California Business Owner: Love Politicians Who Get Us

In this series, we are interviewing small business owners across the nation about the political policies that affect their businesses in anticipation of the 2012 presidential election. Each profile subject has been selected randomly and does not represent the views of their respective state.MyCorporation, based in Calabasas, California is a small business specializing in online document filing for clients forming corporations. Deborah Sweeney is the owner, CEO, and President who bought the company out of Intuit in 2009.

California’s top industries holding the most jobs are: trade, transportation, utilities, government occupations and professional and business services, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau of Economic Analysis records that the industry with the highest Gross Domestic Product in California is real estate and leasing.

According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate is at 10.6% as of August 2012, above the national rate of 7.8% for September. According to the July 2011 United States Census population estimate, California’s population is 37,691,912.

And 99.2% of all employers in California are small business owners, according to the Small Business Administration profile completed in 2009.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What are some immediate goals that you hope to see satisfied by the president in the next term?

SWEENEY: I would say, first of all, the primary goal would be creating some certainty. I think from a small business owner’s perspective, certainty is one of the biggest gaps or barriers to moving forward and making changes. So I feel like having some certainty in terms of the rates, the tax cuts if any, the benefits to small business owners, the healthcare law changes – having certainty in that regard is critically important. Other immediate goals, I think overall economic uptick is a primary goal, improved consumer confidence along with that. And I think income tax rates…where those rates land and how they impact small business owners.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: As a business owner, what do you want to see in the ideal candidate for president?

SWEENEY: As a business owner, I love a candidate who understands business owners, small business and how they make an impact on the financials and economic success of the United States. Personally, I’m about private businesses and allowing private businesses to operate without the fear of too much regulation, because I feel like as a country, that’s how we innovate, and how we take risks. And if there’s too much regulation or people are afraid, those risks aren’t going to be taken. And I believe in sort of that entrepreneurial spirit, maybe partly being from California where there’s so much venture capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit; that tends to be something that I believe in and think will help our economy thrive.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: On an individual employee level, do you encourage your employees to vote in the election?

SWEENEY: Oh, absolutely – absolutely. People tease me because I wear my sticker “I Voted” and make a big deal. But actually we pay them, we enable to go vote during work hours fully paid so if they don’t want to use their break time, they can use their full work time to go and vote.FOXBUSINESS.COM: What are the top three issues for you when it comes to who you’ll vote for for president?

SWEENEY: I said certainty, I think that’s a big one. I think health-care expenses for businesses our size, and we are just under 50 employees, there are huge risks associated with going over 50 employees, write-offs and deductions relative to the new laws, whether people want to grow or not grow based on concerns about being over 50 and the new rules…It could be really confusing for business owners to get their arms around what the laws are, what they should be doing and not. And to avoid paying penalties, because penalties could be really significant.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Do you vote based on political party, or on issues? SWEENEY: I definitely vote on issues, but interestingly – and I’m sure you hear this a lot – that often correlates to a particular political party a lot of times. FOXBUSINESS.COM: How many years have you been operating? How many employees did you start out with, and today?

SWEENEY: We have an interesting history. We were founded in 1998 by two different owners, not myself. And then we were acquired by Intuit, which you probably know is a publically traded large company – in 2004. And then I actually bought the company out of Intuit in 2009, and we’re now privately held. So, I own the company now. And we were originally very, very small Mom-and-Pop -- literally 2-3 employees, and then grew under Intuit to be about 100+, and now we’re 47 employees today.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What has your hiring trend been over the years? Have you hired employees, laid off employees, or remained the same? What has prompted these changes?SWEENEY: We remain stable; I mean we have grown a bit in terms of after we left Intuit, because of our unique situation, I wanted to downsize and be smaller and more profitable outside of Intuit than within Intuit. And so we had an initial decrease in employees, and we’ve gradually hired more. But we’ve remained pretty stable over the last couple of years.FOXBUSINESS.COM: What kind of health benefits plan do you provide? Has this changed in recent years? SWEENEY: We provide full coverage for all of our employees, both health and dental. And when I bought the company out of Intuit, I assumed all of the health insurance that we had when we were under Intuit. So, I think that we’re unique in that we hold benefits that were the same benefits we had when we were very big…It’s really expensive, but it’s hard to revert to less benefits from when we had more benefits, so we stuck with that.FOXBUSINESS.COM: Do you expect the healthcare plan to negatively/positively/neutrally affect your business?

SWEENEY: I think for our size business, being under 50 employees, we’ll be sort of neutral; we will continue to do the same…I feel like there’s not a whole lot of clarity about when you hit that 50 what you have to do, and if businesses will start taking the penalty of $750, or … just keep letting all … employees get their insurance. My big thing would be if part-time employees have to have insurance, then we will be paying a lot more in coverage for our people, and then we’d have to make changes relative to how much we cover in terms of spouses and those types of things because we couldn’t afford all of that including part-timers. FOXBUSINESS.COM: Has the tax rate for your business changed over the years? If yes, how so? What is your biggest complaint when it comes to the company's annual tax bill?

SWEENEY: I think it’s justifiable; I don’t think for any candidate there would be huge changes from a tax rate standpoint for small businesses. I think it’s always something businesses grapple with, but I feel like in my quest for less government, of course I would love less taxes and to privatize more things. But I do feel like it’s fair and there hasn’t been drastic changes over the last couple of years.FOXBUSINESS.COM: So, you bought the business right in 2009 – at the start of the recession. How did that affect you?SWEENEY: The interesting part is that the big piece of the reason I got it was Intuit was rightsizing their business and we had mass layoffs within the whole company – not just our division, we were such a small piece of the pie. And so when there were other divisions being divested and things going on, that’s when I offered to buy the business out of Intuit. I think there was a small benefit of the recession to me, but I did take on a huge risk…And so we had such a huge change that during the time when we let go of all those employees, and the only thing I thought of was, “Let’s just stay afloat.” And then gradually we’ve been doing better financially. But I must say, we were in a tough position under Intuit because Intuit was cutting a lot of expenses, and we were in a really tough situation when the economy wasn’t doing well.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Throughout the years that you have been in business, do you remember a particularly high or low point in your business profitability? And what the cause of that was?SWEENEY: I think [the recession] was probably our low point. And I think probably our high point has been this last year. Not necessarily related to policies, per se, but business practices and we’ve worked really hard on developing relationships with customers that extends deeper than just the service sales, so that it’s not like we’re just convincing each customer to purchase every time. We develop relationships, so that once they know that we’re good at what we do, they stay with us over the long haul. So, it’s been more about relationship building and excellent customer service to differentiate ourselves when times are tough.