'Crazy Entrepreneur' From Indiana: We Need Hope


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.

Scotty Wise is the third generation of a family of entrepreneurs and started his first restaurant in 1996 at the age of 22. Scotty’s Brewhouse became a popular college bar and restaurant in Indianapolis and his career as a restaurateur took off from there. He now proudly owns nine restaurants with 1,200 employees in Indiana all by the name of Scotty’s Brewhouse.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana’s top industries holding the most jobs are: Trade, Transportation, Utilities, and Manufacturing. The Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Manufacturing is the industry with the single highest Gross Domestic Product.

Indiana’s unemployment rate is 8.2%, according to the Labor Department’s latest data, which is only slightly lower than the national average at 8.1%. The July 2011 United States Census population estimate for Indiana is 6,516,922.

Small business owners make up 97.4% of all employers in Indiana, 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?

WISE: I think obviously the Healthcare Proposal that’s out there that President Obama has attempted to put in place, at least partially in that direction, is not advantageous for small business owners.  I think the premise behind what he’s trying to do … has the right thoughts and feelings in mind, but from a small business owner’s perspective…somebody has to pay for it...So, the model that’s set up as it is now, in my opinion from a small business owner’s viewpoint, it just doesn’t work… The second thing that has been a deterrent for small business owners is being able to get funding and loans for growth….I’ve gone through this long enough going to get loans that I know that 8 out of 10 bankers that I talk to are going to tell me “No.”…Small business, which in my opinion is the heartbeat of America – it’s what we were founded on and believe in and what employs a large percentage of our country – are the ones that are being punished by the mortgage crisis ultimately...For us to get future funding…government has got to come up with a way to allow banks to lend more money, and if the banks aren’t comfortable with doing it themselves, then the government has to step in and try to help alleviate some of those risks or those problems… I think that less government is the answer, not more government. I’ve seen New York with this soda pop ban, and I just sometimes feel like the government is trying to address the problem instead of the cause. I think that the government needs to come up with better plans of education – teach parents [to teach their kids] that you can’t eat French fries seven times a week. And I’m a restaurant that sells French fries. But guess what, I also offer fresh fruit, and I offer other items, and I’ve owned this restaurant and I’m in good health…

I just think that sometimes government is trying to involve themselves a little bit too much inside the business where they need to maybe make some more policy outside. Worry about FDA, and safety and health, and issues like that – that’s important.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: As far as healthcare, do you think it would be better to keep the system as it is, or what should government do with the healthcare system?

WISE: Well, I’m a small business owner, I’m definitely not a politician and for good reason. I don’t envy those guys at all – I think they’re in tough positions, whether it’s Democrat or Republican. I think it probably takes smarter minds than me to come up with the proper system that needs to be put in place. There’s an analysis that needs to be done, in my opinion, of the entire medical system in general.

We do perks where if you run a mini-marathon or if you do something, we’ll put money into your HSA. I gave a kick-back for every month – I’d put $50 in there if you take a yoga class, pilates, kickboxing, you join a gym…as long as you turn in those receipts and you prove to me that you’re working out, I’ll put money in your HSA for it…I feel like you can just educate a little bit more if you put in a little incentive and get them to want to do some of these things, I think that’s where you find the greatest result.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: So what health benefits do you provide for your full time staff? WISE: Well, we do the HSA, and then medical, dental, vision, prescription; it’s the full gamut of health benefits.FOXBUSINESS.COM: Since you speak for the company as a whole, what else would you look for in the ideal candidate for president?

WISE: Personally, I feel like I’m atypical; I don’t feel like I align with one party or the other.  … I don’t fit into that typical box, and maybe that’s why I’m a crazy entrepreneur that runs restaurants…

What I’m looking for in a leader at this point is someone to really offer stability in our economy – to give people hope in employment … For the small business stand, what I want to see is someone that understands business and understands what it is I need to grow my business so that I can borrow money smartly, and pay good interest rates so that the bank is making money, and stay stable so that I’m allowed to grow my restaurant which ultimately adds jobs and adds income.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: How many employees did you start out with, and what are some hiring trends? Have you always grown, or have you gone through layoff periods?

WISE: I started the company with just me: I was the cook, the bartender, and the waiter…And after a couple of months of that and getting a little busier, then I hired my sister and my wife, and slowly grew from there. It started in 1996 with just one, and now today we’re at about 1,200. The second restaurant I opened, I lost about a million dollars on. Three years after it was open, I had to close it. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the best learning that I’ve ever gone through. I wouldn’t ever want to go through it again, but I learned more in those three years running that business that taught me everything I needed to be where I am today. And then I had the second hardest period that I have ever gone through, and that was the start of the recession. I had gotten verbal commitment to get funding to open a restaurant right before the recession hit. In September, I remember getting a phone call from GD Capital that said “I know we told you that we were going to loan you $1.5 million, but it’s going to be $990,000 – it’s all we can do.” I had to cut costs; I had to cut about $500,000 in cost and always believed that I would never lay off anybody from my company.FOXBUSINESS.COM: Do you remember a particularly high point in your business profitability and a low point? WISE: The original low point was closing that first restaurant. I’m an entrepreneur, and I don’t like failure. I felt like I had people that depend on me. It’s not just me and the fact that I support my four kids and my wife; I’ve got a lot of people who depend on me…So I think that was one of the lowest times of my life. The high point of my career has been Super Bowl week here in Indianapolis. It was just incredible, the opportunities that I had put in front of us and the people I got to meet…To be able to go to the Super Bowl 17 years later and sit in these great seats, I just looked at [my COO] saying, “Cheers to all the guys that said we would never make it. Look where we are now.”

FOXBUSINESS.COM: What is your biggest complaint when it comes to your tax bill? WISE: You know what my dad always said to me growing up –he was an entrepreneur and my grandfather was an entrepreneur – he said “If you’re worried about what the taxes are that you’re paying, then you’re focusing on the wrong thing.”…So to be honest with you, I never worried about it.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Do you encourage your employees to vote, or is that not something you focus on? WISE: No, I do – I definitely encourage people to vote. I try to send a message out to everybody to go out and vote…

No matter what, I’m going to respect and support my president because I’m a US citizen; I’m a proud American…I don’t think any one of us has the answer; I think that we are all a melting pot and it takes every one of us to make this country work. And I think everybody has their viewpoints and opinions, and I don’t think anyone has bad intentions to say I’m going to get in here to screw up the country; I think everyone is trying to do something better. We’re a country of mixed ethnicities and demographics and different monetary needs, and everyone makes a different amount of money and works different jobs. So, you’re going to have differing viewpoints, but you’re getting mine from where I sit.