… Isn’t even the question.
I think we’ve finally made it in American Politics. After months of dressaging through tertiary concerns, we are finally about to have an election that is based on some of our nation’s true problems. President Obama’s now infamous quote “You Didn’t Build That” quote is being milked by the Romney Campaign and the RNC for every last drop of relevance. The simple fact behind this statement was that’s it’s a quarter-gaffe that is taken out of context. But being the GOP, I can understand how the quote, when manipulated properly, gives them some traction.
So be it. Instead of focusing on Obama’s two sentences, let’s skip the politics and have the real debate… Small business owners, did you or did you not “build that”?
Let’s face it… When a person builds a business from the ground up, it is their business. They conceived it, they researched it, they made it happen. On the individual sense, that business wouldn’t exist without the actions they took to get it there. No one understands this better than those that have to go through the process. That’s why the process of small business creation is so important to the American economy. We survive and thrive on the ingenuity and hard work of our people.
But no matter what others say to the contrary, they didn’t build that business alone. Why? Because a real business is too complex to be able to do by yourself. The American economy is also an ecosystem… a network of interdependent parts. You may have built the business, but you didn’t build it alone. A mother carried you, parents fed you, teachers taught you. Someone helped you along the way to plan, design and finance the business. Someone helped you with the long hours to get the store ready or babysat when you were away. A business is just too important to be accomplished entirely on the back of one person. Other people invested in your business directly, or by simply investing in you.
Take the example of one of the greatest American businessmen of the 20th century… Sam Walton. He built Wal-mart, the largest general retailer in American history. But even he didn’t build it alone. Mr. Walton had many great people along the way to help him, like his teachers at the University of Missouri where he earned his business degree. He worked for JC Penney in Des Moines, IA to gain his first experience in retail management. His father-in-law loaned him $20,000 to acquire his first Ben Franklin store franchise, and later went into business with Walton again when he was ready to expand. But you know who else “built” Sam Walton’s retail empire?? His customers in Bentonville, Arkansas. Some worked for the government, some worked for other private companies. But by shopping in Walton’s store, enjoying the goods and service and encouraging others in the community to shop there, they helped create the giant that we now know today as Wal-mart. Make no mistake, without Sam Walton’s initiative and perserverance, there would not be a Wal-mart today. He’s the most important link in the chain. But still he’s not, and has never been the whole chain.
In my opinion, that is the moral of the story. In today’s American Politics, the public and private sector are fighting in a duel to the death. But if we are ever going to survive and truly thrive as a nation, we have to bring the public and private sectors together again. Both must be healthy for the United States to have a growing economy. In the uncharted waters of the 21st-century, public-private partnership is more important than ever. It’s time for us to wake up, and work for the good of all Americans, before it’s too late. The question is not whether or not you “built that”, but whether or not WE can still build it. As Americans, I know we can, and I know we will.