This is my personal blog, on which I talk about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy. Some topics are serious, others whimsical. I love comments and questions so don't be shy, just courteous, even if you don't agree with me. I have another blog, The Story Template, on which I post writing-related topics on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let's see, a bit about me... I'm married with two children, and spend much time taking care of our family. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research. I am a Christian who came to faith under protest through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. I also have written a nonfiction book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This book is a programmed learner-type book that helps you, the writer, develop a complete compelling story (novel or screenplay) from a vague idea.

YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Obama's View on Small Business

Something President Obama said last week bothers me more as I think about it. Here's the quote:

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

At first blush these words may not offend. OF COURSE we all work together. OF COURSE we all receive help from others. But how can it be true that those who build their own businesses really *didn't* build them? Huh?

Last time I checked, there are roads and bridges in North Korea, and the old Soviet Empire, and in China. There are teachers for children all over the world. Parents and others give help to people all the time, in all countries. So what makes the American system different? Surely it's got to be more than what President Obama says here.

Thomas Edison. The Wright Brothers. Henry Ford. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. So many more. Name any invention you care to, and chances are overwhelming it was first made in the United States. For generations we have been the independent, fearless, creative, rugged, generous, and brave people that have made the world better.

What has happened?

Since my only direct small business experience is with Taegais Publishing LLC, let me tell you a little about this. For many reasons, I decided to publish my first novel myself rather than go the traditional publishing route. I formed Taegais in 2008 and opened a bank account with a few dollars my husband and I were able to squeeze from our family budget. My friend Jane gave the most incredible edit of A LEVER LONG ENOUGH that taught me many aspects of really good writing. Over the next 8 months and six rounds I edited and cut Lever into a publishable-grade book. When it was ready I hired a company to do an expensive painting for the front cover -- worth every penny, but it nearly emptied my Taegais bank account. After an infusion of birthday and Christmas money from my parents, I hired Chris Yavelow to copyedit and typeset my book. Finally I released A LEVER LONG ENOUGH in January 2009, and made a true pest of myself over the next two years finding people who might review or simply enjoy reading my book.

I am proud of Lever. It is well written and exciting, I believe, sold 500 copies, and received 36 reviews on amazon averaging 4.5 stars. A year and a half after it was released, I learned how to format an ebook so I could offer it for sale in Kindle and Nook versions. (BTW I've lowered the price to $2.99 on Kindle, hint hint).

After finishing Lever I decided to take time to understand how story structure worked. Last fall I hired the same cover company (Archer Ellison) to package my new book, and they kept me on track with the editing schedule to write the manuscript from April to June. Kim came up with a great cover etc., and THE STORY TEMPLATE was then released in July 2011. (BTW AE is a pleasure to work with and does top-notch work, if you ever need a book producer). I put Template in ebook format as well.

Marlene Bagnull was interested enough in my experiences as a story analyst and e-publisher that she hired me to speak at GPCWC in 2009, 2011, and this year. I am grateful to her for giving me a chance.

How is my company doing?

I pay $300 a year in taxes for my LLC. The first three years (2008, 2009, and 2010) I was significantly in the red, and the only way I could stay afloat was funneling spare dollars into Taegais. In 2010 I came very close to ending it, but my husband said to hold on for one more year. In 2011 I earned a net of about $300 that was taken to pay taxes. This year, 2012, is the first year that looks like I'll be operating in the black to the tune of one to a few thousand dollars. This income is coming from: book sales, ebook sales, conference speaking fees (3 conferences this year), and income from a new venture I just started to epublish client manuscripts at http://www.ebooklistingservices.com. It's still a modest company, but I am proud of everything I do which I like to think is top notch quality.

I look at it that the faith and belief that things might work came from me, with hefty doses of encouragement from my husband, kids, friends, and my parents and husband's parents who gave me birthday and Christmas money. Jane was an incredible editor, and I will always be grateful to her for teaching me so much. Chris did an amazing job of editing and book design, and taught me much about grammar :-) Marlene took a chance on me as a speaker when I didn't have credentials. Many efriends, some with whom I have lost contact, were generous with their time and reviews and general encouragement and assurances that I was doing good work. But, ultimately, it was ME who made Taegais happen.

Obama didn't say this directly, but I think he probably felt (from references to infrastructure) that THE GOVERNMENT had helped me create my business. Well, no. The $300 per year in taxes would have broken me if Taegais hadn't been generously subsidized from family. It's only this year that it looks like I'll stay ahead of taxes -- and it's still not wages that anyone could live on. I'll simply plow some money back into the business, with the rest pay part of our daughter's college tuition, and that'll be it. Reagan often said that government helped business by getting out of the way. From my personal experience, I have to agree.


