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Which Presidential Candidate Favors Small Business?

Food for Thought

The problem at election time used to be voter apathy.  People didn’t vote because they believed it didn’t matter much who won.  Nothing would really change.  Today voters on both sides appear engaged and fearful that things will get much worse if the “other” candidate wins.  Undecided voters can sway the 2012 election.

Along with the undecided Ohioan voters, who seem to matter most, very soon small business owners will decide whether to choose a new leader or keep the one we’ve got.  Should the choice be based more or less on how the policies outlined in the campaigns would impact such things as hiring and marketing budgets? What about these larger issues: the ability of the man to lead and his view of the world?

Do You Have a Small Business?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which uses the 500-worker maximum in its definition, small businesses employ half of all private-sector workers. In 2009, of the 27.5 million businesses in the U.S., 99.7% were defined as small firms. More than 70% of U.S. small businesses are one-person operations.

A lot of numbers are being tossed around in this campaign.  It’s important to remember that statistics are always subject to interpretation and will be cited by each candidate in whatever way helps to make his case. Finding the whole truth will take some digging.

Contrasting the Policies that Relate Directly to Small Businesses

President Obama:

  • When Bush-era tax cuts expire in 2013, eliminate them for anyone who makes a profit of more than $250,000 to stop taxes from going up on 97 percent of all small business owners. The president would allow the top two tax rates of 33 percent and 35 percent to revert to Clinton-era levels of 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively.
  • Expand the Health Care Tax Credit created in the Affordable Care Act to businesses with up to 50 workers (up from 25). This credit seeks to help small businesses afford the cost of health insurance.  In 2014 if you employ less than 25 or are self-employed, you may find that the health care reforms bring you tax relief.
  • Use bank-bailout funds to recapitalize community banks that lend to small businesses and expand lending by the Small Business Administration in order to open up more credit.

Mitt Romney:

  • When the Bush-era tax cuts expire in January 2013, permanently extend them for all income levels. Since the top 3% of small businesses are in businesses that are taxed not at the corporate tax rate but at the individual tax rate, by lowering that rate for these 750,000 taxpayers in that 3%, they will be able to hire more people.
  • Reduce income tax rates by 20 percent and permanently repeal the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax.  Pay for these tax cuts by reducing or eliminating as yet unidentified tax credits, deductions and exemptions. If the cuts are distributed equally across the board, the Romney-Ryan budget could cut Small Business Administration funding by 19% ($170 million).
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act to create jobs.  Romney has cited a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey that found three-quarters of small businesses said they would be less likely to hire due to ObamaCare. (The NFIB, whose funders are undisclosed, recently has come under fire for allegedly representing the interests of big business and for primarily backing Republican candidates.)

What Are the Signs of a Good Leader?

The Harvard Business Review says that the two most important qualities in a good leader are trust and empathy.  I would add that trust comes largely from a perceived integrity and shared values.  Real empathy involves actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

According to renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins, a good leader has:  “the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings.”  Robbins cites as important “energy and passion,” pointing out that, “There’s a level of connectedness that leaders have with others. It’s their ability to get things done and make progress that sets them apart.”  Let’s not forget perseverance and, wouldn’t you agree, those same qualities are key to success for small businesses owners. 

How Important is Each Candidates’ World View to Leadership?

A candidate’s world view is derived in large measure from his/her personal past, which in part foreshadows the future.  World view is likely to shape domestic as well as foreign policy positions. The results, in turn, can have an effect on U.S. small businesses.

How would these factors influence Candidate Romney’s leadership

choices as President:

·         successful business record as a venture capitalist with Bain Capital
·         initial failed bid for governor of Massachusetts and the Olympics turnaround that to some degree resulted in his subsequent successful bid in 2002
·         failed presidential bid in 2008
·         “out of the mainstream” religious views and work as a missionary
·         his early life as the son of Michigan Governor George Romney

  How would these factors influence President Obama’s leadership

choices in a 2nd term:

·         success in becoming the nation’s first African-American president
·         success and pride in passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009
·         success in overseeing the mission of eliminating Bin Laden as the head of al-Qaeda
·         lack of success in achieving bipartisan support in Congress on several issues
·         earlier role in the Illinois and U.S. Senate
·         the multi-cultural influences in his early life

Consider the Role of Campaign Spending

Broward Bulldog, an independent non-profit online newspaper, reports that “Since Labor Day 70 % of outside spending on the presidential race made possible by the Citizens United  Supreme Court decision has benefited Mitt Romney, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. More than $106 million of the $117 million spent on the Obama-Romney matchup since Sept. 3 has been on negative ads, with President Barack Obama absorbing more than $80 million in attacks, according to the analysis of Federal Election Commission data.”

