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Labor Day – the Entrepreneur

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer's perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

My idea of the laborer to celebrate in the 21st century is the person who identifies a societal need or desire and sets out to fulfill it – the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur sees a need for a product or a way to do something dramatically better, and then commits as much effort, money and time as it takes to achieve his goal.

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Most of us think of the Labor Day holiday as the symbolic end of summer. Fair enough. Labor Day is not exactly one of the “biggie” holidays. But I’d like to take a moment to share with you my thoughts on the true laborers of the 21st century.

Labor Day began over a century ago as a celebration of union workers. But it quickly evolved into a holiday to recognize the labor of all workers... well, except for stay-at-home mothers, I guess. Anyway, aside from stay-at-home mothers, most everyone worked... hard and long. (And yes, I know, so did stay-at-home mothers.)

A hundred years ago we were moving from an agrarian workforce to an industrial one. Men traded their shovels and hoes for hammers and drill presses. Most workers labored on their feet, and occasionally on their hands and knees. They built things. They worked eight... maybe ten hours a day, five, maybe six days a week. There were few vacation days and even fewer sick days. No one ever took a “mental health day.” There were no planning sessions and no corporate retreats.

And they built, with their labor, the greatest country on earth. They created the highest standard of living the world had ever known. They built the foundation of what we enjoy today.

Today we are moving from an industrial workforce to an information-based workforce. We are building relatively less and making relatively fewer things. Machines do most of the hard work that men did by hand a hundred years ago. Most workers spend much of their day on their fannies rather than on their feet. (That would explain a lot about our physical condition, would it not?)

Certainly it is a good thing to use machines to replace hard, tedious and dangerous labor. That makes us more productive and safer; it makes life easier. Surely that’s a good thing.

But too many of us have come to believe that just showing up for work and sitting on our fannies is hard work. The first thing we do when we get to the office is get a cup of coffee... and sit down. We scan our e-mail and voice-mail, respond to a few messages and check the company news and gossip. We shuffle some paper, fill out a few forms, make some copies, and we’re ready for the morning break. More coffee... and a doughnut.

And so it goes.

And we call that hard work.

We expect the company to pay us for two (or three or four) weeks a year while we are vacationing at Disney World. (Where does the company get the money to pay us when we are not there working?) We expect the company to pay for medical care for us and our entire family. (Why the company should pay for little Billy’s braces or Sandra’s birth control pills is beyond me, but.... we expect it, nonetheless.) Where does the company get the money to pay all those benefits?

We do that for 20 or 25 years, and then we expect the company to take care of us for the next 30. Pension, retirement, lifetime medical care... we think we have earned it. We deserve it.

Why? Didja’ ever try to figure out how much all those benefits cost the company? Where do they get all the money to be able to afford that? I mean, where does that money come from?

Let’s see now... two (or three or four) weeks of paid vacation, plus five sick days a year, two or three more for doctors’ appointments, eight paid holidays a year... plus all the coffee breaks, the Halloween costume party... and guess what? You’re at work 80% of the time, actually working about 60% of the time, and collecting 100% of the money and benefits.

Nope... that is not what continues to provide us with the highest standard of living of any country on earth.

No... what provides us with the highest standard of living on earth today are men and women who create things – ideas and products... and jobs – and work day and night to make their ideas and products become a reality.

Anybody can get a job, work 40 hours a week and take home a paycheck (though a disturbingly large number of Americans choose not to). Fine; we need that. But where is the adventure there? How does that push us ahead?

The Entrepreneur

No, in the 21st century, my idea of the laborer to celebrate is the person who identifies a societal need or desire and sets out to fulfill it – the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur sees a need for a product or a way to do something dramatically better, and then commits as much effort, money and time as it takes to achieve his goal.

An entrepreneur does not get a bi-weekly paycheck. He (or she) may work for six months or two years before he ever sees one penny from his creation. He may never see a penny – period. An entrepreneur does not get a two-week vacation, a company car, free medical care, or any other tangible fringe benefit. He does not expect a government grant or tax break in order to achieve his goal. He builds it himself.

(Yes; he does build it himself.)

Most entrepreneurs that I know... work. Yes, they often work sitting on their fannies, but they work. They do not take coffee breaks. They have no idea what an eight-hour day is. They work on their creation for ten, 12 hours a day, six days a week... sometimes more. They respond to e-mail, when they can, after the kids have gone to bed. They tell themselves they will take a vacation when their latest project is generating a sufficient cash flow. Often, that never happens. But when it does, they reap the benefits. And in most cases, along the way they create dozens of regular, good paying, secure jobs for the rest of us.