  1. Too much/too little government affects many types of businesses. Not sure about the roads and bridges in N. Korea, but here there are businesses that worry about and need infrastructure . Transportation-wise, the ubiquitous semi-trucks that clog our interstates certainly depend on gov't infrastructure more than say the
    railroads which build and maintain their rights of way privately. IMO, it can be a factor helpful to business, and our own infrastructure
    is slipping at present.

    1. BB, you make a good point with the semi-trucks. Railroads seem to be the most practical way to transport many or most goods across country. And you're right, infrastructure matters. I wish money collected/borrowed for repairing the infrastructure were actually used for this purpose -- shovel ready jobs, anyone? We sure need an overhaul of highways, bridges, and yes, building even better transportation systems.

      How might this be accomplished? Do you think private enterprises to build/rebuild might be a better way to go?

      The railroads remind me of Dagney Taggert :-) We have a transport railroad near us and I am amazed to see the many cars chug by and imagine the engine power to pull all that weight. It sure seems efficient.

  2. I believe the core context is the following:'Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.' In other words, you didn't build the roads and bridges.
    My friend Willie has a successful Hot Dog eatery, which _he_ definitely built. However he didn't build the street in front nor the alley in back. He didn't put in the sidewalks, nor did he lay the pipes for the gas stoves.
    _That_, as far as I can tell, is what Obama was referring to. Claiming that the business owner didn't build his or her own business is only true in that no one built their success alone. Claiming that they didn't build those parts of the framework which permit us to succeed in business is simply correct, and should be no more surprising than 2+2=4.

    On the other hand, apparently the canals which were used in England for so long appear to have been built by the business community which would benefit by them. However that is over 300 years ago, and across the pond, so it doesn't apply here.

  3. True enough that the government built the roads. BUT... who pays the taxes that the government uses to build the roads? I like to think that the USA is "of the people, by the people, for the people" and not governed by a separate ruling class making decisions. We now have career politicians, but it wasn't meant to be so. The government bureaucrats are not Caesar dictating where and how roads should be built for the rest of the empire, after all -- they are the people's representatives.

    Bob, thank you so much, and I agree with you, I think also that that's what Obama meant! However, I also think in this case that he's wrong. Glad you stopped by to visit (and good luck to your friend Willie).

    1. I don't know the history of taxation in the US, but I am proud that my taxes help support things I believe in, and shamed by the many things over the decades my taxes have helped pay for which I do not believe in.

      One other thing I wish to respond to, though I don't know if I'll be back for a dialog: As hard as I work, I will most likely never be able to afford a house or a new car. Nothing I do will cause my employer to view my contribution as having sufficient value to pay enough for 'the American Dream'. I am a database programmer, so I contribute knowledge or access to knowledge, and I am simply a business expense, bringing in no profit in any direct fashion. Some things I have heard indicate that there is little gratitude (from the front office) for what I and my fellow IT workers bring, while we should keep our gratitude alive and growing. I like my job and the end users for and with whom I work, and I like the stability of a regular paycheck, but I see an ongoing erosion of the lifestyle I had even a few years ago, with little hope of improvement. I recently spoke with a professional in a related job who had to accept a job with no benefits at about 1/2 his former pay. I have seen evidence that the economy is s.l.o.w.l.y picking up, but wages and benefits are being held down, possibly even nation-wide.
      I don't write this to complain, but to share a perspective.
      Be Well,
      Bob Griffin

    2. Bob, thank you so much for visiting! It's a pleasure to hear from you.

      I have a great respect for IT and computer programmers, both in maintaining current systems and in pushing the technology further. You go! It's sad that the higher-ups are not recognizing that you are allowing their company (and society) to function. It sounds like they have a utilitarian mindset with which I strongly disagree, and what's worse, the higher-ups in using this standard are not even respecting your utility in the first place. I hope the job availability and quality for those in your field improves.

      The erosion in job availability in the US across the board over the past few years is alarming, and it's unclear how this can be turned around. Beyond poor statistics, people are hurt by these complex and difficult problems. For what it's worth, I am a strong believer when solving problems in the collective wisdom over any one individual/power, and also in the concept of managing over controlling a problem. The government, in my opinion, does better to step back rather than micromanage how everything should work. At the same time, unrestrained capitalism is problematic -- some governmental controls to protect people from unethical products and so forth are essential. The problem is working out the balance between these two factors, but right now the controls seem to be stronger than optimal.

      JFK said in his inaugural address in 1961, (I'm paraphrasing) we should think of how we can contribute instead of what we can get from the government. I often wonder how much this *getting* attitude also contributes to our national malaise and work situation.

      Perilous times. Bob, I'll keep you in my prayers.