Is Running the Government Just Like Running A Business?

Because in a democracy the process of running a government really is different from that of running a business, neither candidate will be able to have everything completely his way as President.  Although the buck stops with the Chief in both cases, a Commander-in-Chief does not have the same kind of power as a Chief Executive Officer. That’s where leadership qualities and the world view come into play. While a CEO has every right to change direction whenever it helps profits and benefits his company, a Commander in Chief must demonstrate clear and consistent, not contradictory, positions in order to persuade colleagues and earn support worldwide.

Summing Up

In essence the choice should be a visionary who shares your values, a truth-teller whom you would trust to make a tough critical decision, but who also has empathy for the less fortunate and who seeks to represent all the people.  You want someone whom you can count on to grasp the big picture, search for the middle ground and not shoot from the hip.  You want passion but not a zealot.

You want someone who has the same leadership qualities that you have as a successful business person, but someone who also possesses the perspective and ability to inspire the cooperation that it takes to function really well within a democratic system as the leader of the free world.  Tall order?  Ultimately the decision may rest with the undecided swing state voters.

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Marketing Margaritas

Cinco de Mayo 2011 is upon us, so look for parties and special promotions with Margaritas a plenty.  Why not make the most of your Margarita experience (and impress everyone) with a little knowledge about tequila?  My knowledge comes from working  in the  wine and spirits importing industry and from free lance writing about wine and spirits.

The Margarita remains the best-selling cocktail year ‘round in bars and restaurants throughout the country.  With help from marketers, the wine and spirits trade easily keeps the Cinco de Mayo spirit alive every month of the year by promoting unique experiences with Mexico’s most popular drink and by teaching patrons how to tell their Margaritaville from their mescal.  It’s not clear exactly which year or by whom, but in the mid- to late 2000’s, National Margarita Day was declared on February 22nd.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, the introduction of upscale tequilas back in the 90’s helped make tequila the fastest-growing distilled spirits category.  Sales jumped 75% while spirits overall declined. Nearly two dozen new tequilas came onto the scene in 1999 alone.  Jose Cuervo and Sauza became the world’s best-selling tequila brands.

Most American drinkers first tasted tequila mixed in a Margarita or tossed down as a shot.  Many Mexicans (and savvy connoisseurs) sip tequila followed by Sangrita, a non-alcoholic chaser of citrus juices and grenadine.

Bartenders and restaurateurs are on the front lines when it comes to teaching interested patrons the options for tequila drinkers. Traditionally, a Marguerita is made with tequila, Triple Sec and lime juice. Some consumers opt for margaritas made with aged super premium tequilas mixed with upscale liqueurs such as Grand Marnier instead of Triple Sec.”

High-end tequilas (premium or super premium) can cost upwards of $25 a bottle.  Anejo, Reposado and Silver Espolon, for example, are produced from estate-grown 100% agave, crafted without any chemicals, flavorings, colorings or alterations of any sort and aged in specially built barrels.

There were six Tequila categories in the 2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, held March 1-4 at New York City’s Astor Center.   Expect to pay $100 for Grand Mayan Extra Añejo, top winner in the Extra Añejo 100% Agave Tequila category.

Tequila Tutorial

Understanding tequila, which is roughly an 80 proof spirit, is a little like understanding wine.  Origin, production, age and labeling are important.  Over one hundred varieties of agave plants grow in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., but tequila is made only from blue agave plants (in the lily/amaryllis family), not from cactus plants; and (unlike mescal) no worms are found in tequila bottles.

  • Production is controlled by the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council)
  • Norms (NOM), established in the 70’s, call for each authorized distillery to have a designated NOM number, and approved tequila brands display it on their labels
  • Authentic tequila can only be made with at least 51% of the blue agave extract
  • Blue Agave can only be harvested, and tequila can only be produced within five Mexican states:  Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
  • Tequila must be distilled twice and aged (14 days to 7 years) only in oak barrels (which impart color).*
  • Labels must include the words “hecho en Mexico,” (made in Mexico), the producer’s registration and ID number, plus the tequila’s age.
  • Anejo means “aged” (barrel-aged at least one year)
  • Reposado means “rested” (aged two months to one year)
  • Oro means “gold” (aged up to two months)
  • Blanco “white or silver” (aged up to two weeks, or essentially not aged)

*  There are no regulations about what may have been in the barrel before, such as a lesser quality tequila or another spirit altogether.