And if the entrepreneur works extremely hard, has a little luck as a result of his hard work, he may earn a lot of money. In the top tax bracket, he pays about 50% of his income to the government. Nonetheless, today the federal government paints him as the villain. He is not paying his fair share.

“At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.” At that point, the federal government wants to take the rest of it from you... because... you’ve made enough.

The Democrats blame President Bush for losing two million jobs. They credit former President Clinton with creating 20 million jobs. Balderdash! The only jobs Bill Clinton ever created were for lawyers.

This may come as a shock to you, but the only time the government creates a job is when it hires someone – someone who is paid with your tax dollars – money you earned, but were forced to hand over to the government. There is no “entrepreneurial risk” involved. They just take someone out of the private workforce and put them on the public payroll.

You wanna’ call that job creation? Fine – allow yourself to be deceived.

In no particular order, here are some of the other extraordinary entrepreneurs of the last century. These are people who have taken a risk, labored tirelessly, and created millions of jobs:

Alvin AileyDance (Alvin Ailey) Dance Theater
Mary Kay Ash Mary Kay
P.T. Barnum Barnum & Bailey
Warren Bechtel Bechtel Group
Michael Bloomberg Financial Information
Andrew Carnegie Steel (US Steel)
Steve Case America Online
Jim Clark Internet (Netscape)
Michael Dell Dell Computers
Walt Disney Disney-everything
Larry Ellison Oracle Software
Debbi Fields Mrs. Fields Cookies
Donald and Doris Fisher Gap Inc
Ernest & Julio Gallo Wine
A. P. Giannini Bank of America
Leo Goodwin GEICO
Barry Gordy Motown Records
Joyce Hall Hallmark
William Randolph Hearst Hearst Newspapers
Fernando Hernandez AT&T
Milton Hershey Chocolate
James J. Hill Great Northern Railway
Wayne Huizenga Waste Management
Robert L. Johnson BET
John Johnson Ebony
Henry J. Kaiser Kaiser Permanente
Herb Kelleher Southwest
Ray Kroc McDonald’s
Estee Lauder Cosmetics
William Levitt Housing (Levittown)
Henry Luce Time/Life
J. W. Marriott Marriott Hospitality
Louis B. Mayer MGM
William McGowan MCI
Scott McNealy Sun Microsystems
Judi Sheppard Missett Jazzercise
Gordon Moore Intel
Andrew Morrison Web Publishing
Rupert Murdoch Media
Pierre Omidyar Ebay
David Packard Hewlett-Packard
William S. Paley Broadcasting (CBS)
Ross Perot Electronic Data Systems
Ralph Roberts Comcast
John D. Rockefeller Standard Oil
David Sarnoff NBC
Howard Schultz Starbucks
Richard W. Sears Sears-Roebuck
Russell Simmons Def Jam Records
Fred Smith Federal Express
Charles C. Spaulding Insurance
Gloria Steinem Ms. empire
Dave Thomas Wendy’s
Donald Trump Real Estate
Ted Turner CNN
Madam C. J. Walker Hair Care
Sam Walton Wal-Mart
Thomas Watson, Sr. IBM
Oprah Winfrey Oprah everything
Arthur Blank Home Depot
Bernard Marcus Home Depot

Bulletin, bulletin, bulletin: The president does not create jobs. The government does not create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs.

Entrepreneurial Risk. Ford Motor Company creates jobs when their management takes an entrepreneurial risk and commits their money to build a new car — without government backing. Most jobs in America are created by entrepreneurs – small businessmen (and women) who work for thousands of hours with no pay to create a product or a service that they hope people will buy. They hire workers (create jobs) to help produce the product or service that they hope to sell. For the entrepreneur, there are no guarantees.

These are the true laborers of the 21st century: Bill Gates, Dean Kamin, Jeff Bezos, Steven Jobs, Dr. Robert Jarvik, Martha Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, Charles Schwab, and tens of thousands of other entrepreneurs — whether you like them or not. They do what the rest of us do not have the guts or the creative ability to do. These are the people we should celebrate on Labor Day. Without them, we would still be digging ditches with a shovel and a hoe.

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   On a cloudy day.
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