn’t wait – at great personal expense which he paid from his pocket naturally.
A close friend of mine – a high school dropout - is a successful American manufacturer of apparel. His largest customers are major department stores who are now finalizing orders for holiday season. As his family slept at home without electricity; he rented the office of a local gymnasium from which to work so he could finish his required work. While his family slept at night he finished work so orders would be delivered.
There are many stories like this throughout the tri-state area which won’t get told. The hurricane affected the 31st of the month – payday – and we will pay our employees despite not having access to offices. We will continue paying our bills, and will miss time with our families as we work. Born in New York City, I love this country and work very hard to raise a family, build a business and do good things in this city. Everyone in this great country has the opportunity to succeed – opportunity is there for the taking, but it’s not easy. In these trying times in NY, entrepreneurs can depend (and should depend) only upon themselves.
For all of the talk about government help, it’s almost laughable. Businesses that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy can file for relief with NYC Business Solutions, a government agency which is arranging for loans up to a maximum amount of $10,000. That amount doesn’t go far for any business - Someone who owns a small pizzeria perhaps can replace his oven, but not his whole store. And nearly anyone with a business should be able to call their banker and get a loan for more money with much less effort. There’s no government help in sight for business.
The pharmacists’ kids and my kids played together all week – they didn’t have school – while we were out working and rebuilding. While we were working, we didn’t see Occupy Wall Street anywhere. Entrepreneurs are hard-working people with courage who take risks in all times, good and bad. They are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States, and work day and night to restart their businesses which create jobs, and are the lifeline of this country’s economy.
Government cannot substitute for millions of individuals working night and day to make their dreams come true – we don’t know day from night, don’t take holidays and don’t take or make excuses. Even in this catastrophe, government won’t help business - No one from the government was around when we were building our business – and no one is around now helping business to succeed.
And don’t speak of “spreading wealth around,” or blaming the “rich” for succeeding. The government doesn’t owe me anything – and I shouldn’t be resented for taking chances, working harder and succeeding.
Yes, we did build that, and yes, we will rebuild that. Just don’t get in our way.
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