Illinois Business Owner: We’d Cure Unemployment if Only…

Centered in Chicago, Illinois, Sanderson & Associates, Ltd. is a full service marketing and PR firm for franchises. Owner, Founder and President Rhonda Sanderson opened her specialty firm in 1984. For 28 years, Sanderson says her business has been expanding its services in the franchise industry while navigating through a series of economic turns. Illinois has a population of 12,869,257, according to the 2011 United States Census population estimates. And the state’s unemployment rate as of September is at 8.8%, which is slightly higher than the nationwide rate of 7.9% as of October, according to the Labor Department.

The top industries with the most jobs in the state are Trade, Transportation and Utilities (BLS). Manufacturing is the industry with the highest Gross Domestic Product, closely followed by Real Estate and Leasing. And 98.3% of all employers in Illinois are small business owners, according to the Small Business Profile last created in 2009 by the Small Business Administration.

Interview with Rhonda SandersonFOXBUSINESS.COM: What are the top three issues for you, or some immediate goals that you hope to see in the next presidency? SANDERSON: The top issue for me would be to not make it impossible for people to get loans. It’s my absolute top issue. I can see, they went from the complete left side to the right side – first they were giving anybody money and now they’re giving nobody money. There’s got to be something in the middle.

I’m all for good healthcare, I really am in some way shape or form, and personally I would never withhold it from my employees…They have to pay part of it. I think what you’re going to see, and I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I think what’s going to happen is, you’re going to see a lot more employee participation. In other words, if ours got any higher, I might have to go from charging them a third to going half with them. For my first 15 years in business, I paid it all…

The amount they tax small business owners is out of control. If you have under 25 employees you should be getting huge tax breaks, and probably every time you hire someone, as far as I’m concerned. That would be very helpful and would really encourage small business owners to hire more people.

FOXBUSINESS.COM: Do you expect the healthcare plan to negatively/positively/neutrally affect your business?

SANDERSON: I think that for the healthcare issues – if you’re forced to buy health insurance for everybody – even a part-timer…For example, we represent franchises. Franchises are not going to survive this…If you have over 100 employees and if you’re what we call a multi-unit operator, of let’s say 12 McDonald’s, that gives you more than 100 employees. If you have to buy health insurance, unless the government subsidizes and you get some ridiculous policy for $60 a month, that is going to make it so much less profitable, that a new person coming in is going to be like, “Gee, that used to be a great deal to buy a McDonald’s, but it isn’t anymore.” And then growth stops…

There are people that are interested in buying and want to become a franchise owner – they want to become a business owner – but they’re waiting and waiting because they are so terrified that that particular policy will make it impossible for them to be in their own business and make a profit.

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

SANDERSON: I give them time off if they want to go vote.

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?

SANDERSON: I’ve never laid off because of lack of work. We’ve always had work. I am very particular about the employee. You could do every vetting process in the world, and you really don’t know what you’re getting no matter what…Sometimes I actually have to say this is a three-week test…because otherwise, I’ll have to pay unemployment for her if she doesn’t work out. And that’s really unfair to that worker because it takes more than three weeks to show us something. So that’s how it’s changed my practice. I don’t want to be doing that, but I’ve been shown that I’ve got no choice…It’s not about laying off; it’s about their performance. And they go immediately, I mean in a week I get an unemployment thing…

And the sad news is, we’re the ones that could stop unemployment if you just gave us a chance. Do you see the irony, the cruel irony of that? I mean, if things were a little easier for me, I’d hire two extra people a month.

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?

SANDERSON: My glory years were 2004 to 2008. Very profitable…I think in my industry, people saw that I was doing well…So I think that it was like the perfect storm: the economy started going down, competitors opened shop…So, I think that it was booming before the economy, maybe not amazingly booming, but it was good – good years for my industry.

Definitely in 2008, 2009 and 2010, things slowed up as far as profits. Plus, I could tell you that our fees have not gone up in 20 years, and people have a hard time paying those. So, that’s it in a nutshell what’s going on. If it’s not going a certain way, I just adjust my services like I’m telling you we’re growing out into other things. That’s my job here as the leader – to see what’s going on for the next four or five years. And hopefully I’ve done that correctly.

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.